How Should I Define “Success”?
It’s only natural for passionate, driven people to desire success. Nobody wants to feel like their efforts are pointless, so we measure how significant and effective our efforts are by the amount of success we feel we’ve achieved. This could be a good or bad thing depending on how you define success.
Christ followers are put in a peculiar position when it comes to measuring success. Careful observation of the world we live in will reveal one type of success, worldly success; While meditation on God’s word would reveal a success that totally opposes what we see in the world. As we ponder whether we should take that job offer, should we take the risk in starting our own business, or embark on fundraising for that ministry God has put on our hearts, we can’t help but question, “Will I be successful? Will it be worth it?”
The Danger in Pursuing “Worldly Success”
The definition of success we embrace will determine how worthwhile we perceive our efforts, whether our perceptions are rooted in God’s truth or not. Often our first instinct is to compare ourselves to people in our niche― folks at a level we want to attain― and when we find ourselves failing to measure up to them we lose confidence and we want to quit, or we charge full speed ahead and burn ourselves out.
The other danger in marching to the beat of the “worldly success” drum is selling out. When you decide to pursue worldly success, you put yourself in a position to compromise your godly integrity in exchange for the praise and favor of men.
But that’s not who you are, right? You don’t want to sell out. You want to achieve a godly type of success that will endure long past what you’re doing right now. You want your efforts to please the Lord and to have eternal significance. But what does that look like? Let’s take a closer look at the difference between man’s definition versus God’s definition of success.
Man’s Definition versus God’s Definition of Success
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” Ps. 37:4 (NLT)
Man says: Successful people devote themselves to their goals.
God says: Successful people devote themselves to Me and I establish their plans.
Someone once said, “Success requires sacrifice.” That’s true to a degree, but how do we determine when we’ve crossed the line? When we’re giving too much? I personally saw a red flag in my own life, when I got so caught up in trying to build this blog that I found myself working all day and night, even on weekends! I started neglecting my other responsibilities, including those to my husband and God.
The world tells us to devote ourselves to our work, but God tells us to devote ourselves to Him and He will give us the desires of our heart. No amount of money, fame, and praise can fulfill our desire for significance in our lives the way our Creator can. Why devote yourself to the fickle opinions and approval of men? Working towards your dream while being at the mercy of pleasing other people won’t give you satisfaction, peace, or the unconditional love you desire. Knowing that these are needs only God can provide will save you a lot of heartache when you hit the rough patches of life, especially concerning your career.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13 (NLT)
Man says: Successful people are independent and self-made.
God says: Successful people acknowledge their insufficiency and strive to do things in My Strength.
One of the biggest rewards of achieving success is being able to take the credit for it. Don’t you agree? The less people involved, the more credit we get. The problem is, God should be getting the credit for our success. Nothing we do is strictly the result of our own efforts. It is God who supplies our every need, including our next breath. He has supplied our talents, intellect, and resources. When we take a self-made, man-centered approach to success, we tend to bring storms in our lives that could be avoided if we simply trust God in our present circumstance, pay attention to His wisdom, and practice patience.
“1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. 2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. 3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Psalms 1:1-3 (NLT)
Mans Says: Successful people do what it takes to get ahead and stay trending.
God Says: Successful people maintain their integrity.
Seeing the worldly success of people who don’t love God― I’m talking about folks who do evil stuff but still are “blessed” with money and popularity― makes us impatient and causes us to question whether doing things “God’s way” is going to actually get us what we want out of life. We may even fall into the trap of imitating our secular counterparts in practicing evil and surround ourselves with people who are “winning” from the world’s point of view. But God’s word teaches us not to “envy evil people or desire their company (Psalm 24:1, NLT).”
