What If Success Was Something Else?

Is there a more loaded word in the English language than “success”? The types of people we like to tag as successful center around a narrow list of characteristics. Money is usually the first marker, followed by acclaim, and then maybe influence.

But am I truly successful because I have money? What about acclaim?

close up photo of man wearing black suit jacket doing thumbs up gesture

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

I heard, recently, about social media heroes who have had mental breakdowns trying to handle the pressures of managing their acclaim and influence. Would we say they are really successful if their acclaim leads to destructive thoughts and behaviors?

Peter Scazzero says that, “Success is first and foremost doing what God has asked us to do, doing it his way, and in his timing.” There is nothing about money or fame in his definition. In many ways, money and fame might be easier than Scazzero’s view.

Doing what God has asked us to do requires us to understand scripture and to pray, and most importantly, listen. These tasks are not easy.

Then, when we understand what we need to do we have to do it God’s way and in his timing. This is the part that is most challenging to me. I like to develop a plan, to devise a series of steps, and to begin taking action immediately. So many times, especially over the last few months, I have had to battle my desire to execute my plan, in my way, in my timing. The reality is God often moves slower than I would like and his way of managing a situation may not really look anything like the way I think it should be done. So, even if I am doing what God wants but do it in my own way and in my own timing then I am not being successful at it.. You need all three, God’s will, God’s way, and God’s timing.

So, it goes back to the practices of understanding scripture, developing a listening ear for God, and prayer. Also, I would recommend celebrating small successes and not just focusing on the big wins. This way, we get out of the mode of marking our success by the world’s standards.


Book Review: Freedom of Simplicity – Richard Foster

fosterRichard Foster’s book Freedom of Simplicity was written more than 30 years ago. For a book that discusses money, materialism, and possessions, there is not much that needs to be updated.

What strikes me is that so much of what he touches on in this book – moderation, simplicity, and generosity – has not become mainstream 30 years later. Why haven’t Christians embraced a more simple existence? Why is materialism as rampant in the church as it is outside the church? Foster’s words remain timely.

Foster always manages to keep three elements in play when he writes – the biblical, the historical, and the practical. Every book I have ever read by him keeps this same pattern. It is strange to hear occasional critics of Foster describe him as operating outside of Biblical emphasis ; these people must not have read any of his books. In this one, he spends entire chapters on the Old Testament view of money and simplicity as well as the New Testament.

Additionally, I probably know more church history from reading Foster books than just about anything else . This book is full of examples of the Christian church’s effective approaches to money and possessions.

Finally, Foster shares practical steps to removing what is unneeded in our lives and ways to approach a life that is not wanting but is full of what truly matters – God and his kingdom.

Giving As Spiritual Discipline

When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I would get my parents Living Bible translation with the green cover and read the Gospels. One day I came across the story about the poor lady who gave her measly two mites in the Temple and was highly praised by Jesus for giving sacrificially while he criticized the wealthier people whose donations were much more than the poor woman’s. This story had such an impression on me that the next Sunday I took the money that was in my wallet (maybe $24) and tried to give it all to the church. My parents explained to me that I only have to give a portion of my money to the church and not all of it.

The point of this story is as an idealistic and innocent child, I was willing to live out my faith in ways that showed true sacrifice, true trust, and radical actions. As I got older, money became something to hold on to and hoard rather than give away. It became easy to rationalize ways of getting around giving and being generous. No matter what my stage in life may be, it doesn’t change the point that Jesus is making. It doesn’t matter how much you give, what matters is the state of your heart when you give. And giving is an act of worship that truly allows us to worship in “spirit and in truth.” If my giving comes out of anything other than worship of God and a response to his generosity and blessings towards me than God doesn’t want my money.

Do you give out of guilt or obligation or do you give out of generosity, love and sacrifice? It makes a world of difference to God.