All of my life I have wanted to be successful. The idea of success has driven me most of my days and the fear of not being successful has kept me on course as well. As I reflect on this, I find it interesting that not much has changed for me personally. I still desire success, but my definition of “success” has shifted drastically. Growing up in the thriving and prosperous suburb of Plano the mantra and allure of success was all around me.
Success equated to the various status symbols of the “American Dream”: expensive cars, expansive homes, exotic vacations and exclusive lives. The greater cultural system reinforced what most families modeled, and we were all competing for ways to get a slice of pie. The proverbial “Jones’” kept everyone running at breakneck speed and leaving carnage in our wake; people became a means to an end as “success” was the idol we chased. This is not isolated to Plano or the Dallas metroplex per se; rather, this ethos permeates the ghetto as much as Rodeo Drive. It is American to the core.
A biblically informed definition of success has almost nothing to do with the acquisition of material things or the achievement of personal comfort. Success for the believer is defined in relationship to Jesus Christ and His mission. Christ came to seek and save that which was lost; He calls a people unto Himself. We were once far off and have now been brought near through the blood of Christ. He creates a new humanity with transformed perspectives and ambitions.
The death and resurrection of Christ and the overall mission of God in the world now defines what success looks like for the believer and the Church. Simplistically, a believer’s desire for success should be in accordance with Romans 12:1-2. Do I look like the Savior? Have I been transformed by His grace to love radically, give generously, suffer willingly, walk humbly and engage missionally? Is the fruit of God’s Spirit evident in my heart: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
The hope in my life is that I would be successful, but success has been redefined as I have been transformed. Now, a prosperous life means an endowment of Christ-saturated thoughts, relationships and actions; not a certain tax bracket or health. Conformity to the image of Christ compels me rather than the creaturely comforts of a fading glory (2 Corinthians 5:14). The success I am now pursuing is not elusive; rather, it is eternally mine because it has been purchased by the sufficient blood of Christ and secured by the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:7,14). The “American Dream” is a cheap substitute compared to the rich treasure of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-10). The gospel reality awakens us to pleasures evermore and causes us to abandon our prior delusions of grandeur to readily accept the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for those who believe. (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Can I really be called a “success” if I waste my life chasing the wind? Maybe, but then I would also have to be called a “fool” as well.