Success and Significance
What is success? It has been defined in various ways. I looked online to find out, One definition says: “Success is an event that accomplishes its intended purpose.” Others say, “Success is not an event, but a journey”. Others say, “You have to look at your own core values to work out what success means for you”. So there is not one universal definition of success.
Success as an event is a limited kind of success. Events change. Circumstances change. About success as a journey: everyone is on a journey, but most would agree that not all are “successful”. So what is it about a particular journey that makes it successful? The pithy definition still has not answered that question.
Some define success in terms of financial results – the accumulation of money and/or income streams. Others say “No”, other things are important – its not just money, and most would agree. You are not successful if your family life is a mess. Or your emotional life. Or your health. So you have to look at all these things and work out what success means for you. What if you achieved everything you set out to achieve in this life, and then spent eternity in hell because you lived a life without respect to God and His Word? Just suppose for a minute that that is possible. Would such a life be successful?
I like the definition that I heard a pastor give, “Success is adding value to yourself”. Many people are interested in adding value to themselves, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you don’t add value to your own life at some stage, you might not be able to do much of any value to others either.
The accumulation of business skills, knowledge, natural wisdom, financial resources, emotional/relationship skills and personal health sums up pretty much what most people today think success is all about. Those things are good to have provided of course you use them for a good purpose. Its not wrong to want to be successful. But there is a bigger thing in life than being successful: being a person of SIGNIFICANCE.
We can define significance in this way: significance is a measure of the value you add to OTHERS. It could be achieved directly or indirectly. It could be recognised by others. It may not be. Significance then does not depend only on what other people THINK – though of course there is some correlation. Significance depends on what is actually reality.
I don’t think there is anything wrong in wanting to be a person of significance according to this definition. I certainly want to be myself, and I hope you do to. Its great to help others be both successful and significant. Many time the people who add value to others in a significant way become very successful in the process. However, this does not always happen in Christian ministry – or for the Christian living in this age who serves others as unto the Lord, because the final accounting and reaping is only done IN ETERNITY. This means that you could go through your life adding immense value both naturally and eternally to others, and never accumulate the financial power, or even the personal happiness that some people others enjoy. Does that mean you have become a failure? In the world’s eyes, perhaps yes. But in God’s eyes, and from an eternal perspective, not at all.
Jesus never accumulated riches on the earth. He died without any clothes, in hunger, thirst, shame and derision. Yet through these things he made us rich. He purchased the citizenship of heaven for us, the forgiveness of sins, and a lot more. Jesus therefore is amongst other things the epitome of human significance. He was the most significant human being who ever lived on the planet. He is the most significant person alive today! Yes, Jesus is alive. He is not limited to our three or four dimensions, and He is very much alive.
The apostle Paul was looking for a significant life when he said:
1Co 10:33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
Paul was gunning for the things that were of the highest value. That is, the salvation of many. He wasn’t looking merely for his own profit, but the profit of many. His life then has been one of the most significant lives of all time.
In the next verse (Chapter 11 verse 1), Paul goes on to say about this,
“Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ”.
There we have it. We are commanded to apply ourselves to this process of becoming significant people from an eternal perspective. Success or our own profit has no value if it is not required as a step towards achieving that SIGNIFICANCE of bringing many souls to Christ.
Folks, God can do it with or without OUR money, or our personal success.
The church in Mainland China has grown to tens of millions now, some would say more than 100 million. It has grown through the significant lives and contributions of many whose names we will never know in this life. Many suffered in labor camps. Many were poor. Only a few would have been personally wealthy or even well off. They were not always “successful” as we think of success. And yet, they were all significant.
If you are wealthy, if you are clever in business, if you have money and time – praise the Lord. However, do not be content to be merely “successful”. I very much doubt if you are entirely content anyway. “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver” as the book of Ecclesiastes says. The answer then to this lack of satisfaction is not simply to be “even more successful” – that is to have even more assets, even better friends, even better family, even better health. The answer is to have a life of significance. Especially eternal significance. Eternally significant people (in the above definition of eternal significance) are quite rare today it seems. Ask God to change your mindset so you can be one of them.
Do you believe there is such a thing as God, as heaven, as hell? If you do, and I believe there are excellent reasons for believing in these things, make your life count for eternity. “He who wins souls is wise”. Please heed the words of Jesus in the parable or story below:
Luke 12:15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Luke 12:16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.
Luke 12:17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’
Luke 12:18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
Luke 12:19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘
Luke 12:20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
Luke 12:21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
If you are just thinking about what you can get and enjoy in this life, God calls you a FOOL. You may be a rich fool, but you are a fool nonetheless.
It is time to be rich towards God. Give your life to God through Jesus Christ and you will have a life of significance, a life that adds value to other people for time and eternity, and God will surely give you a reward.