Have you ever achieved something you thought would bring you happiness and fulfillment, only to realize that success alone wasn’t enough? You’re not alone. The whole world deals with it. In fact, the whole world – the culture – has this idea of what success is, but the idea and the reality are not the same. Culture will say that fame, fortune, power, and influence equal success. Yet, the same people in those positions will adamantly deny that. Yet some of those same people are the ones pushing the idea of what success is.
Success is not a trophy. It’s not medals. I have some of those myself and they don’t equal true success. Jim Carrey – the famous actor, at one point in time the highest paid celebrity on the planet, once said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” People that are rich, smart people at least, will be quick to tell you that money doesn’t change you, it just brings out (or amplifies) who you really are to begin with.
Social media influencers, celebrities, the wealthy, the powerful, the seemingly successful – everything the world and culture tells you to be – will tell that all those things won’t bring you happiness, that they those things are true success. Oh yeah, some will. But then again, some people will tell that sitting on a couch all weekend long playing video games without going to the bathroom can be a good thing. You can always find someone who will tell you anything. You can definitely find someone who will tell you what you want to hear, especially if it increases them in influence, money, or power – you know, those fundamental pillars of false success.
Jim Carrey, even though he was successful (by all the world’s ‘standards’) – money, fame, influence – he still struggled with depression and a sense of emptiness. Robin Williams, though he could light up a room with laughter, couldn’t light up his own life. Alexander the Great was plagued with feelings of emptiness and unfulfillment, so much that it’s said that he sat down and cried because there were no more worlds to conquer. Howard Hughes, billionaire aviator, filmmaker, etc, etc, etc – he had wealth and power, but became isolated and paranoid, dying lonely and unhappy. The list goes on and on of people that sought after the success that the world offered and found that it was empty. It was a lie.
So what does the Bible tell us? If what the world tells us is a lie – that all these things will make you happy and a success, what does the Bible say about true success?
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? – Matthew 16:26 NLT
The Bible tells us that our soul is the most important thing – that being rich, famous – having the whole world – means nothing if our soul is lost, damned to Hell for all eternity. Now the term soul here actually refers to your spirit, the real you. If who you really are is lost – separated from God – then having everything you could desire, everything the world has to offer – being a success in the world’s eyes – all of it means absolutely nothing. Yet that is what the world is selling – everything – and all it costs is your soul in most cases.
The Bible also tells us that when you trust in riches, you’re going to fall (Prov. 11:28), when you desire to be rich (you’ll fall into temptation) – that desire to be rich is a trap (1 Timothy 6:9-10). We’re told in the New Testament that everything in the Old Testament was written so that we could learn from it. There’s the story of Solomon – called the wealthiest, wisest, (and arguably) the most powerful king of Israel. He had everything that the world could offer – riches, power, influence, wisdom, fame. And yet, despite all of that, he found it to be meaningless and realized that true success came from following God’s will and purpose for our lives.
That’s true success, the way God sees it. He’s given us His Word to guide us to true success. That first step is accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Then it’s following what the Word says – how to live, understanding and walking out the reality of who God says you are in Christ. Then following the leading of the Holy Spirit for the more specific direction God wants you to go so you can be happy, prosperous (not just money) and a success. Of course along with those things is telling people about what Jesus has done for you and for them, growing closer to God, being holy as He is holy.
Success is living a life that fulfills the purpose of what you were created to do. We wouldn’t accept anything less for everything else in the world, yet we will for ourselves. A piece of technology is successful if it fulfills what it was designed to do. And that purpose has many parts to it. A car is a success if it gets you from one place to another, is affordable, good on gas, easy to maintain, provides value, makes money for the creator, etc, etc, etc.
We have a purpose too and it is defined by our Creator as well, and it’s found in His Word and through His Spirit. You wouldn’t say an iPhone is a success because it makes a good paperweight, it can hold up a row of books, or it makes a good coaster – even if it makes a good coaster for thousands upon thousands of glasses. So why do we accept the idea of ourselves being successful for doing something and being someone that our Creator never intended us to do?
It’s called free will.
I have a free will. You have a free will. And God is going to let us choose what we want to do. But He has given us hints, advice, urged us, called us, even wooed us (like a guy would woo a girl he’s interested in – yes, I know, it’s an old term). He has told us the best thing for us to do is His way because it’s the best way. And the awesome part is that when we do, many of those things we desire to do as well, they’ll be included in His plans. And as we grow closer to Him (and really see the awesomeness of what He sees true success as), some of those other desires will just fall away and we’ll find new desires. And then we’ll stop falling for the trap of false success, and see that God has already written the script for true success – and we’ll be walking in it.
This is a follow up article. To read more about this, check out “The Trap Of False Success.”