Redefining Success, Part 1

“If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.”

That quote hangs on the wall at a fast-food restaurant we visited earlier this week. At first, I chuckled and thought it was just a silly quote. But the longer I thought about it, the more I realized – there is some truth to it. In fact, as a “recovering perfectionist,” God has been teaching me to do just that. To step back and reevaluate my definition of success in light of reality, in light of God’s priorities.

Hubby and I often joke about my impossible “To Do” lists. Really. Truly. Impossible. Impossible even if days were 48 hours long, and not just twenty-four. And the problem with such “To Do” lists is that I rarely feel like I’ve succeeded. There are always more tasks to do, no matter how much I did accomplish.

And this is not just true of my written “To Do” lists. It’s true of my unspoken expectations as well. I need to be wife, and mommy, and household manager, and housekeeper, and decorator, and cook, and cleaner, and homeschool teacher, and church member, and Bible study attendee, and friend, and neighbor, and citizen…And I need to do all those things well. But it seems that if I really focus on one area, the other areas start to slip. It feels impossible to keep up.

Especially when I spend time on Pinterest or Facebook. So many fun ideas. So many healthy recipes. So many ways to do more, to be better. As if my own expectations of myself were not enough. Now I add the pressure of comparison. And I’m left feeling even more inadequate. Unsuccessful.

So, yes. A redefinition of success is in order.

How does Jesus define success? In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a parable of three servants entrusted with the stewardship of their master’s wealth in varying amounts. Two servants manage their money well, and are able to return double to their master when he returns. The master is overjoyed at their success and welcomes them to celebrate with him.

It’s interesting to note that the master didn’t compare the servants’ success. One was initially given five bags of gold (NIV) and returned ten, while the other was given two and returned four. But both received the same approval from their master. Likewise, I don’t believe that God is comparing us with other people. He rejoices over our progress, no matter how small it may seem.

The third servant buries his master’s money and has only that same money to return to his master. His motivation? Fear of his master. He appears to have had no personal relationship with the master to motivate his service, and he did as little as he possibly could. And the master does not approve of his service. Rather than being welcomed into his master’s presence, he is sent away.

Similarly, God wants our lives to characterized by “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6), not fear. (See 1 Jn 4:16-19.)

The Christian life is first and foremost a relationship. It was love that motivated God to send His Son to redeem us (Jn 3:16, Rom 5:8). And He wants us, by faith, to love Him in return. From that mutual love relationship, everything else flows.

Enoch (Gen 5:22-24, Heb 11:5) was a man we know very little about. But two things stand out about his life. He walked with God, and He pleased God. Boil it all down, and you will find this at the heart of godly success -walking with God.


Jesus called it “abiding” in Him (Jn 15). Staying connected, being close to Him, drawing on His wisdom and strength moment by moment.

So as you go about your day, as you make decisions and interact with people and fulfill your responsibilities, ponder this question:

Where is Jesus in your world?

Is He Someone you touched base with this morning, maybe? Is He Someone you need to try to make time for? Or is He THE Someone everything else revolves around, like the hub of a bicycle wheel with your other priorities like spokes radiating outward? To be truly successful, He must be central. He is the foundation of success.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on redefining success… In the meantime, how do you keep Jesus central? Any practical thoughts on abiding in Him? I’d love to hear!