What is success? Success is defined as “a favorable result or wished for ending.” This definition helps to frame our concept of what success is, or should be.
A favorable or wished for ending may be different in each case, depending on individual aspirations. However, the magnitude of a favorable result or wished for ending, presupposes or infers the magnitude of the effort to be exerted to achieve that desired ending or attaining such a favorable result.
Let me dispel a myth about living a successful life, which may unwittingly stand in the way of actually experiencing great success:
“Success is NOT the absence of challenges; but IS the surmounting of challenges to reach a desired outcome”
To appreciate the significance of the above statement, I refer to a biblical declaration by the apostle Paul, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed,” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
If there’s among Christ’s apostles, one who was undeniably successful in fulfilling his divine assignment, it was Paul. He was unequivocal on stating that he had fought a good fight, he had finished his assigned race, and that he had kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). But he achieved all that desired ending and favorable result, in spite of the challenges he and his companions faced on their mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
Therefore, success, in whatever form, requires some output, which is that hard work to be done, in order to realize favorable results.
How About Lasting Success?
The apostle Paul shows us perspectives on two kinds of people in the world regarding the concept of success. This helps to shed light on whether the realized success in one’s life is lasting or momentary
On one hand, there are those who see success only within the confines of the natural physical world, and others see it as extending even beyond the natural physical environment.
The reason for one to hold to a perspective on success confined only to the physical and natural world, is what Paul states, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Failure to consider success which goes beyond the grave or death, casts an uncanny naiveté on the value of one’s success.
If one’s success will end up being relegated to the terminal ravages of the grave, and will not have any perpetual or lasting value beyond the grave, such success is best considered as being fatalistic. This is what Solomon reiterated, “Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Solomon gives a great and enviable account of his achievements or successes, if you will; but after he analyzed all such incredible feats of hard work, within the confines of the physical and natural world, he concluded, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sub.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). He certainly was not denying that there were visible outcomes and results of his hard work. What he addressed was whether there was perpetual or lasting value to all that he had achieved under the sun, as seen within the confines of a natural physical environment. The answer was certainly a big no!
Paul shows us, however, that there’s a better alternative to understanding the question on perpetual or lasting value of success. Value of success should go beyond the grave, or should remain, even after one’s physical death, to be enjoyed by an individual after transitioning out of this physical world, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). These are people who consider success in terms of both the natural physical environment, as well as the spiritual environment of the hereafter.
Which one might we be?
What is a Successful Life?
I have characterized a successful life as a life that is Resilient, that’s full of Hope, and lasting eternal value. Otherwise, without such characteristics, at best, it may just be some fleeting success that fades away, and leaves one feeling hopeless, and instantaneously fizzles at the death of the so called successful person.
A Life that is Resilient
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed” (2 Corinthians 4:8a).
In order for us to succeed and yield desired results, or endings that will stand the test of time and eternity, we’ll invariably face some challenges. But our pursuits in life ought to be anchored in our unshakable trust that God who created, and purposed us into existence, has a grand plan of success for us.
We should desist and resist the temptation to capitulate to fear, due to perceived and even real challenges before us. If we are to experience the fulfillment of our God-ordained success, which we can be proud of in time and eternity, we need to embrace a higher concept of success, which keeps God at the center of human endeavors.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America (1861-1865), said, “The path to success is sprinkled with moments of failure.” If there is a factor that has robed some people of their great dreams or aspirations, is the FEAR of Failure. Fear of failure is the paralysis of initiative in one’s life.
In response to challenges faced by those who have put their trust in a faithful God, is to realize that no matter the pressures or obstacles in their way to success, they will not be crushed, although they may feel pressured on every side.
A Life that is Full of Hope
“…perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8b)
The worst psychological and spiritual posture of mind, in the face of challenges, is to slip into denial.
Denial is an attempt to escape reality, which results in insanity, when reality hits.
When someone is perplexed, it means they may even have some doubt, or find themselves in an embarrassing situation, as they pursue a dream; but they still believe in the efficacy of their dream or desired ending. Paul testified to this same state of affairs in 2 Corinthians 1:8, when he said, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” However, Paul’s final resolve was in this, “He (God) has delivered us from such deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” (2 Corinthians 1:10).
A Life that is full of hope, reaches deep into the realm of possibilities in God, and refuses to give up on a God-ordained purpose or promising endeavor in life. Overcoming fear through hope in Christ, will help us to remain steadfast towards our life’s success that endures time and eternity.
A Life that Has Eternal Value
“Struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9)
The general premise of creating value is to find ways of maintaining it. No one will wholeheartedly pursue value addition, if in the end there will be nothing to show for it.
Solomon again shows us that there should be a transcendent factor that makes sense when it comes to our toil under the sun, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them…Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13-14).
As an Accountant, a Teacher, a Medical Doctor, an Engineer, a Pastor, a Politician, a Civil Servant, an Entrepreneur, etc., will your work under the sun, in your endowed or personal station in life, be characterized as lasting value-addition or lasting success that will stand the test of time and eternity?
Unfortunately, for some people, their so called success will decompose and become nothing when they face the inevitable appointment of death and transitioning from this earth, because they may have only succeeded in terms of this natural and physical environment; but opted to never see and prepare for the hereafter. Eternity will be such a great shock to some.
Live a Successful Life both now and in eternity!