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The Definition of Success

June 11th, 2010 · No Comments

For the last two weeks I’ve been promising you twelve keys to a truly successful life; but all I’ve shared with you are two commandments from the Bible. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I also promised that this week I’d tell you what these two commandments have to do with success and why they mean more than any other belief, practice or activity you could possibly have or do to assure that your life will be a real success.

To accomplish that, the first thing we’ll need is an accurate definition of success. Imagine that sometime in your early childhood Mama showed you a rutabaga and said “apple”, and from that point forward whenever you see a rutabaga you think “apple” and whenever someone says “apple” you think rutabaga. Now when your spouse asks you to pick up apples at the grocery, you come home with a bag of rutabagas. If your definition is wrong, you may get what you’re looking for, but it won’t be apples.

Here’s the key to success: Achieving true success in your life starts with having an accurate definition of success. If you’ve got the wrong definition you may get what you’re looking for, but it won’t be success.

Success, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is defined as, “the accomplishment of what is desired or aimed at.” In other words, success is the fulfillment of that which was originally intended. For example, if I stand at the base of a mountain and my original intent is to climb to the peak, then I would be successful (I would have fulfilled my original intent) when I reached the top of the mountain.

Because we live in such a materialistic, self-guided world, our definition of success has become a very blurry thing. We’ve been fooled into believing that success has something to do with the things we possess or the amount of time we pursue leisure, or cool those who don’t know us think we are. What the world tells us is ‘success’ is a very twisted and fake imitation of the real thing.

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and seen the plastic models of cuts of meat or desserts on display? The plastic imitations are on display to demonstrate the kind of steaks or desserts the restaurant has available on the menu. Restaurants use the plastic imitations because if they put the real food on display it would soon begin to rot or go stale, so they purchase plastic imitations of real food and put them on display to give the customer an idea of what the real food looks like. The plastic imitations don’t rot like the real food but they’re not the real food, and eventually they’ll show signs of aging as well. Exposed to the display case lights day after day, the colors begins to fade and dust settles on the fake food. After a while the plastic models don’t even look like good imitations of the real thing.

That’s kind of where we are now. The world we’ve built – the world of stuff, and leisure, and distractions, and the lust for people we don’t know to see us as important or special, and calling our personal accumulation of all that stuff and leisure and false regard ‘success’ is like the faded, dusty plastic food in the display case; not only is it not the real thing, it’s not even a decent imitation of the real thing.

So what is the real thing? What is ‘success’?

Let’s go back to Webster: success is “the accomplishment of what is desired or aimed at.” So, as far as my life is concerned, I can be considered a success if I accomplish what I desire or aim at in life? Yes, that’s part of it, but not all of it. My true success in life is much bigger than me.

What Webster doesn’t share with us in his definition of success is just ‘Who’ is doing the ‘desiring or aiming’. We assume that success means accomplishing what we desire or aim at. But that’s because we don’t really know who we are or why we’re here. And if I don’t know who I am and why I’m here, how can I know that what I’m desiring or aiming at is worth accomplishing? Like the man said, “I spent my life climbing the ladder of success only to find out it was leaning against the wrong building.”

How can we know our ladder of success is leaning on the right building? By understanding who we are and why we’re. If you’re under the impression that your presence here on earth is an accident, then I can’t help you. If your existence is an accident any definition of success will be as good as the next. I’d recommend getting whatever you can to make your time here as comfortable as possible before you return to the oblivion of non-existence (generally that’s the plan most of the world is on so it should be fairly easy to find material focused on what to do before returning to the oblivion of non-existence; best of luck). If, however, you’re of the belief that your existence here was an act of creation and somewhere behind that act is a purposeful Creator, then the place to start would be asking what His ‘desire or aim’ is – as it pertains to you.

So what is your Creator’s ‘desire or aim’ in putting you on earth? That one’s easy – He wants you to live. That’s His plan; always has been. Remember the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:22)? That’s always been the plan – for us to live forever, to enjoy our time with Him forever.

God spelled it out for the Children of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. “… I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

After we threw our lives away by rejecting His purpose for us, God sent His own Son to restore that purpose. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The meaning of success just isn’t that complex. It’s ‘achieving an intended desire or aim.’ God’s purpose for us, His ‘desire or aim’ is that we should live and enjoy a relationship with Him and with each other forever. And we’ve got instructions from Him as to how to go about doing that:

“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’” (Luke 10:25-28)

True success begins with understanding the definition of success. What’s His definition of success as it pertains to you and me? That we live – not just the few years we’re allotted here on earth, but forever. Any definition of success other than the original one leads to … well, death.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Everything else is just details. Next week (and for nine weeks following) I’ll give you some nuts and bolts (the details) for practicing a truly ‘successful’ life daily.

In Him,


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