Measuring Success

By December 1, 2019Public Blog

It is hard to believe that another year is coming to a close.  It seems like 2019 just started a few days ago.  Did you set any goals for the year or make any New Year’s resolutions?  Did you achieve success this year?  Everyone desires to find success but how can one measure and determine true success?

Unfortunately, too many people measure success by the world’s standards.  I have found that there are four criteria that are often used to measure one’s success.  I call them the four Ps of worldly success.  These are:

  • power
  • prestige
  • possessions
  • position

These measures of success are closely related to one another and often overlap each other.  Some believe that if they had the power to do whatever they desire, that would bring them success.  Others think that having a certain appearance that is prestigious in other people’s eyes will determine their success.  A great number of individuals strive to obtain success through financial wealth and/or possessing more and more stuff.  Finally, there are those that believe they will be successful if they were able to climb the corporate ladder and get to the top.

The sad reality of measuring success by these criteria is that they are all temporal measures.  In fact, if I use any or all of these measures for determining success, I am setting myself up to eventually be a loser.  This is because a day will come when I won’t be able to maintain a certain level of power and I will lose any sense of prestige – whether it is my physical appearance or some other form of status.  Possessions can also be lost in a moment of time and someone will eventually replace me in any position I might hold.

I have found another very interesting thing about people who try to find success by striving for one or more of these worldly standards.  It seems like many who achieve these measures of success struggle with such things as depression, addiction, broken relationships, etc.  Examples of this are common in professional sports and Hollywood.  Why is this so common with people who seem to have it all — power, prestige, possessions and/or position?

Many years ago, I read a study that tried to measure what caused people to feel successful in life.  Even though many people believed that achieving one or more of the four Ps of success would bring them satisfaction in life, they found out that even when they achieved one of these measures, something was still missing.  It was discovered that the one thing that gave a person a sense of true success was when someone that he/she saw as being a significant person in his/her life approved of him/her.

I have come to believe that this is true for each and every individual.  For many people this significant other person might be a parent, coach, spouse or teacher.  This is why a person can be seen as being very successful and may even have a large fan base and still end up destroying his life.  It is because there was someone that he wanted to please but that person never gave them the affirmation he was looking for.

This is why it is so important for parents, pastors and educators to speak truth in love into the lives of those they influence.  It is your approval they may be seeking more than anything else in life.  Sometimes the most difficult person you have to deal with is the one who desperately wants your approval.  This is why it is so important to see every person as an image bearer of God.  When we do this, we will see their true value and will treat them appropriately.

Yes, we need to do all we can to encourage and challenge others to be the best that they can be as image bearers of God.  However, it is also important to look at our own lives and examine what we are measuring our success by.  Is it one or more of the four Ps?  Or is it someone that we really want to have approval from?  The truth is that the things of this world will eventually fade away and other people will disappoint us.

So how does one find true success.  I believe it is to make only one person our most significant other in our lives.  That person is God, Himself.  When God becomes our significant other, we will never be disappointed.  Probably the most familiar verse in the Bible about success is,

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  Joshua 1:8 (NKJV)

When do I accomplish the greatest sense of success in my life?  It is when I,

  • surrender daily to God’s will
  • spend time with God in His Word
  • obey Him
When these three things are directing my life, I am successful.  Paul found true success by striving to do these three things.  When he did them, his priorities changed and he found true success.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:7-8 (NKJV)

The need for power, prestige, possessions and/or position fades away when I make Christ my significant other.  When this happens, I am successful!


Author RenewaNation

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • Mark Kennedy says:

    Power, prestige and possessions (i.e. fulfilment of material/appetite desires) – they have a familiar ring. Those were the three great temptations with which Jesus was presented in the wilderness. And of course, Satan used his most effective weapons against God’s Son. Jesus rejected them all.
    Turns out that the true meaning of success for a believer is pretty straightforward. It’s simply doing the will of the Father. Proof text – consider the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Some accomplished astonishing things while others endured horrible circumstances, even martyrdom. All of them were successes.