What does success look like?

Welcome back everyone to our Surrender Series discussion…and what an awesome discussion it has been so far.  I think for Ken and I it’s really fun to dive into conversations that really matter even if those conversations can be a little uncomfortable, and I told you early on when it comes to words like “surrender” we can feel some tension for sure.  I mean the idea of surrendering to God’s will and allowing our Heavenly Father to lead our lives rather than controlling our own lives sounds good in church or when we talk to another Christian but living something like this out can be a challenge, frankly it’s rare…but it can lead you to a deeper, more peaceful, and more centered life…but you have to be willing to accept God as both Savior and Lord of your life.

So this concept of submitting and surrendering can be challenging and definitely can make us feel a little uncomfortable…and then it felt like Ken doubled down on us last week talking to us about money…in these difficult times that we are all living!  It’s interesting, there is no area of life harder to surrender over to God than the area of our finances and if you were paying attention to Ken’s talks last week, you would now understand why that was such an important topic, and why it is so hard for so many to talk about money in a church setting.  I would really encourage you to go back and watch his videos on YouTube and read his sermon text in our blog and I think what you will understand is just how profoundly spiritual that area of your life is, while also getting some practical advice in a redemptive way on this area of your money…and think about how much safer it is to watch the talk from the safety and comfort of your own home!  This way you don’t have to worry about some church person sneaking around the chairs trying to get into your wallet and take all of your money…well, unless you have teenagers, but I can’t really help you there other than to say…stay vigilant, head on a swivel!   So please go back and check out Ken’s talk, it was awesome.  But now I would like to get into this week’s discussion in the Surrender Series.

This week we are talking about success.  This discussion is going to be a building process which starts today as we try to focus on how you define success personally and why that is so important.  Then tomorrow we are going to do a bit of a Bible study on success and look at some different places in Scripture that talk about it.  Tuesday we are going to look at one of the most successful people who ever lived and what his conclusions were about so many things that look successful, and then Wednesday we will wrap this up by looking at what Jesus sees and teaches his disciples on a successful life and what it looks like.  I’m really excited to get into this with you today…so let’s get started.

Success is an interesting topic because I think we all kind of start with an idea of what success is.  Would you agree with that statement?  If I ask you what it looks like to be successful, I think you could describe a successful person to me.  Now, I want you to think about this, that idea or image of what success is to you, is a big deal.  In a way it kind of becomes your goal or the direction your life will take as you try to become successful.  Because it’s kind of the goal right?  Which I think is fair to say, we would all like to be successful.  What do you think about what I just said?  If what I just said is true, then how you define success is a really big deal because it’s that view or image of a successful life that can be determining how you are living your life…in many ways it’s your target or what you are striving for…so if it’s setting our course in life…it’s going to be important to understand success and what it is…which is really where we are going to hang out today and all week long.  It starts today with a question that I would really like you wrestling with all week long.  Get out a piece of paper and ask yourself these questions.  Remember how you define success, and what a successful life looks like to you is actually affecting the direction your life is heading and the decisions that you are making because we all would like to be a success…so this is really important.

What is success to you?  What does it look like?  If you need help getting started just close your eyes and picture a successful person.  What do you see?  Well you probably see what so many of us see.  Really nice clothes, big house, beautiful car, maybe a nice family life…but wealthy right?  Someone who has climbed the ladder, won the championship, and acquired lots and lots of stuff.  I think this is probably a good generalization of how our culture and the world views success.  So that was easy!  We figured it out and we didn’t need an entire week of discussion to do it…well here’s where it gets challenging…have you ever met someone with all of the stuff?  With the wealth, the fame, the cars, the vacation homes…you know all the trophies and toys.  The stuff never seems to be enough for them does it?  So maybe there is more to success than the wealth, and fame, and the stuff.  It reminds me of one of my favorite stories to preach on, the story of the Rich Young Ruler and his run in with Jesus…

Mark 10:17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good — except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” NIV

I love this story.  It gives us so many talking points but there is something I want you to see.  This young man comes up to Jesus and he is searching for something isn’t he?  He is a good man, successful by any definition of the term.  He has a good job, I don’t know if you picked up on this fact, but he is a godly young man who is following all the commandments well, and his bank account and future look bright…but something is still missing.  He is still searching for something.  He can’t put his finger on it, but something is still needed, and he comes to Jesus for it which is a good idea.  He is a success, yet all the stuff isn’t enough…and what does Jesus do?  Jesus loves him enough to ask him to surrender.  He points out the condition of the young man’s heart…and the kid leaves devastated because he isn’t willing to let go of what he knows to be a success even though his instincts are that something is still lacking in his life.  I love how Mark words this…

Mark 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.  NIV

So ask yourself these questions today.  Take some time to think this all through and through the week I would like to come back to this question and ask you if your view of success is changing as the week goes on.  What is success to you?  What does it look like?  Remember your view of success is a big deal, and is determining the direction your life is heading and what we saw today from the story of the rich young ruler is that view of success needs to be deeper than fame and fortune.  Tomorrow we will take a deeper look at how the Bible describes success.

