Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Measure of Success - Loving God

Over a week ago, we explored the idea of success - how we define it in our lives. Thanks to all who took the time to comment on how you define success. It was both interesting and helpful to receive the various perspectives. I'd like to pick up on a few of the comments and expand the discussion over the next couple of weeks.

Let's start with how Ted Gossard describes success: "I think of success in terms of 'the Jesus creed', that is to love God with our entire being and doing, and to love our neighbor as ourselves." Ted was referring to this passage from Matthew 22:35-40.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

If "all the Law and the Prophets" depend on these two commandments, then any definition of a successful life, must surely take these commandments into account. Starting with the first part of Jesus' reply, let's consider how the first commandment - loving God "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" is part of a successful life.

It's not a stretch to say that most definitions of success would not include "loving God" as part of the description. It is simply not the way of the world we live in. Yet, for a Christian, is there a higher measure for success? Shouldn't the worth of all our endeavors be measured in terms of whether we are growing in our affection and knowledge of God?

I know that some of my greatest challenges at work have been opportunities to discover more about God, to learn to trust and treasure Him more. Most of those difficulties resolved into materially positive outcomes but not all of them ended up the way I might have desired. However, because God was at work in my life, all of those situations were helpful to my growth.

Certainly, there is a dimension of success that involves a material outcome like successful projects, wonderful friends, pay raises and awards. But, I think scripture teaches us that there is a greater dimension, hidden from view that is more significant. The joy obtained from a successful project or recognition, though real, is temporal and limited. Getting a glimpse of the God who created all things and yet is intimately invested in our lives, is priceless.

This the privilege of every follower of Jesus Christ - to live our lives in such a way to show that obtaining the love and knowledge of God is far superior than any material success we can receive.



Do you measure success in this way? Is this even the right way of thinking about success or is it just a cop-out for the Christian who can't cut it in "the real world"?

What does it mean to love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind? How does it work in your life?

When you hit a tough patch at work or at home, do you even consider how the unpleasant circumstances might lead you to love God more?


7 comments:

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I know that some of my greatest challenges at work have been opportunities to discover more about God, to learn to trust and treasure Him more.

Did you read LL's post on "Journeys"? If the rough patches at work serve to move us off of one path onto another that God wants us on, then I'm quite sure that we will finally end up recognizing it and loving God more for His painful, though faithful, intervention.

Rachel Mc said...

'...or is it a cop out for a christian who just can't cut it" I heard a long time ago that when you die and meet Jesus, he will judge you against yourself, because he knows what your potential was (is). When I am at work I have moments when I just am not very christian, especially because I work in a very secular job and environment (I'm an accountant for a non profit) When that feeling comes to me, "it just doesn't matter", I remember that Jesuse knows me better than that and I can't get away with C+ living. Some days are harder than others but I think I have learned not to get the attitude that the co workers I have , who are not christian, should influence my life in a "it doesn't really matter " way. I matter very much to Jesus, and I know it, and I know he is with me helping me to grow. If I took that attitude I think I would be ignoring Jesus..not good at all. I guess what I am saying is I measure success, at work, for the high bar Jesus has raised for me, and I know I need Jesus' help to get there.

Every Square Inch said...

Susan,

Yes, I did read LL's post...fine as always. Whenever we're in the midst of tough times, it's hard to see the point of it but God is at work for our good, isn't He?

Rachel,

I'm encouraged to hear how you are striving to honor God by giving your best at your work. Here's what I'm especially encouraged about - that you're doing it for Him and not to impress others or solely for purposes of financial gain.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Yes, knowing His character does make the hard parts of life easier to get through - clinging to a LIVING hope!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Excellent post and questions, ESI, even though you mention me in this.

I like the way you develop this. And it's so true. Sometimes I feel at work I'm in survival mode. But oftentimes it's during such times that I sense God and his working in my life. To know him, to know his love, and to love God in all we do and are, surely there's nothing greater, though there may be different ways of expressing this.

But yes, I hope my life is about loving God, and that I'll grow in this.

George said...

OK, so I'm late to the party, but with the hope that you all haven't moved on ....

What about the best times? When I was winning -- that's when it was easiest for me to forget God. Like 9 out of the 10 Jesus healed, I was apt to go my own way, failing to stay thankful, failing to be consistently Christ-like in my behavior toward others.

Every Square Inch said...

Ted,

I think an interesting question is - what does loving God at work look like in practice?

George

We haven't moved on - we've been waiting for you! Seriously, thanks for your thoughts on this - I think the inverse scenario you've brought up is certainly true for me - it's far easier to forget God when things are going well. It's the test of prosperity that many of us fail to pass.