Our world has a long list of overachievers who have gone the extra mile, above and beyond what’s expected and left a mark in their fields of endeavour. Many have continued to break their own records or the world’s records by stretching the limits. The sky is no longer the limit as these people reveal that so much more can be achieved if we will pay the price for excellence.
In our mind’s eye, we all have an idea of what success is or who is a successful person. But whose definition of success do we live our lives by? Because the definition of success a hundred years ago isn’t quite what it is today. Our parents, friends, the society and even the church has a definition of success.
And whether, we are at college, or at a job, whether we are old or young, we all want to become or be known as successful. And if we will rely on the ever-changing definitions of our society, our lives will continue to swing like a pendulum, exhausted with trying to keep up.
Unlike chasing after success, the objective of pursuing a purpose-driven life isn’t for the reward of an earthly price or to be respected by all and sundry or even garner a large following. Striving for success keeps you under pressure to stand out, to be accepted by others and a pursuit of fame and importance. You might even end up cutting corners just to retain the reputation and status that comes with your new success.
The excitement of winning a medal, a new world record or standing on the world’s stage quickly wears off after a few weeks or months. The cameras are off, the cheering from the crowds goes silent and that pinned post slips into your archive. The trophy you never believed would be yours is admired and showcased for so long till it begins to gather some dust till the chase for the next big thing begins.
Purpose begins and ends with God. Our purpose in life is the sole reason why we are still alive and breathing on planet earth. Whether God’s purpose for us is in the spotlight or in the mundane, He hasn’t called anyone of us to be famous but to do all we can to be faithful from start to the end.
When we begin to take God’s place or replace His purpose for our lives with our selfish ambitions and plans, our lives will no longer be purpose-driven but merely a chase after success. And Joshua may have been shocked to hear God say that not all success is good and not all success is from Him. Joshua 1.8.
The society defines success by the number of titles and positions a person has, a high-flying career, the possession of so many credit cards, houses in the best part of town, fleets of cars and private jets, a large following on social media, sunny vacation spots, stocks and shares in Fortune 500 companies, a lavish wedding celebration, world-class education from the Ivy league schools, among others.
But God’s definition of success isn’t trending or attractive to the ordinary person. Those whose names are written in heaven, who meditate on God’s word day and night, who are a blessing to the poor, strangers, widows, fatherless, who seek God’s kingdom first and who win souls. Those who fear, love, serve God and are becoming like Christ. Those who are led by God’s Spirit, who have pure hearts and clean hands. And all who keep the faith, finish the race and are looking forward to Jesus’ return make the shortlist of those who are successful in God’s eyes.
Many times, what we think is so important doesn’t impress God. And while many of us are focused on pleasing people who care less about us, we end up displeasing and abandoning God who should have been our first priority.
When those who are deemed as successful drop the ball, they also drop off our radar and we begin to look up to others who have recently achieved something greater. But God doesn’t do that with us, His eyes are on us from start to finish. And if you will chase after a life that will count for eternity, our focus ought to be on what’s important to God or we’ll have to keep hopping from one thing to another.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, just before He began His ministry on earth, the devil asked him to bow down to him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world. And the enemy continues to offer ‘success’ to those who will bow to him.
Purpose, begins and ends with God, while success begins and ends with reputation and fame. The blessings of Lord makes one rich and adds no sorrow. So, not all blessings come from God and not every rich and wealthy person has been blessed by God. Many have all that this world has to offer but still have no joy, peace and contentment. The more they have, the more they want and they even lack the ability to enjoy what they have.
Many times, those who are successful have a skill or talent that’s been applied to its highest standards. They hire the best coaches, then spend so many hours each week in training, they compete to the highest and most recent standards and do everything to remain the best. And there’s nothing wrong with all that. We should all be striving for mastery and excellence in what we do.
But what’s the value in spending your entire life on just yourself, earning and spending all that cash on yourself, living to achieve your selfish ambitions for yourself, isolated in a bubble with no impact on anyone else except yourself. What’s the meaning of life if lived only for yourself?
Could this be the reason why so many successful people end up miserable at the end of their lives? They have worked so hard, they are revered and respected by all, their homes are full of plaques, medals and trophies but their souls are still empty and aching for something none of these achievements could give.
Unlike success, pursuing a purpose-driven life is intentionally allowing God to use you to be a blessing to this world with whatever skill, talent or gift He’s given you. It’s not about you or what you’re good at. It’s recognizing that God chose you before He laid the foundations of the earth and sent you to planet earth on purpose with a purpose.
When we lose sight of who we are, whose we are, why we are here on earth or what God’s hoping to achieve through us, we abandon His plan for us and begin to chase after the success that this world offers. Many began the journey with God, following and doing exactly what God wanted till someone came alongside and suggested a faster way to get ‘to the top’.
Our society is in a race against time to be successful overnight, there is a plethora of get-rich schemes, we will do anything to avoid paying the price for excellence, we want a diet that will make us lose weight overnight, we want a crash course that will replace the hard work required to study hard for the exams, we are always looking for what app will make life faster and easier. We are interested in the results but not the process.
There are no shortcuts to a purpose-driven life. We will certainly bring shame and disgrace to God’s name when we misrepresent Him because we fast-tracked or avoided the process. Everyone God will use will have to endure a process of pruning, refining, remoulding as He prepares us for the task He wants to entrust to us. God won’t allow you move up to the next stage till you have ‘passed’ the previous stage.
Success keeps your eyes focused on the present, as we chase only after what’s temporal and fading, there is rarely ever any thought about eternity. And we amass so much earthly possessions, we continue to jostle for power and position, so we don’t become irrelevant in the eyes of those who look up to us.
Many have more cars than they can drive in, more houses than they can live in, more clothes and jewels than they can wear, and they end up with so much stuff, their hands are full and overflowing but their hearts and souls are empty. Success is a myopic focus on the external: What people can see, what you want people to think about you, the legacy you choose to leave behind.
On the other hand, living a purpose-driven life begins with the internal work of the Holy Spirit, adjusting and aligning our will with God’s purpose and superimposing eternity on what we do or don’t do. Your eyes are focused on God who called you in the first place, you are constantly checking your motives for serving God and not easily swayed by what’s trending or our feelings.
We have only one person to please and that’s God. We ought to be living for heaven’s applause and not man’s empty praise. We should constantly remind ourselves that we have been chosen on purpose for a purpose not because we are special but because we were willing, available and obedient.
Many successful empires have crumbled overnight, many famous names were forgotten with the previous centuries, many world’s records have their names written in engraved in monuments and museums that are now covered in dust.
When the thrust of our lives begin and end with us, we will be under pressure to leave behind a great legacy. When success is at stake, we are also under pressure to determine who gets the credit. But if the reason we live is Christ, it doesn’t matter whether people remember us or not. It’s the honor and glory of God’s name that’s our focus.
So, what have you been living for? The acclaim of men or the applause of heaven? And it’s okay if you’ve just discovered that you’ve been travelling down the wrong path, it’s never too late to hop off the chase after success that’s heading nowhere and focus on what will last for eternity.
Someday, when we step out of time into eternity, all our treasures, triumphs and trophies will crumble into the dust, we brought nothing into this world and will certainly take nothing away. If our lives will be purpose-driven, we must constantly crosscheck that we are living to please the Lord and pursuing what will last for eternity.
And if the world thinks you’ve been successful, never forget who got you there in the first place. Life isn’t about us or what we can do or achieve but if we are representing God everywhere, we go. If all people can see is only you and your achievements, that’s success, but if your life is a showcase of God’s power and glory, then that’s a life lived on purpose.