George Bernard Shaw said, “There are two sources of unhappiness in life. One is not getting what you want; the other is getting it.” America is obsessed with success. We work hard to get what we want. From the early days of our youth, we are encouraged to compete to be number one, whether it’s winning the spelling bee or ranking at the top of our graduating class. Setting our minds on a goal and driving until we reach that goal makes us a success, we think. Success is a destination.
Or, in our consumer-minded society, we think success is accumulation. He who has the most toys wins. We kill ourselves to make six figures, to climb the ladder to more power and influence, and to accumulate more than the next guy. Success is measured by possessions.
John Maxwell, in his book, The Success Journey, shared that several years ago, he was thumbing through Success magazine, and ran across a Gallup study on what people thought success looked like. Their answers fell into 12 categories, but the number one answer was good health. Fifty-eight percent identified that with success over anything else. Good health is important and desirable, but I don’t know that good health is the ultimate measurement of success. (Maxwell, The Success Journey, p. 1).
Three businessmen were comparing ideas on what they thought it meant to be successful. “I’d say I had arrived,” said the first, “if I were summoned to the White House for a private, personal meeting with the President of the United States.”
“To me,” said the second man, “success would mean meeting with the President in the oval office, having the hot line ring during our talk, and watching the President ignore it.”
The third said, “I think you’re a success if you’re privately consulting with the President, the hot line rings, he picks it up, and says, ‘It’s for you.’”
How do you define success? How does God define success? The Bible defines success in two ways that are much different from America’s definition of success.
Paul wrote in I Corinthians 4:1 and 2, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”
Paul saw himself as Christ’s subordinate to Christ, a servant, and he viewed himself as a steward entrusted to manage something valuable for someone else. He said stewards must be found faithful. How do you measure faithfulness? In church life, is faithfulness just showing up and being there? Is it legalistically checking off a box on our offering envelope?
Faithfulness is demonstrated by loyalty and dedication to the Lord, by obedience to the Lord, and by perseverance. Faithful servants put God first and show their total dedication by trusting and obeying God throughout the entire course of their life.
The Bible also says success is measured by fruitfulness. Along with faithfulness, we must allow God to produce fruit in our lives. The Bible refers to at least three kinds of fruit that God desires to produce.
First is the fruit of Christian character. According to Galatians 5:22-23, our lives should be characterized by love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Second is the fruit of Christian conduct. Right character results in right conduct. Not only must we look like Jesus; we must act like Jesus. Let’s ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do in this situation? How would Jesus respond in these circumstances?”
Third is the fruit of converts. God wants us to take as many people with us to heaven as possible. Proverbs 11:30 reads, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.”
How are you doing with your faithfulness? How are you doing with your fruit bearing? How are you doing with the fruit of conversions? God’s picture of success is much different from the world’s idea of success. It’s a journey of faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. The church family meets at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Vacation Bible School is June 12-16, with children meeting 9-noon and students 6th-12th grades meeting 6-8 p.m. Enroll on the website at www.mcdonoughroad.org and “Like” them on Facebook.