Every person has a unique way of identifying success.
For some it is simply comparing themselves to someone else and striving to become just like them!
To some it is rising to the top of a corporate ladder, making a million bucks, or selling a successful enterprise and retiring to a warm tropical island.
I know of some who simply want to have a successful marriage with their lifelong sweetheart and raise their family to love and enjoy each other.
There are multiple tiers of success that are separate from ones career or personal life. Sometimes they become one and the same, but more often they are living separate and distinct from the other. Pulling off a double successful coup may be like rising to the top of the corporate ladder while keeping a successful marriage!
I asked myself this morning, “What is my definition of success?”
Surprisingly I did not have a clear answer.
It is true I have a successful marriage and we will enjoy 40 years of bliss this July. Additionally, while I know I am doing what God wants me to do in ministry, the older I get I realize there are multiple facets of what ministry truly looks like. As I look back over my life I see the provident hand of God helping me through hurdles and pointing me in new directions. There is no way I would replace who I am today with what my past steps have led me to, but I would be unfaithful if I did not consider I have mixed feelings of the past, present and future.
Let me think this through for a moment.
In the present world I really love education, so much that I am working on my doctorate in ministry. There was a time when formal education was one of the last things I could see ever being a part of my life. Schools, classes, seminars – they were all used incrementally to get to the next rung of some ladder. I did teach college in the early 80’s – banking courses for the American Institute of Banking. In the 90’s I also taught at a Junior College and was the program head of Computer Science. All of this without a degree. I was considered a subject matter expert in the arena and could share my knowledge without formal education.
Along the way there were a few classes I simply took for enjoyment, like the one in Anchorage where we learned to build and fly my own radio control airplane. I had already built, flown, and successfully crashed several planes, so I thought I might enjoy a class of structure to be a better success – we moved before I could finish the course.
I even prepaid for my pilots license and enjoyed the classes and flying real live airplanes – and successfully got my licenses in 1986…
I have not built or flown an RC plane since then, nor maintained my private pilots licenses since the same year.
But I want to.
Another example revolves around my love of cars and trucks. A friend expressed to me a few days ago that I talk about my cars as if they were close to me. Yes. I have had plenty of cars and wish that I could enjoy them again today, but alas, I do not have the money or time to reconnect with my past experiences. If I take a moment I could probably list the 40 or so vehicles I have owned – some were simply throw away cars, you know, buy them for $200 and drive them till they drop, and go get another one!
Eleven years ago I bought my dream truck. A 2003 Dodge 1-ton, 4WD, Quad cab, diesel… That’s the past. In the present I still talk about this truck as if it is new! My original intention was to have it for a quarter of a million miles. It has passed that mile marker and headed for 300,000 miles. Now I am thinking about a million miles. If I properly care for it then I see no real reason not to make that a viable goal. Of course, the future costs of fuel will be the kicker. When I bought it in 2003, diesel was $1.65 per gallon. Now it’s hoovering around the $4 mark continually and I have paid as high as $5.01. Who knows what fuel costs will be in another eleven years?
You cannot live successfully in the future if you have not planned on future costs with present dollars!
Finally, I think of success as I defined it 42 years ago when I completed High School.
Most of it did not consider life as I am living it today. This is why my thought about success is not a simple or clear answer. If God blesses me with another 42 year of life, and then I will be about 101…, yeah, right. Anyway, if I do survive another 42 years then I will think of present day success differently than I do today. My present will be the past and the future will be even shorter than it possibly is today.
God tells Joshua, a man who is taking over the reins somewhere later in life. He was one of the 12 who spied out the land of promise. He was a youngster when they left Egypt, and now that 40 years of wandering the wilderness is over, Joshua has proven himself faithful to step into the gap of leadership. God gives him the command to lead, but also tells him how to be successful.
Jos 1:8 MSG And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed.
Past, Present, Future – Success looks so different in each tense and it is not easy to translate what success will look like in these three stages. Flexibility, adaptability, and comprehension to grasp the differences between the three should keep you focused on knowing what is success at the proper time!