“20 For evil people have no future; the light of the wicked will be snuffed out. 21 My child, fear the Lord and the king. Don’t associate with rebels, 22 for disaster will hit them suddenly. Who knows what punishment will come from the Lord and the king?” (Psalm 24:20-22, NLT)
We get caught up so many times because of our desire for instant gratification. But scripture teaches us that true success is not marked by how many followers we have on social media, our performance, our social status, or our ability to complete a goal. Godly prosperity goes hand-in-hand with obedience, our commitment to abide in Jesus Christ. After all, what’s the point of gaining the whole world if you lose your soul (Matt 16:26)?
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, NLT)
Man Says: Rich people are successful.
God Says: Obedient people are successful.
A lot of times we don’t realize how materialistic we are until we’re put in a situation where our actions prove that we are not as dependent on God as we’d like to think. It’s easier to think in terms like: “God has called me to this ministry” rather than “God has called me to a season of financial dependence on Him while I step out of faith to do what’s He’s called me to do.” We can’t serve both God and money. By all means steward your money and budget responsibly! Pay who you owe, and make sure you feed your kids, but remember that our actions will be motivated by one or the other. So choose today whom you will serve! Are you going to be financially motivated, or are you going to walk in obedience, and live out God’s calling on your life? After all it’s like my Pastor says, “If it’s in God’s will, He will fit the bill!” So don’t worry about the $$ bill, y’all.
“4 ‘Now’s your opportunity!’ David’s men whispered to him. ‘Today the Lord is telling you, “I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.”’ So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. 5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.’ 7 So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul…” (1 Sam 24:4-7, NLT)
Man Says: Successful people aren’t satisfied with being mediocre. They’re constantly doing the next best thing, and climbing the corporate ladder.
God Says: Successful people are thankful for where they are, allow Me to elevate them, and are guided by My Spirit.
The Lord told David as a young man that He would be crowned Israel’s King, but if you know anything about the story of this Giant-slaying, shepherd boy, you know He had to wait about 15 years or so before God’s promise came to pass. Saul, who was Israel’s King at the time, even sought to kill David because he was aware of God’s hand on him. Though he was hunted like a dirty dog and his name had been tarnished by Saul, when David was given the opportunity to kill Saul he decided to wait for God to elevate him, rather than to take matters into his own hand by killing who he appointed to be king at that time.
Just because you may be talented enough or qualified to chase after or to produce the next big thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. You have to be content with where the Lord has you in each season, and patiently wait for God to promote you rather than trying to make things happen on your own. Just because your co-workers are striving for promotions, it doesn’t mean that you have to! Just because so-and-so is doing xyz, it doesn’t mean you have to do xyz. Stop judging your next move based on what you see the world doing. Instead communicate with the Lord. Ask Him what you’re next move should be. “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Pro 3:6, NLT)”
Changing Your Mind About Success
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could conform our minds to God’s idea of success with the snap of a finger? Yeah, well…we can’t. I know 🙁 sad face, right? We live in a world where the enemy (Satan and demonic forces) is constantly trying to win over minds. Each day is battle to keep our minds rooted in the truth of God’s word. It’s not enough to read this article, and say “Oh! Now I know how it is!” because 2 hours from now you’re going to be thinking about your next meal, or that thing you’ve gotta do. You need to keep God’s word in you, and constantly before you so that you can guard your mind and heart with truth.
Here are 4 steps you can take to change your mind about success:
- First off, meditate on what God’s definition of success is according to His word. I’ve made this lovely printable to help do that right here!
- Secondly, pray and ask God to change your mind about success so that you won’t be deceived by the human perspective.
- If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed or burned out, take a break from your work or ministry. Find some relaxing and quiet place to dig into God’s word, pray, and journal about what you’re experiencing and what the scripture say about you’re experiencing.
- Talk to a trusted friend that values your work and/or ministry―someone who is walking in obedience to God, now! Don’t go asking Pookee, if you know she’s cuttin’ up!―, and finally someone who cares about you. Share what you’re going through. Have your friend(s) pray with you, encourage you, and keep you accountable to operating off of God’s definition of success.