What Does The Bible Say About Success?

Yesterday we started a discussion on success.  The topic of success is actually a broad one and I wanted to start building out of an idea that how you view success is important because your view of success in many ways is setting the direction your life is taking.  It is giving you a target out ahead of you that you would like to hit.  I mean who doesn’t want to be successful?  We all do!  So, think about this, if our view of success is setting the course our lives are taking then we need to be intentional, and understand our personal view of success because it’s determining our decisions and how we are moving through life.  This is why we started and ended with those two questions and I hope you really took the time to think about them.  The big questions were – What is success to you?  What does it look like?  I think we all can close our eyes and picture a successful person but I wanted you to see by digging into the story of the Rich Young Ruler, that in the end success goes much deeper than wealth, fame, power, and material possessions.

It has always amazed me just how opposite the ways of God are to the ways of us people.  We just see things so different, don’t we?  We have talked about this…living for God probably means doing the opposite of most of our fleshly or human instincts.  What is interesting is that when we surrender to God and live His way, life is just better.  This is regardless of what subject we bring up…so would success be any different?  I mean Jesus said that there is a popular way to view and do life that doesn’t necessarily lead to life and I think success fits right into this narrative just fine.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. NIV

So today we add another question to the discussion because we started to realize how important it is to have an accurate view of success.  The question for today is this…

What does the Bible say about success?  The Bible has a lot to say about success, and as we walk through these different scriptures, I would like you thinking about what each verse means to you personally.  I also want you to know that I struggled to narrow this Bible Study down, there are plenty more to find and explore in the Bible, I just didn’t want this video to be 4 hours long so please feel free to keep going with this study.  As we read them, remember the goal is to start to understand what the Bible has to say about success so that we can build our own accurate view of what success is because it determines so much of the direction we take in life.  So let’s just jump into this and start with some of Jesus’ teachings.  This is going to be fun!

So to get started let’s go right back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 that we looked at earlier but this time reading them in the Message version…

Matthew 7:13 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. 14 The way to life — to God! — is vigorous and requires total attention. MSG

Crowds of people are looking for the easiest way to a successful life and what does Jesus say?  Don’t fall for that stuff, the way to life…to God takes focus and work.  Jesus also warns us of trying too hard to be a success that we end up sacrificing who we are…

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. NIV

One more from Jesus where we see the importance of keeping our focus on God and eternal things rather than the things of this world.

Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. NIV

Let’s move to the Old Testament now and look at some places where we see success discussed…keep in mind that you are looking for an accurate view of success in your own life.   Let’s start here with the children of Israel being reminded of who saved them and led them through the Wilderness to the Promised land…which leads us all to a place where we can see who provides and who doesn’t in our own lives today.

Deuteronomy 8:17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. NIV

This is so good isn’t it?  Remember God gives you the ability to produce wealth…it’s all His.  Listen to the wise words of Solomon here…

Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. NIV

I would like to read just one more, and it’s a piece of Psalm 37 which is a David Psalm…and I hope these words really hit your heart as we continue to ask the question.  What does success look like to you.  Listen to David’s words here…

Psalm 37:1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. 3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. NIV

Just awesome isn’t it?  I wonder if you see some themes building in these Scriptures on success?  So as we close down this portion of the conversation I want you thinking about the big question.  What is success to you?  What does it look like?  Your answer to this question is important because it’s determining the target you are setting out in front of you, and the direction your life may go.

So again today, slow down and ask yourself what your view of success looks like.  Think through the scripture we read today and ask yourself how these words fit into your view of success.  Tomorrow we will keep building by looking at probably the most successful person of all time (at least by the world’s standards of success) and what his conclusion was with all of it…I can’t wait.  See you tomorrow!

Solomon’s Experience and Conclusion On Success

So we have been spending this week building into a conversation on success.  We started by looking at how you view success and I wanted you to see a couple of things about how you view success.  First I wanted you to see that we all have a view of success, we know what a successful person looks like from our own perspectives.  I also wanted you to understand that how you view success is really important because it is setting the direction that your life is taking…because we all want to be a success, which means that our view of success is a goal that we are working towards in our lives.  If you think about it, that means we really need to understand what success is and what it isn’t.  Yesterday we added to that discussion by looking at just a few places in scripture that talk about success and I wanted you to start to see that a successful life has to be deeper than the wealth, the fame, and the power that so many of us associate with success.  This is why we continue to come back to this big question.

