What is Success?

Success means recognizing which (part of a job) belongs to me as I depend on Christ and which part belongs to others. The best way to sabotage my own success is to be obsessed with someone else’s.

~Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

I’ve been thinking about success a lot lately. I guess this is what happens when you enter middle age (which still seems ridiculously impossible to me!)

When I was little, the world seemed full of possibility. I was asked on a regular basis what I wanted to be when I grew up and I believed that I could do whatever I wanted to do. And then I got into high school and realized that I had no idea what I wanted to do. This whole wide open world of possibilities was too big for me, because how do you narrow it down? When you don’t have one thing that you want to be, how do you decide?

Enter the feelings of failure. Everyone else seemed to just know. Teachers, nurses, counselors, photographers, doctors. But me? I had no clue.

All I knew for sure was that I wanted to serve God with my life, but how does one do that in a way that makes sense to others? I felt the pressure to have an answer to the never ending questions. What do you want to be, Becky? What do you want to do with your life? 

Fast forward 22 years and I still can’t answer the questions. I am still only able to say I want to serve God with my life. But what God is impressing on my heart is that this is enough. In fact, it is more than enough.

I am a success when I live out the purpose and the calling that God has placed on MY heart.

Likewise, I am a failure if I try to fit myself into someone else’s calling or purpose. I have tried to be a success in the eyes of others. It’s a siren call for me with my people pleasing tendencies.

Which is why Galatians 1:10 has become a mantra of sorts, a check on my heart, an answer to the am-I-successful question.

Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. ~Galatians 1:10

I feel the pressure to live up to the expectations of others, but I find myself getting angry when I feel that pressure, whether it’s intentional or not. I don’t like the feeling of having to prove myself to others. And I don’t like when that pressure is put on other people either.

Success is not about what you do. It’s about who you are. It’s not about how much money you make. It’s about how generous you are with the blessings you have received. Success has nothing to do with status. It has everything to do with being faithful to what YOU have been made for. It’s not about numbers or followers or platform. It’s about how you point others to Jesus. It’s knowing that everything you are and have is from Him and for His glory.

Success will look as different as the number of people that are on this earth, because that is how incredible our Master Creator is. He made us all different, unique and special. The one who stands on stage is just as important as the one who cleans the floors. The one who teaches in a lecture hall is just as important as the one who teaches at the kitchen table. The one who fixes and maintains locomotives is just as important as the one who designs them. The one who edits the book is just as essential as the one who authors it.

Our own definitions of success distort God’s perfect plan. He made us different for a reason, a beautiful glorious reason, and it is time that we start celebrating this! We need to stop with the comparisons, because we will always be comparing apples and oranges. There are no two people on earth who have the exact same set of talents and abilities combined with the exact same areas of influence. We need to stop being critical of the passions that others have and start celebrating their unique giftings.

Another HUGE detriment to individuals living out their calling is the way we elevate certain people. THERE SHOULD BE NO CELEBRITIES IN THE BODY OF CHRIST!! Elevating some means that we push others down and this is completely contrary to the heart of God. So while we absolutely should celebrate when individuals are living out their purpose for God’s glory, we need to be careful not to overemphasize one calling as being superior or more important.

The only One who is superior to all others is Jesus himself.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~Philippians 2:9-11

What is success? It is living out my purpose and calling for God’s glory. When I know that He is pleased, then I am successful.