I bumped into an old school friend at the gym the other day. I found it unusual that she seemed embarrassed by the usual “so what are you up to these days?” questions. She said: “Oh I’m only working part time whilst doing my masters, but my sister has got this amazing internship for a big company in London – she won!”
To be honest, I found it sad that this friend was doing great things but seemed embarrassed that her life didn’t seem as successful as her sister’s.
So how do we define a successful life? A great job, a wonderful relationship, a perfect Instagram account, a ripped body, a kale smoothie each morning?
As people in our 20s and 30s, we live in a constant state of comparison. Maybe we feel like our lives always need to match the expectations of our friends, family or the media.
Last summer I was working part-time for my church and part-time for a water sports centre. I was so surprised by the amount of people who would ask me: “But what do you actually want to do after this?”
What if those jobs were exactly what I wanted to do with my life? I love working for the church and at the water sports centre I had the opportunity to chat every single day to those who didn’t know Jesus, about what a life of faith can look like. I believe I was exactly where God wanted me to be that summer and although it might not have looked very successful in the world’s eyes, telling people about Jesus was great job satisfaction for me. That was my definition of success.
John Maxwell says: “Success is … knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.”
So if success is about knowing your purpose, then how can we work that out for our own lives?
Jesus replied: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”(Matthew 22:37-39)
Love the Lord your God. No matter what job we’re in, no matter what our status is, or our body shape or location, if we are loving Jesus with all that we have, putting him first and taking up our cross daily, then we are “succeeding” at life. It’s not about what we do, but who we are.
So let’s ensure that wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, as Christians, let’s redefine success by putting Jesus first in all that we do.
Love your neighbour. There are plenty of ways we can love other Christians, but let’s focus on those who don’t know Jesus. The best way you can ‘love your neighbour’ is by telling those around you about the incredible relationship that is on offer with Jesus.
Jesus tells us to ‘go and make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). This is our ultimate purpose. To tell our mates that they can be forgiven for all they have done, that they don’t have to live with guilt and shame but instead with peace, joy, a loving community and a God who has a plan and purpose for their life. This is part of the “knowing your purpose” and “sowing the seed” that John Maxwell is talking about.
Having great careers, fulfilling relationships, and owning material possessions are of course not bad in and of themselves. These things are given to us for the purpose of proclaiming and revealing God’s goodness. But ultimately, if we are not telling people about Jesus and loving him with all we have, these things are worthless. They don’t equal a successful life.
So what does redefining success look like? It’s not comparing ourselves to others’ success, it’s not killing ourselves to climb the career ladder, it’s not owning your own home, being married, having the fittest body or being the best at sport: it’s loving Jesus with all our hearts and making the most of every opportunity to tell those around us about Jesus, his love and all he has for us.
The best part about all this? It’s never too late to redefine what success means to you. You’re never too young or too old or too busy to start living to your true potential and sowing seeds to transform our world.