What is success to you?  What does it look like?  My hope was that as we started to look at a Biblical view of success it could start to or continue to shape and mold your own personal view of success.  Today we are going to keep this conversation going by looking at a man in Scripture who is the most successful man that ever lived.  But more than just how successful he was, I want to show you his conclusion to all that he accomplished.  Today we are going to look at Solomon…the wisest, and most successful King the world has ever seen.  I love reading about Solomon who we know asked for wisdom to lead his people well, and God was so impressed with that request that God granted Solomon that wisdom…and also gave him everything else too…the wealth, the fame, the power…all of it.  So one could say Solomon understands what it looks like to have the most, accomplish the most, since he is…you know…the greatest King ever.  Name the game, Solomon wins…but there are some things that are important to understand about Solomon’s life that will help us as we build into what a successful life is and isn’t.

I do want you to see something about Solomon.  He was set up to succeed by his father King David.  He was given much by David…so you could say he is a privileged young man who becomes King and lives under what God promised David.

1 Kings 2:1 When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, show yourself a man, 3 and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, 4 and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’  NIV

1 Chronicles 29:19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.” 23 So Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king in place of his father David. He prospered and all Israel obeyed him. 24 All the officers and mighty men, as well as all of King David’s sons, pledged their submission to King Solomon. 25 The Lord highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel and bestowed on him royal splendor such as no king over Israel ever had before.  NIV

So yeah, David has set up his son well.  He lives under the promises God made to his father.  Solomon was dealt a pretty good hand here…where God gave Him the wisdom to lead but also more wealth, and power than any King had ever seen.  But it’s important to also see the conclusion this wise man comes to about life and all this success.  Solomon grows old and looks back over his life…he looks at all the money, fame, women, castles, and success and realizes that it’s all meaningless.  I know not everyone reads the book of Ecclesiastes and gets inspired but it’s one of the books of the Bible that mean so much to me, because we see this wise King at the end of his life, looking back over all that was and coming to some powerful realizations.  Here’s the first line of this book…

Ecclesiastes 1:1 These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem. 2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” NLT

Well yikes…and I get it, chapter after chapter in this book of Solomon’s anguish as he begins to come to some depressing conclusions about life can be pretty challenging to read.  But I want you to see how powerful this is, this is Solomon, the wisest and most successful man who has walked the Earth and he says that in the end nothing matters.  Then he goes on to talk about how all his work is meaningless, all his wealth that he has obtained is meaningless…the pleasures he has experienced, the fame, all of it meaningless.  He walks us through so much that he has done and accomplished and keeps coming back to how empty it all is, then says things like this from time to time…I love this verse in the Message version.

Ecclesiastes 3:14 I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear. MSG

I get it, not too many people see the value of this book and many can agree that the book of Ecclesiastes can almost feel discouraging but I really want you to see the conclusion that Solomon comes to, which you can read in the ending of this book.  After dropping all of his thoughts on life, on what he has experienced Solomon says this…

Ecclesiastes 12:13 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. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. NIV

So this is Solomon, rich, powerful and famous.  He had it all, experienced it all…remember when it comes to anything Solomon wins.  But we see it again, in spite of his wisdom and power, and fame, underneath the perfect social media posts, and flashy wealth and perceptions that everyone had of him, was just another imperfect sinner, in need of God’s love and mercy.  In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon talks of the mistakes that he made and comments on his personal experiences and what he had also observed in the lives of others who also sought after an image of success that was not accurate.  Solomon is giving us a gift here, as the person who had it all, he shares what he learned, and that was that there is nothing that truly satisfies in this life but to love and serve God.  Solomon is looking over a life that looks beyond successful to any of our Earthly eyes and is saying that all those pursuits are meaningless, they are empty.  And now as an old man Solomon is saying we would do better to spend our lives focused on God rather than pursuing earthly success.  Do you see it?

So before we close this out there is one thing I think we need to address.  Are you hearing or reading about Solomon’s life and thinking to yourself; “Oh poor Solomon?”  I mean it must be nice to live out the life he lived.  Do you see the privilege he was given just because he was David’s son?  Do you kind of roll your eyes and think it must be nice to be that guy?  Like “Really Sam, let me have the wealth, the fame, the power, and experience all the pleasure life could throw at me, and I will tell you my wise conclusions too.”  If you are thinking that way, I get it.  And I’m not going to nice it up for you…Solomon was dealt a really nice hand.  I don’t think Solomon was worried about paying his mortgage or paying for groceries at his local grocery store.  I know his house and car and TV were nicer than mine.  But I think this continues to build into the idea of what success is and leads us right into the core teaching I wanted to bring from Jesus on this subject which we will hit tomorrow.  Because you are right; we haven’t all been dealt the same hand.  You have skills and talents that I don’t have, and vice versa.  Some have more wealth, income, talents and some have less…but what we will see tomorrow is Jesus letting us know that a successful life is more about who you are, and what you do with what you are given than it is about what you have been given.

