Are you shooting for success or victory in your life? Do you actually know the difference? And if you really do, do you live for the noble one of the two? A book I read and recently reviewed got me thinking about this in my life. It really intersects with some other things the Lord has been pointing out to me.
Perhaps you have lined up with the world around you and think in terms of success. I know it has infected my thinking at times. Success is impressive. It woos the praise of those around us. It titillates our own emotions. But it bores Heaven.
Success is about achievement, not results. Particularly when the results are impossible to quantify, we fall back on those old standbys of the pats on the back. It’s like favoring the medal over strategic gain on the battlefield. Strategic gains do not, I might remind you, always take the shape of a superior number in some category.
Take the ministry as a prime example. How do you decide if your ministry has meaning? The world tells you that it’s measured in success. That is, success defined by my number of choice: attendance, baptisms, visitors, budget, building projects. The key number for success is, of course, my best number at the moment. I’ll talk that up because I want you to think I am successful. I’ll never mention my bad numbers–I’m not stupid enough to mention those. Then you would know I’m unsuccessful, and my life would be meaningless. (Yes, that is just as ridiculous as it sounds and it is still how we feel).
Do you suppose the Lord really measures us in such a fashion? If I could improve any of those numbers, would the Lord love me more? A little thought and we know the answer to that question! The flip side must be answered by the same logic–will He love me less when some of my numbers decrease and I become proportionally more unsuccessful? Again, you know the answer, but this has still been the case of extreme discouragement for so many of us.
The book I mentioned spoke of the cross. That’s a good reference point, wouldn’t you agree? Jesus had success for a while. The crowds were impressive, even if a bit superficial and unruly. Impressive enough, in fact, that the religious establishment got so concerned about His numbers in regards to theirs that they decided to kill Him. Success, you know, has a dark side. As His ministry rolled along the crowds disappeared. By the cross, even the Twelve couldn’t be found! By our standards, that is anything but success. But was it victory?
I say it was the greatest of all victories that rose from the ashes of all that apparent failure. Such is the benchmark of success–it doesn’t know the difference between victory and defeat. Again, it might think the losing general of the battle, as long as his chest was decorated with rows of medals, quite the hero.
It plays out in our lives. We strive for success and care little for victory in the Christian life. As if the Lord cared more about what we do than who we are! Surely, you know better than that. And yet like me, at times, I bet you forget.
Remember that success fades while victory ever remains. Remember who topped the statistics 50 years ago? 200 years ago? I didn’t think so. Do you remember who invested in your life in a meaningful way? I thought so!
Living for success is a roller-coaster ride that most of us are ill-equipped to survive. There are so many factors beyond my control. People in the midst of success don’t want to mention the fact of how many things favorably fell their way, yet it is true. Noah had a lot of things stacked against him, and success eluded him. As the Ark door closed, and among the animals he could only count his own family after 120 years of preaching, I’d say he didn’t think of success. On the other hand, did he have victory? I’d say he thought so as he stepped out that same Ark door to a world reborn with life.
Success is complicated. Despite all my efforts, it may never come. Victory is simple. It is as easy as throwing my life into His life. If I live for Him and in fellowship with Him, I have victory. It will be as strenuous a life as working for success, but it will be so much more satisfying. And so much more attainable. Lord, help me not waste my life seeking success when victory is right in front of me in You!