If you look in the dictionary, one of the definitions of success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. What does that really mean as a man? And to take it a step further, what does that mean as a Christian man?
While there can be many different measures a man can use to define his success, I want to give you five questions to consider.
These may not be the only five questions you could or should ask, but I believe your answer to them will give you a good indication of whether you are moving in the right direction—or not.
1. Whose Carrot Are You Chasing?
We have all heard the idea of the dangling carrot. There is something you want to achieve and it is held before you. It’s close enough that it feels within your grasp but just far enough that you can’t quite reach it. Seeing the carrot gives you the motivation to reach for it and go after it with everything you’ve got.
The question is however, whose carrot are you chasing? Let me put it to you another way, are you chasing after God’s will or your own?
Scripture constantly reminds us that God has a purpose and plan for our lives. Consider Ephesians 2:10:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
God has already mapped out a perfect plan and destination for your life. You have to decide if you will run after it or not. It’s true, sometimes we struggle with the plan of God because we’re concerned it won’t be good enough. We’re not sure if his plan will bring us the satisfaction, fulfillment, and “success” that we desire in life.
When this happens, you can be tempted to change direction and run after your own carrot. After all, the carrot is always oranger on the other side. (I know I just made up a word, but it makes the point).
I want to encourage you to trust God’s plan, to desire God’s plan, and to pursue God’s plan for your life.
Not only is God’s plan for your life good…God’s plan for your life is good for you. If you want to be a success in life, that will only come when you are doing what God has prepared for you to do. In that place, you will find your greatest joy. You will discover your greatest fulfilment and ultimately accomplish the purpose for which God created you.
2. Which Storage Room Are You Using?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21
Jesus is not against you having wealth or treasure on this earth. In other words, he is not really talking about whether you have money or not. He is talking about priorities.
He is talking about the condition of your heart.
To store up treasures on earth means that all your passions and pursuits (the things in your heart) are only concerned with the here and now. The problem with that is these things are temporary. The things that you see are temporary. The things that you don’t see—those are eternal.
If you are only running after the treasures of this life, then regardless how many you obtain (or how “successful” you become) you will have failed. When you die, your treasure is all left behind.
The question Jesus really wants us to consider is this: are you only concerned about temporary things or are you interested in pursuing eternal things? Will you put value in the things God values and pursue those things?
Things like loving God first, loving your neighbor, loving your spouse, raising your children in the way they should go, sharing the gospel, making disciples, helping those in need, and the list goes on.
When you treasure the things that God treasures, you are building success. You are creating a reward that you will enjoy, sometimes now, but definitely for all eternity. That sounds like success to me.
3. Which Playbook Are You Operating From?
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. – Joshua 1:8
Here is a simple question. Whose rules are you playing by? There is a playbook that the world can give you and there is the playbook God has given you, which is his word. If you will read it, study it, and apply it—you will find success in the things you do. Therein lies the challenge. Sometimes you can be tempted to cut a corner, shave a little off the edge, fudge a little because after all who will know anyway.
Proverbs 10:9 reminds us :
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
If you will walk in integrity and do things the way God wants them done you will be successful. Any other method is fool’s gold.
In other words, it’s not just that you arrive, what matters is how you get there.
Following God’s playbook is not always the easy thing to do, but it is always the right thing to do. If you will line up your life and your decisions with his word, then you will find success in everything you do.
4. Whose Approval Are You Seeking?
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. – Matthew 6:1
Some people like to have the look of success. We even throw out slogans like “fake it til you make it.” If you take this approach, you must ask yourself, who are you really seeking to please? God has never asked us to “fake” anything, and God will never ask you to do something just so others will applaud you.
In this verse, Jesus is saying that the motivation behind what you do is just as important as what you actually do. This means, it’s possible to do the right things for all the wrong reasons.
Our measure for success can’t be whether we get the applause of men.
If we use that barometer then Jesus wasn’t very successful because more people were against him than were for him. The bar of success has to be set with one standard in mind: is God pleased. If you seek God’s approval, then it really doesn’t matter if anyone else stands up and applauds you, because God will.
Don’t get me wrong, encouragement and recognition for a job well done is important—but we shouldn’t do things just so that people will see how “wonderful” we are.
There’s a familiar expression: “the audience of one.” This means everything we do in life is not centered around the cheers of the crowd, but centered around the pleasure of heaven. When this becomes your focus, it doesn’t matter who’s watching. It doesn’t matter whether anyone ever “discovers” your work.
All that matters most is that God is pleased.
If you remember, when Jesus was baptized, God said this is my son with whom I am well pleased. This happened before Jesus did any public ministry. He spent 30 years in the dark…pleasing God and living a successful life. We should do the same thing.
It’s not about who’s watching, it’s all about the truth that God is watching. Understanding that definitely puts you on the road to success.
5. What Do You See in the Mirror?
The final question to consider today is: what do you see when you look in the mirror? Consider Ephesians 5:1:
Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father] – (AMP, my notes added)
If you are doing this right, then Christ should be growing and seen in you more and more each day. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors. This means we represent him in the earth. When people see us, they should see Jesus.
What good would it be to meet success by the world’s standards and we never show the character of Christ in the process? That is not success. Our lives are designed to bring him glory and honor. Not for our purpose, but because in doing so we make Jesus more attractive and ultimately draw more people to him.
This applies whether you work in the classroom, the boardroom, the courtroom, or the bathroom. Our lives should be reflections of Christ. We should remind people of his love, mercy, joy, grace, kindness, and goodness. We should be striving to be men who will represent and show how wonderful Jesus really is.
The Final Analysis
As you can see in measuring success, it’s not just about what you do. It’s how you do it. It’s why you do it.
True success can’t be measured without including your motivations, your integrity, your morals, your ethics, your values…all these things matter.
In other words, success is not just about what you do and accomplish, it’s about who you are and who you are becoming. It’s about doing what God has called you to do, the way he has called you to do it. It’s growing in your walk and becoming more and more like Christ each day.
Are you are prioritizing the eternal things? These things matter more than just the temporary treasures of the day. If you can do these things, then I would say you are clearly on your way to becoming a great success.
In conclusion, I remind you of the words of the Apostle Paul:
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. – Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
Keep reaching. Keep growing. Keep pressing. Keep succeeding. It will all be worth it in the end.