A few years ago, my youngest son got a BB gun for his birthday. It took a little while to go through all the safety protocols, and through that process, you could almost see the excitement coming off of him. He was vibrating with it, and when the time came, I handed him the gun. He looked up at me and asked, “What do I shoot at?”
Logical question of course. I suppose he didn’t have to ask the question – he could have just started aiming randomly into the backyard and pulling the trigger. But he didn’t just want to shoot the gun; he wanted to shoot at a target.
That’s because, at a higher level, shooting at a target is a measurement of success. It’s a means of knowing whether or not you are good at something, whether that something be shooting a BB gun or raising kids or leading an organization or whatever. A target is the means by which we measure success.
Of course, the assumption in that statement is that you have the right target because even if you can hit it, it’s not really success if you’re aiming at the wrong thing.
And here we come to the title of this post – because what we are discussing here is not just keys to success, but keys to the right kind of success. The intuitive meaning, then, is that the right kind of success is predicated on the right kind of measurement and target. Knowing that, then, here are three obstacles to that kind of success:
1. Our culture.
Even if not explicitly stated, the general cultural rules of success in any endeavor can be summed up in two words: “more” and “bigger.” Anything with either or both of those characteristics is always successful, at least in the eyes of the world.
More money is better. Bigger organization is better. More influence is better. Bigger platform and fame is better. But the kingdom of God flips everything upside down. The mourners rejoice. The poor are rich. And what is bigger and more is not necessarily successful. That means at the outset we must confront the definition of success to make sure we aren’t defining it in the same way the world around us is.
2. Our pride.
A second obstacle to true success is our pride. This obstacle is related to the first one because it is our pride that looks around at our seemingly insignificant circumstances and contributions and cries out for “more.” For “better.” For “else.” It is our pride that robs us of true success because our pride convinces us that we are being wasted in a current situation when we deem it to be ordinary and small.
Francis Schaeffer, in his wonderful sermon called “No Little People” reminds us that there are no little people and no little places. Only consecrated people in consecrated places. But our pride keeps us from seeing opportunities for the right kind of success right where we are.
3. Our faith.
We feel the pressure for “more” and “bigger” from the outside culture; we feel the pressure of our ego from our pride; but one other obstacle to true success is our faith. And this obstacle, too, is interrelated to the other two.
That’s because there are certain things we must believe in order to find the right kind of success. We must believe that we are not in the circumstances of our job or family or ministry by chance. We must believe that God has good works planned beforehand for us to do. And we must believe in His sustaining power and grace to walk in those good works in the midst of where we are. Without that faith, we will never meet true success.
Put those three things together, in fact, and perhaps we can finally find a workable definition for what real success is supposed to be. Rather than measuring in specific numbers or achievements, perhaps for the Christian success is summed up more like this:
Obedient faithfulness in the context where God has placed us.
May it be so. May we be successful in the right ways.