Saturday, June 2, 2012


Success and the need to be “successful” is something that everyone wrestles with. In our Western context dollars, fame, looks etc are so quickly understood as markers of success. As we mature in life our understanding of success tends to evolve. At 2 not wetting your bed is success, same at 92, not so much at 22. In my teenage years success was attaining all the “stuff.” As I get older I begin to realise (as I grab a hold of some of the “stuff” and realise I’ll never get other aspects of the “stuff”) how potentially void in meaning much of this is.

As we grow in our understanding of what it means to walk the way of Jesus we also discover that success isn’t always what we think it is.  God has a path for us to walk in life that doesn’t always lead to what the world describes as successful. Ultimately success is to run the race God has set before you. A race where you don’t compete with others. A race that is about living faithfully before God. Hebrews offers examples of heroes in the faith, men and women who didn’t give up but continually pushed forward in life. It’s a mixed bag though. As legendary as some of these people were a stack of them also stuffed up royally.

We see that in the economy of God direction and perseverance is more important than perfection. This side of eternity, these legends of the faith experienced varied outcomes in regards to the way the world might measure success. Abraham and David ended up wealthy and highly regarded. Others were tortured, flogged, sawn in two, and lived destitute, persecuted and mistreated! Sometimes success before God comes with the accolades of success our world admires; sometimes it simply doesn’t. Sometimes success before God comes with all the stuff that we’d deem as failure.

So what is success? God is working in history to bring about the reconciliation and restoration of all things. We’re invited as Christ followers, to partner with the Holy Spirit, and creatively engage in purposeful living, that in ways big and small, brings shalom (peace) on earth. Some people will have an acute sense of what this means for them. For others, living like this is a wide open space with all sorts of possible choices.

Success is to engage in God’s mission and to run the race set before you. Throw off that which hinders, throw off sin that entangles, let go of past mistakes and royal stuff ups, stand up, stand back up, and run. Sometimes this may bring success as marked by the world, more often probably not. Rather than aiming for “success” we should be aiming to live our lives as a “collaborative masterpiece” co-painted with God.  

We are called to be co-conspirators with God in how our lives turn out. We may make bad choices, exercise poor judgement, commit mistakes, and miss God’s cues. Also at times though, we rise to the occasion, adopt courageous stands, distinguish ourselves through integrity and service, and do a lot of right things. Our choices and actions – bad and good – contribute to our life’s storyline. The fascinating truth is that God weaves it all together into a story that we claim as our own. Adapted from Work of Heart by Reggie McNeal.

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