"So weather you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB
What does it mean to succeed? Perhaps by that word, we mean simply, "to accomplish a goal," or "to achieve what you have set out to achieve." Well, to me that would rase the question, what have you set out to achieve? What are your goals?
For me, a goal is to plant a church in the Lead, SD community. It is a heart's desire. I long to do this. I long to see the people of Lead engaged in gospel preaching, Christian fellowship, and genuine discipleship. This is all a factor within the idea of church planting. To actively engage your community with the gospel. A noble goal to be sure.
What about this one; "I set out to be a good man who avoids temptation." A more noble goal could not be found. To be morally upright and to avoid temptation is a grand thing to seek success in to be sure! Or to set as a goal to be a faithful husband. Or to prioritize making time for my family. To set my heart and mind upon keeping God's commands. There are so many great things to be successful in.
But what is TRUE success?
What does it mean to truly achieve ultimate success in this life? Within our country and culture most would say that making enough money to retire at a good age, then seek out the enjoyment we want within our golden years is success. Or in simpler terms, achieving the "American Dream." To make money and then be happy. Get more, be more, do more until you feel happy. In our time we are even seeing a new definition rise up. "Do what makes you happy." That sounds nice doesn't it? Find what makes you happy, and so long as it isn't hindering society, dive headlong into it.
Success is being shaped within our culture as making yourself happy. And don't we just love to go along with that definition. "Why yes, thank you society, I think I will do whatever makes me happy." We say as we slip further and further from our true joy. "My my, I do enjoy it when my chief goal is to make much of myself. I do love building my own kingdom." What pleasant statements we make as our lives tip further and further toward the catastrophic events in this life, and ultimate hell in the life to come.
Perhaps you think I am being too hard on this idea. Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, "My, this Pastor sure is getting fired up over the idea of being happy! What is his problem? Doesn't he want people to be happy?"
Well, no. I don't want you to be happy. I want you to have so much more! Happiness is so fleeting that it can be taken away by reading a harsh tweet. Happiness can be stripped away by a passing glance. Happiness, when it is our central goal, is an unattainable day-dream. Like trying to carry ocean water home with you in your hands, it will slip through your fingers no matter how hard you grip it. Why on earth would I want to set you up for such failure?
No, I don't want you to be happy. I want you to experience the full joy that comes only from living out your true purpose. Yes, here it is, the secret to lasting joy. The revelatory secret to true success! You might not like it.
THIS LIFE IS NOT ABOUT YOU. THIS LIFE IS ABOUT GLORIFYING GOD!
Told you that you might not like it. But hear me out. What do you suppose would bring more joy? Living a dreadful lie, or living within a divine purpose that you have been specially made to fulfill? Or think of it this way... What task does a hammer work best at, hammering a nail or coding a computer? I know, terrible example, but let's go with it. Of course the hammer works best doing what it was made for. One more. Would a sheep be more content in a field with green grass and water or in a cubicle working for Apple?
It is obvious that something is most happy and successful when it is doing what it was made for. So the question now becomes what were we made for? And once we establish that, we must ask, how do we do what we were made for?
As a Christian, I believe we are made for glorifying God. (John 12:28, 17:1, 1 Corinthians 6:20,1 Peter 2:12, Ephesians 1:6, Psalm 96:3, 115:1, Isaiah 48:11, Ect.) Or as the verse I quoted at the top of this writing says “So weather you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB. This is our primary purpose. And this makes sense doesn’t it? That we should glorify the one who made us (Psalm 139:13), who gives us life, who sustains our life! (Acts 17:25) If God is the giver of every good thing (James 1:17) then it only makes sense for us to glorify Him! If God is the source of all good and joy and happiness, then He alone can truly provide those things for us.
So now, how do we do what we were made for? Do we quit our jobs, move to a remote monastery to chant strange phrases all day? No, I don't believe that is the answer. How do we achieve true success? Well, if the meaning of existence is to glorify God, then I would say true success is to glorify God above all else! This is the only thing that will bring true, lasting joy and success. In fact, this is what we will be doing for all eternity. Heaven is a place of pure joy. Nothing wrong or unjust is there. And we will be with God, glorifying Him. Glorifying and worshipping God is our ultimate joy forever. The ultimate success for a Christian is Heaven. So why do we think that success would be anything else here? Really, all I am trying to say in this writing is that true success is the same here as it is in heaven. It is glorifying God, not ourselves.
As you can probably imagine, I think of this often while planting a church. What does it look like to find success in church planting. Within the church planting world, success can often be relegated to having a meeting location, having a steadily growing congregation, having enough financial support to supply all the programs needed to draw a crowd, having a crowd, ect. But as a pastor/planter, is this where I am to place my measurements for success? Well, as I have often stated in this planting season, "True success is not in our typical measures for success. True success is faithfulness to God." Are you faithful in glorifying God? Am I faithfully glorifying God in the church plant? If not, then you and I will never be truly successful. Being successful in other areas is a good thing. We should seek to give our best in everything we do. However we must be willing to ruthlessly cast aside anything that is threatening our ultimate success.
Success is not in laying up treasures here. Success is not marrying the right person. Success is not having the perfect kids. Success is not a building full of people listening to me preach.