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What is Real Success?

Posted by Mark Nordlund on

Our greatest fear should not be of failure
but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.
-Francis Chan

What am I “succeeding” at in my life? I once did an exercise where I wrote down what I considered to be my highest values. Then I wrote down everything I was doing in my life including all of the time, energy and resources that went into them. Needless to say, they didn’t exactly line up.

Many things can distract us from what really matters, but maybe nothing so much as our fears. Chan references the fear of failure, but many kinds of fears could be substituted here: Fear of rejection, fear of not measuring up, fear of loss, fear of punishment, fear of not fitting in. We are not talking about the healthy fear response that protects us when we are in real danger, but the fears that we often learn through painful childhood or relationship experiences. Driven by these fears, we pursue “successes” that leave us empty and needing more. We might put everything into being popular at school, “securing” our financial future, or creating an image that will impress people, but real success is a singular pursuit: Jesus.

So what about the fears that would distract and control me? John said it this way:

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4:16,18a

Jesus wants us to know and rely on his love because trusting his perfect love will drive out our fears. As dearly loved children of God, our identity is in Christ, and his love defines us and the meaning of success.

Real success is never about how great a thing you do, but how you are growing in trusting Jesus and responding to his love. Teresa of Calcutta expressed this new economy of success when she said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” In extending love to others, we actually know God and are living as his children. As John said, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." (John 4:7)

What fears are behind your “successful” pursuits? What small act of Jesus’ great love will you live out today?



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