To begin with let me take your attention to two verses from the Bible. Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” 1 Kings 2:3 says “and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.
The associate minister of the church had just returned from a mission’s trip. “What did you accomplish?” The Senior Pastor asked. “Well, the most important thing I did with the small churches in difficult situations, was give them permission to succeed” the minister said. That was an interesting thought. He must have sensed they saw themselves as failures. Their ministry was supposed to be tough, and they couldn’t expect more than an average growth. He realized they needed to raise their sights, to see the opportunities for success. What is success? Before we go any further, let us define success. Many people have the wrong understanding of it. For Christians, success can never be measured by money. The measurement of success is simply the ratio of talents used, to talents received. What you are doing with what you have got, and who you are becoming. Are you a growing and maturing as a Christian? Whether you work in business, or in Christian work, or as a daily laborer, professional, or in academics, if you are a maturing Christian, using a large percentage of your talents, you are successful. The person doing the most with what he has got is truly successful. Not the one who becomes the richest or most famous, but the one who has the closest ratio of talents received to talents used. An unsuccessful person, on the other hand, is one who didn’t use the chances he or she had. He could have developed himself, he could have made a contribution to life, he could have become a mature Christian, but he did not. The Bible says that to whom much has been given, much will be required.
If I try to differentiate mere success versus a life of significance- Success is all about self but significance is about other people. Success has been defined in various ways. I looked to find out a definition and it says: “Success is an event that accomplishes its intended purpose.” Others say, “Success is not an event, but a journey”. Some 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. If Success as an event then it is a limited kind of success as events change and circumstances change. If success is all about 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 brief 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 – it is not just money, and most would agree. You are not successful if your family life, or your emotional life, or your health is a mess. 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 is your situation. Would such a life be successful? However I like this definition “Success is adding value to self”. 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 and 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. It is not even wrong 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. Significance then does not depend only on what other people THINK – though of course there is some correlation. Significance depends on what is actual reality. I don’t think there is anything wrong in wanting to be a person of significance according to this definition. It is 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. You could go through your life adding immense value both naturally and eternally to others, and never accumulate wealth, or even the personal happiness that 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 ridicule. But through this Jesus gave the citizenship of heaven for us, the forgiveness of sins, and a lot more. 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 various dimensions, and He is very much alive.
And should we equate success with significance as easily or as often as we do? Let us start with a clear answer. Accumulation and consumption do NOT equal significance. And when we say we want to be happy and satisfied in life, we are not ultimately looking for success, we are looking for significance. We want to know that our lives matter, that we are living with real purpose and impact. No amount of treasures can fill the emptiness of insignificance. Our significance is NOT measured by how much stuff we have or how many beach vacation selfies we can post online. We need to move from success to significance. So, what does real significance look like and how do we move toward it? If we believe that God is alive and active in the world, then we must be open to the times when God breaks into our ordinary lives in extraordinary ways. Just like that happened in the lives of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Abraham, Moses, Paul, Peter and others. Our roads to significance begin with the holy experiences. So, believe in a God that is bigger than your five senses, a God who transcends your ability to understand Him. We need to embrace the mystery of God. We need to listen and seek to understand God’s calling in your life, prepare for significance through purification, expect God to prepare you for your specific task. Be prepared for God’s repeated assurance as you embark on a significant life. God does not leave us to wonder if we are on the right track or force us to guess if God is with us in our work. One of the most repeated biblical phrases at the outset of significant journeys comes from the mouth of God, “I will be with you.” God will be with you, too. Significant work is accompanied by the repeated assurances of a partnering God.
The apostle Paul was looking for a significant life when he said in 1 Corinthians 10:33 “even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” In other words, just as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Paul was aiming for the things that were of the highest value. That is, the salvation of many. He was not 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. 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul goes on to say about this, “Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ”. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. We are commanded to apply ourselves to this process of becoming significant people from an eternal perspective. 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 for that. 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. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says “He who loves money is never satisfied by money, and he who loves wealth is never satisfied by income, This too is meaningless”. The answer then to this lack of satisfaction is not simply to be “even more successful” not to have even more assets, even better friends, even better family, and or even better health. The answer is to have a life of significance, especially of eternal significance. Eternally significant people are quite rare today. 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. Proverbs 11:30 says “He who wins souls is wise”.
Please give attention to the words of Jesus in the parable of rich fool mentioned in Luke chapter 12: 15-21. 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. God evaluates success by obedience and faithfulness to do what He has called us to do, not by results. Spiritual success is not about what we do or the possessions we accumulate. Spiritual success is about who we are, our character, integrity and our faith. We often view our professional lives and our spiritual lives as separate. When we enter the workplace, we hang our Christianity at the door. Spirituality comes into play only on Sunday mornings and when we read a passage from the Bible or pray. God wants us to understand the spiritual dimension of our lives is inseparably tied to our work—in fact; it is tied to everything we do. The character traits we as Christians should be, lived out in the workplace so others can see we are different — that we are followers of Christ. We are called to serve as ambassadors for Christ. The eternal lives of those around us hang on how we respond to God’s call in our life?” We as Christians are called not to be successful but to be significant.