Real Success

Decades ago, we had a leader in our church who would on occasion recite from memory a poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) called Success:

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people, and affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;

To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

This is a beautiful understanding of a satisfying life.How do you measure success? Emerson began his public life as a Harvard-taught minister two hundred years ago. Then his young wife died of tuberculosis. A crisis of faith naturally followed. He questioned his place in the great scheme of life. He struggled with issues of faith and science, eventually settling on what I characterize as “the transcendence of creation” as the touchstone of his life. Sadly, he had abandoned the Christ of Christianity. His writings became foundations for what was called “Transcendentalism,” which still has great appeal today.

The Bible speaks very little about success as we define it today. My understanding of Biblical success is not found in popularity, prestige, possessions, or power. Biblical success does not equal great leadership or numbers of followers or ministries or even mission endeavors. To me the Biblical definition of success is faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus. When things come down to the very end, the question from on High will not be if you were successful, but rather, “Were you faithful?” Were you faithful to God’s word, faithful in your relationships, faithful in your daily actions? Faith is fully trusting God. Faithfulness is living in gratitude for God’s great love and salvation.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Succeed through faithfulness. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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