Success is one of those loaded type of words, isn't it? We strive to be successful in life. We focus our career pursuits, our relational pursuits and our lives on the quest for success, but are we are of what the definition of success really is?
Having started a new job less than a year ago, I find myself contemplating this question often: "How do I define success?" In any sort of transition in life, we want to know that we have finished well, or done something to be remembered by, do we not? For me personally, I wanted to know that I left behind something significant in the last church that I served at. I wanted to know that my time had been a success, so I began to look for tangibles that I could measure in order to quantify my success. But even then, it felt as though I was missing the mark for what success really is.
Looking at the life of Jesus, I see someone who understood what the true definition of success was...doing His Father's will (being obedient to God). Jesus came to earth with a purpose, to save or restore the world and to demonstrate what it means to be a disciple maker (His Father's will). Jesus knew that this was the mission His Father had given Him to accomplish, and success would be measured by whether or not He was able to remain faithful to His mission. Hanging on the cross, Jesus proclaimed "It is finished" and with that sentence summed up what true success really is.
Success cannot be measured by numbers or quantified by other tangible means, which can be utterly frustrating, can it not? It's great to be able to point to something and say, "I did that!" with great enthusiasm, but in all reality being successful in the building of God's kingdom is less about us and more about God! So how then can we begin to function in and strategize for success? For me, the answer to this question continues to be illusive only because of my default programming which tends to focus on the tangibles as keys for success rather than the intangibles. As a youth pastor, success in my life must be represented by my willingness to be obedient to the mission God has given for my life. My mission may share similarities to that of another person, but it is not the same, nor can it be expected to be. If Jesus' mission here on earth was to bring restored relationship and demonstrate discipleship, His success cannot be measured by things outside of this definition. Jesus did not start the church, He gave that mission to His disciples. Jesus' success is therefore defined by His obedience to His Father's will, and His understanding that even He wasn't called to do it all, but only to play a part in God's continual unfolding story in our world.
I believe we wrestle with this notion of success because each of us craves something to be identified with and defined by. We may not enjoy being labelled, but when these labels point to success we tend to welcome them with open arms. Can we begin to think bigger? Can we allow ourselves to seek the true definition of success that extends beyond the easily measurable? I wonder if we made the shift to sincerely focus on success as remaining obedient to Christ how much less stress, chaos and clutter would remain in our lives.
Our mission: to be who God has created us to be through demonstration and proclamation of the gospel. Is this our definition of success?