How do you measure success?
What does “success” look like?
Is this even the right word?
I was struck once by a twitter quote which said “we shouldn’t fear failure, but rather succeeding at the wrong things!”
As I wrestled with this question I came up with this definition of success “when the call of God is matched by my faithful obedience”, ultimately what is successful is defined by whether our achievements are in line with the desire, will and heartbeat of God… The ultimate accolade is “well done good and faithful servant” from the one who matters the most.
Mother Teresa once helpfully said “I don’t remember that the Lord ever spoke of success. He spoke of faithfulness and love. This is the only success that really counts.”
Faithfulness, doing what we are called to do. I once heard someone say “If you are called to be a Sunday School teacher, do not demean yourself by becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury”.
The problem we define ourselves often not by the audience of the one who ultimately matters, but by other peoples expectations of us, which can be reasonable and can be unreasonable.
The question is whether those who make expectations of us, are also listening to God or just the noise of the world?
We sometimes fall into the trap of defining success with grandeur and size, if it is big, spectacular and noisy then it is successful yet I have come to believe this is a really more measure of success, in fact God is God of the subversive often delighting in bypassing the noisy event to show up in a the small and seemingly insignificant.
Time and again God reminds us that “his ways are not our ways” and that it is “not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord of Hosts” who urges us to “not despise the day of small things”, after-all it is sometimes the smallest seeds that give birth to some of the biggest and most beautiful trees.
Yesterday I saw a friend of mine who is doing marriage prep with a girl, who used to go to a youth event I used to run and ended up talking about Jesus, no evident fruit at time, she was just another young person, but thirteen years later God used something from the past to draw her to himself. Sometimes fruit takes a while to grow and to show, and we sometimes feel like we have failed, when in fact we have sewn seeds for eternity, they have just taken a longer time-frame to show forth than we wanted with our human eyes (we forget God is into building for eternity, we want/like plenty of encouragements along the way).
Another danger we sometimes fall into thinking is the lie of the “secular spiritual divide” (the secular spiritual divide was disproved by the incarnation of Christ) where we think the things we do inside Church matter more to God. Although I am great fan of John Wesley, and admire him as an evangelist and Church planter, from his writings he clearly was not a good husband or father, and yet God calls us to be faithful in ALL areas of our lives (Am I a good friend? Am I a good son? Am I a good grandson? Neighbour? Colleague?).
Just as with Jon Wesley the call to be an evangelist do not negate the call to family life, nor vice versa.
I think is a danger sometimes in some misguided Christian thinking which seems to want a cost and sacrifice free faithfulness (although normally a bit more dressed up in religious language than this).
To be faithful in all our callings will be costly and sacrificial, it is a call to walk a tightrope and we may fall on one or both sides of the rope.
It is a challenge as there will be areas where being faithful to God’s call is easier than others, and times and seasons when juggling both calls together is a challenge. Yet no one ever promised us the Christian life would be easy.
I have mentioned many times the line about a friend who believed God was calling him, and he said he “left the answerphone on”, and have suspicions that sometimes people see God’s call on their lives, and run for what they think will be an easier job (although if you don’t receive the call, do you receive the equipping?).
I worry that when I die and meet with God and I say “God I built this for you!” and God replied “but I really wanted you to dig that!”
Yet, as I have become a dad, I have realized that sometimes even the wrong thing with the right heart can be pleasing, and a I believe that our desire to serve, be faithful and obedient pleases him.
So success is following the Lordship of the one who calls, faithfully and obediently.
It is about building with gold, silver and costly stones that will last for eternity, and success I believe will only fully be realized the other side of eternity.