Is it the 1st standing ovation? Maybe it’s the 2nd time someone you’ve never met greets you by name. Or it could be the check that covers your bills, puts 5 figures in your savings and a new outfit in your closet. Perhaps the community leaders admiring your brilliance and creativity. That first taste of success is sweetened with dreams of grandeur, with a hint of silk wishes and diamond hopes. You’re on your way… doing the thang… becoming known… actualizing your purpose. It is intoxicating.
For every 50 believers in Christ who overcome adversity there’s only one who overcomes Success. We’re taught how to survive trauma but, I wonder, where is the help needed to survive success? As more people swallow the lies that Jesus is the goose that laid the golden egg and the Cross guarantees the life we want here rather than requires our dying to self to inherit the Kingdom, it becomes imperative we find the answer. We’re in a must win battle because we’re in very real danger of gaining the world and losing our souls.
We are dissatisfied in adversity, primarily concerned with finding relief, so we readily admit our inability to handle the issues we face. We run to God. Pray. Plead. Bargain. Beg. We read and confess. We listen for His whispers. We connect with the temporal nature of life because we want our current situation to be over!
Yet, it’s difficult for someone who has found success to admit their continued need for God. It’s hard to use success chiefly for His glory or give it up entirely if asked. It’s so challenging that after Jesus confronted the rich young ruler, He made sure to reiterate the difficulty to his disciples:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24
It’s hard because we connect our efforts to the reward of success. “Who needs God when I’ve got the formula? Confess it and attract it! Follow the steps. Say it this way to get buy-in.” And, because success feels good, we want to keep the party going. Why give up anything that validates our greatness? We double down our efforts, quickly forgetting that our sufficiency is not in ourselves to claim anything as coming from ourselves but that our sufficiency is in God. (2 Cor. 3:5) We become self-satisfied. When “self” shows up, God becomes expendable.
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way suggesting we reject ambition or settle for mediocrity. You’re not a worm. You are God’s son or daughter. Just reject SELFISH ambition. Faithfully steward the talents, intelligence and gifts God has invested in you, for His glory, not your own. In this society success means constructing security for oneself, obtaining notoriety for oneself, or showcasing self’s “magnificence” instead of glorifying God and helping others regardless of the material rewards.
I’ve compiled a success survival kit to help me keep pursuit of God as the goal and remind me that any attempt to pursue my best life now or my best me is misguided. God’s plan for our lives is eternal and far surpasses anything we could hope to manufacture. Below are a few pointers from the kit.
FROM CHERYL’S SUCCESS SURVIVAL KIT
- WEAR PRAISE AS LOOSELY AS YOU WEAR CRITICISM
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks great things; Psalm 12:3
Don’t give criticism the power to crush you nor praise the power to puff you up. Rather, accept any truth in criticism as something to improve upon and let truth in praise glorify God because His gifts in you were used to encourage others. I have a phrase I use when receiving a compliment, “I’m thankful what God has given me was used to bless you!” Simple, glorifying to God, without false humility.
- STAY CLOSE TO YOUR UNIMPRESSED FRIENDS
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. Galatians 2:11 (Read the entire encounter 11- 21)
Paul took the opportunity to rebuke Peter for his hypocrisy. I’m sure it stung but it was necessary. The wounds from a friend who loves us too much to be impressed are a faithful reminder we are not above reproach… even if we are “the Rock”.
- NURTURE HUMILITY
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3
Proverbs 16:5 reminds us everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to God. Abomination is a strong word! It means atrocity, horror, extreme evil. Pride is horrific to God. Biblical humility, however, attracts His grace. It is rooted in God’s character and indicative of a servant’s heart. I pray the desire to serve others remains my prevailing motivation.
- SUCCESS IS A “C/O” PACKAGE
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
In settling my first husband’s estate, my daughter would receive mail sent to my care. It was for her benefit but sent to me on her behalf. Our gifts, talents, skills and the rewards that come as a result of our hard work are like that; sent by God to us to open so they can be used on behalf of those around us.
- SUCCESS IS TEMPORARY
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
It doesn’t matter if you have Oprah’s popularity, Bill’s bank or Ernestine’s age-defying body… none of it follows you into eternity. We live in a fleeting world. The chief focus of our living should be in preparation for what will last.
- NEITHER SUCCESS NOR FAILURE INDICATES GOD’S PLEASURE
…He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:45(b)
I have been blessed to know financially wealthy lovers of God, financially poor lovers of God. Rich lovers of self. Poor lovers of self. And so on. God blesses whom He chooses for His own purposes. He has established principles which work without regard to an individual’s faith. We can never equate material success to Kingdom acceptance.
- SUCCESS IS A TOOL
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son
Our destiny is to become like Jesus. The glorious mystery of the riches of God is Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). God will use everything in our life, if we will allow Him, to grow us up into His likeness. We learn obedience through the things we suffer. Trouble teaches us to persevere and trust in Him. Offense provides an opportunity to forgive like Him. Success allows us to be a “need meeter” like Christ.
I pray this helps you begin to think about how to survive your own success. Hugs and love!