So as we close out this section of the talk, let’s go back to our question of the week.  What is success to you?  What does it look like?  We have looked at your view of success.  We have looked at some Bible verses and what they have to say about success.  Today we have looked at the life of the most successful person to ever live and what his conclusion about life ended up being.  Which makes me wonder if this conversation is changing how you would answer the question.  What is success to you?  Keep thinking about this; what does success look like.  I hope it has begun to change how you view success because your view of success is setting your goals and determining the direction your life is traveling.  And tomorrow we are going to talk about what Jesus says is success in the life of a disciple.  Until then keep pressing in on this question for yourself.  What is success to you? What does it look like?

Success is about who you are and what you do with what your given.

Today is our conclusion to this conversation we are having on success.  I am just going to tell you that I have really enjoyed building this talk, and I hope you are having as much fun as I am having in this conversation.  If you remember we have been building out of this idea that your view of success is important because it’s setting the course of your life.  I mean, we all want to be successful at some level, so your image of what success is will set your goals of what you are striving for and where you are headed in life.  So, it’s important to have a solid, accurate view of what success is.  The question we introduced on Sunday that we keep coming back to is what is success to you?  What does it look like?  Then Monday we looked at a few places in Scripture that talk about success in an effort to help build into our own view of success and what it looked like.  Then yesterday we took the day and just hung out looking at Solomon, the most successful person who ever lived and we looked at the conclusion that he came to about success, and that was just how empty it all is.

Well as we closed down that talk I wanted to leave you with the thought that I think many of us can have as we hear a guy like Solomon complain about how terrible his life of extreme wealth, luxury, power, and fame was…while thinking to ourselves, “can I figure life out the way Solomon did, with all that wealth and all that privilege.”  Well it gave us the perfect transition to what Jesus teaches on the subject, and really shows us what a truly successful life is for a disciple of Christ.   

A successful life is more about who you are, and what you do with what you are given than it is about what you have been given.

Listen, I get it, we may not have been given what Solomon was given…it would be nice, but not many of us have been set up, the way David set up Solomon.  But while the hand you were dealt isn’t the same as Solomon’s, the reality is we all have been given something.  You have talents, gifts, and have been given those skills along with a purpose to your life given to you by God.  And it isn’t about what you have been given it’s all about who you are and what you do with what you have been given that matters most.  I believe this is exactly what Jesus wants us to see in this teaching…

Matthew 25:14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22 “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ NIV

I don’t know about you but I have heard this story of the talents before, in fact Ken just spoke on it a couple of weeks ago in our last series, but I wanted you to see something that really became clear to me as I was thinking through this story when it comes to success.  Jesus is saying that God measures our success by what we have done with what we have been given.  Some like Solomon are handed a lot, and some will be given a less, but what if success is deeper than the numbers and statistics, what if it’s deeper than what our human flesh seems to desire most…isn’t that the theme we have heard all week long?  The rich young ruler, the different scriptures, Solomon’s life…now Jesus’ teaching today all seem to keep bringing us back to the depth of real success, that in the end it’s who we are and what we do with what we have been given that matters most.

If you think about it this should fill you all with hope today.  Because this means you can achieve a successful life.  If a successful life means you must be a billionaire, or become a CEO or win a World Championship well, that may not be as attainable.  But if my success is all about who I am, and what I do with what God gave me…a successful life is on my doorstep.  Which is awesome.

The key then becomes identifying what God gave you.  So after you watch this video take some time, and think about what all God has given you.  Write it out.  If you are like me you tend to focus on the things you aren’t good at, so this can be a really positive exercise for you.  What are your talents?  What has God given you?  After you get that list together ask yourself how you can use those gifts God gave you?  Then go for it and you will find success, and the best part is you can find that success without having to try to be anyone but you!  You don’t have to look over your shoulder with the “It must be nice to have what she or he has mentality.”  You don’t have to act like someone you are not…and regardless of how little or how much you have been given, you can have a successful life.

So I want to ask you the question one last time.  What is success to you?  What does it look like?  I hope this conversation shaped how you answer that, because how you answer that question is a big deal and determines the direction your life is traveling.