We live in a culture that is dominated by a success mindset. Advertisers attempt to create one vision of success, friends and family another, and some combination of the two usually takes root within our minds. We spend our lives trying to become successful, whatever that may look like. Generally people answer that being successful means having plenty of money, a big house and nice cars. The more esoteric among us might say that success is happiness and a healthy family. What does success look like to you?
Asking for the definition of success in the Western World and then again in the so-called developing world will yield starkly different answers. Whereas more than half of the world lives in abject poverty, those of us fortunate enough to be born in the West generally have never known true hunger. Most have not gone through even a 24 hour period without access to food of some kind or another. I find it very curious that in all the reading I’ve done, I have never once seen someone in the West define success as having food for the day. Pose this question to someone living in a refugee camp in Darfur, and I assure you that food will be part of their answer to what success looks like for them. Survival would be another part of their answer. Each day for people in their circumstances is a true battle just to live. This is reality, not some cliché statement intended to evoke a response. Whether we choose to care or not, millions die every single day from AIDS, malnutrition and ethnic violence. How often do we remember those facts? More often than not, uncomfortable statements such as these impact us when we read them, but they are quickly pushed out of our consciousness and we hasten to move on to more palatable fare.
What should success look like for those who are followers of Christ? I submit that to be successful we must be making a meaningful impact on the world in the name of Jesus. We don’t have to impact masses of people, but we should be impacting someone. Each one of us has the ability to demonstrate the love of God to another person. We have a fairly short list to help us determine if we are heading for success. Are we feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the orphans, the widows, the single mothers and people in need? Are we nursing the sick, clothing the naked and providing water for the thirsty? Are we so madly, passionately in love with God that we love Him with our entire being, and do we love others with that same love?
We have piled on so many unnecessary and worthless things onto what our definition of success should be. In truth, success for a follower of Jesus is so basic and so simple. We need to take a step back and strip away everything we are allowing to define what we believe success to be. We need to return to the simplicity of Jesus and His message. He didn’t deliver a complicated message or require a burdensome amount of action from us. When we are doing the work mentioned above, it often does not even feel like work at all. We are carrying out the mission of Jesus; we are being who we were created to be. There is no more peaceful place to be than resting in the comfort of God’s will.
How do you define success? Do you have the standard Western definition? Perhaps you even hold to the definition that someone in less fortunate parts of the world would subscribe to. Ultimately, you will never find success until you define it the way Jesus did. Until we fall deeply in love with Him and are carrying out His mission, we will never be successful. Success means living your life fully surrendered to Christ and sharing His love and mission with everyone you encounter. This is the only definition that matters; this is what it means to be successful.