Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were doing it for God rather than for people,~Colossians 3:23.
We live in a world that measures success by the amount of money a person makes, their possessions, their academic achievements (the highest GPA, or degrees), their intelligence (IQ), their ability to play a sport well, their performance (the best singer, dancer, actor or actress), their ministry (is it growing? is it big? how many people have been impacted?), or even their ability to have a great marriage or great kids. Our world measures success very differently than God does. We base success on externals. God looks at the heart and whether or not we are faithful. Faithfulness is important to God. Winning is something we value.
Let’s investigate this trap….
I. Our worth is based on what we can do (how well we do things) or what we do (are we the best at what we do) or what we have (I’ve achieved so much). If we are finding security in what we can do, what we do, or what we have, then our foundation is as shaky as shifting sands. There will always be someone who has more, can do more…and if our esteem is rooted in those things we will either spend our lives striving for success, competing with others, looking down on people who we don’t perceive are as good as we think we are, or feeling insecure because we are not as successful as we think we should be.
- If our worth is rooted in our ability to succeed, it promotes pride. If we succeed, we pat ourselves on the back and inflate our ego. If we fail (by our standards or the world’s), then we fall into self-pity and shame. We keep striving to be better for our ego. It’s not about being faithful to whatever God calls us to do, it’s about succeeding at whatever we set our minds to do. We are not what we do. We become addicted to success so we can feel good about ourselves or establish identity.
- An identity rooted in Christ. Our worth is not determined by what we can do or accomplish. We are valuable because God says that we are. If we know who we are in Him, we will be lead to excellence for His glory, not success for our ego. People in the Bible had flaws, moral failures, made mistakes, and God still used them. He looked at the heart, qualified the unqualified, restored the broken, and rewarded faithfulness.
II. Our self built monuments are not as valuable as we think. We can build quite a monument for ourselves. And if we have no monument for our achievements, we have a monuments of shame for what we haven’t accomplished.
- The focus is us and not God. Everything we can do is because He enables us to do them. If He spoke to end our lives, He could do so. Everything in the Universe is held together by an awesome God. If there is greatness in us, it’s because He is great. Our monuments of glory or shame are worthless in comparison to who He is.
- Acknowledging everything we do is only because of Him. Giving Him the credit for the good things in our lives. Thanking Him for we can do nothing without Him. Even those who don’t know Him are alive and gifted because He allows it. The gifts, talents, skills, and intelligence are given by Him.
God is not opposed to higher education; excellence in craftsmanship, talent or skill. He wants us to steward gifts given by Him. The goal is not to find our value in what we do or success at what we do. If we do, then it promotes insecurity. Money can be lost, marriages can fail, children can disappoint you, a head injury could destroy mental capabilities, jobs can be lost, and if success is what motivates us-then we will bail when we’re not successful or be miserable.
I’ve been fortunate to be placed in situations where God called me to be faithful, but in my eyes and the eyes of others there was not success. I devoted 7 years to leading Bible studies and home groups. Looking back on some of those years I felt like a failure or there were moments I felt it was a waste of time. People would show up sometimes and other times they wouldn’t. You’d prepare a teaching or worship and people would be on their smartphones texting, chatting with each other, or disinterested. You’d pour into people and have them tell you they didn’t want to be pointed to the truth of the Gospel. You’d pray and things would get worse. Finally God spoke these words that changed my perspective, “I honor faithfulness. You were faithful to do what I ask you to do.” When I become focused on succeeding or measuring up to some standard, I can be reminded that God honors faithfulness! It’s about Him and His ability, not me and my ability. And I’ve learned from those situations to be more of a helper/encourager to those God places over me and other people, not to expect perfection and to help/encourage others remain faithful to what God calls them to do. So, I am somewhat thankful for those years…
This world will pass away and all that is in it. There won’t be a world’s most successful person bulletin in heaven. We won’t have a bigger mansion or more privileges in heaven based on success on earth. Money, titles…those things won’t matter. God honors faithfulness. May we be faithful to whatever God asks us to do.