How do you define success?
Maybe you’re a young preacher who feels trapped in obscurity while others you know are asked to preach at national conferences and lead worldwide movements. Maybe you’re a writer who wonders why the words of others are shared and quoted all over the internet while yours seem to be read only by you during edits. Maybe you feel alone in your job, far from friends or far from your dreams. Maybe you’re single, wondering when you’ll finally leave that season to follow the path you see so many others travel.
In each case, we define success by our goals. We often look at what others have that we don’t have, and we decide that success would be found by gaining that one thing, that elusive prize. But what if we’re wrong? What if success isn’t strictly based on what we gain?
As Paul responds to questions about marriage in one of his letters, he writes,
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.
1 Corinthians 7:17
His point extends beyond marriage: every believer ought to faithfully live the life assigned by God. And this idea remains consistent in Paul’s teaching about the body of Christ elsewhere in his letters. In Romans 12, Paul speaks of the need for members of the body of Christ to use their individual gifts for the good of the whole. His point is that each person must humbly serve the body, recognizing that God has gifted each for unique service. He uses this comparison again in 1 Corinthians 12, emphasizing there the fact that believers are united as one body, and that each individual Christian is important, nay, necessary for the body to be whole. God gives each of us gifts to use and places to serve. We must be good stewards of those gifts and callings.
This doesn’t necessarily change our current circumstances, but it should change how we view them. Rather than seeing ourselves as defective Christians because we do not have ______ (fill in the blank), what if we recognized that we simply have different areas of service? What if obedience and faithfulness were the standards of success rather than the specific trappings of particular callings and gifts? What if we prayed for wisdom and strength to live the lives God has called us to live rather than wondering why God hasn’t made us just like those we admire?
Brothers and sisters, God has called us to follow him, to lose our lives that we might find them in him. Are we so arrogant that we believe our plans are superior to his, that our thoughts and ways are better than his? I pray, for myself and for you, that God would help us to serve him humbly and faithfully wherever and however he decides. I pray that you would be encouraged wherever you are to trust God’s calling and equipping. And I pray that God would be glorified in our lives through it all.