Success. It's something I've been pondering a lot lately. There are so many different definitions of success and what constitutes it. And there are so many people who feel like they're forever coming up short of it...leading them to arrive at that place called Failure. And so they label themselves - losers. I've called myself one too...
For the last decade or so, my definition of success has changed quite a bit. In the early years, I struggled to find peace with my life because my value was tied to my performance. How well I did at something determined my level of acceptance. If I did well, I could love myself...and others would love me too. If I did poorly, I would think less of myself...and they would also. This definition of success hurt me and spoiled many relationships in life. This feeling of constantly being inferior and never being "good enough" in my eyes (or the supposed eyes of others) continuously ruined my enjoyment of the life I had. I lost any pleasure in what I did because I was so focused on trying to prove that I was worth something.
Then came the Fall of 2011...that's when I realized that I wasn't worth anything apart from the One who makes me what I am. That I am wonderfully made and created to do everything for the audience of Him alone. That my talents and abilities are only on loan for me to use as a gift back to my Savior. I exist for Him...and all other opinions don't really matter in the end. If I am pleasing to Him, then my life can be counted a success. My triumph is not in never failing but in pressing through my failures deeper into His grace. My weaknesses are not things to be feared but rather opportunities for Him to display His goodness through me. And these realizations changed everything.
As some of you know, I work for a Christian sports ministry called Athletes in Action. They are a global outreach that seeks to use the medium of sports to reach the hearts of athletes all over the world and to bring broken lives to Christ. In all sports and all places, AIA is changing the culture of modern-day athletics through the power of the gospel. I am blessed enough to be part of one of their summer league baseball programs which takes place in my home state of Alaska every year. Each summer, young collegiate baseball players enter my community... and leave with their lives changed eight weeks later. Being involved with this ministry has allowed me to see both the wrong and the right views of success being played out on a regular basis. Players or fans to whom winning is everything are crushed under the weight of losing streaks when they hit. The frustrations mount...and so it goes for all of us when winning in the world's eyes has become paramount.
But on the other side, those to whom success is determined by His standards...they see something different play out each year. They see gains where others perhaps see losses. Because God's wins can't be quantified in numbers. You can't put a price or numerical value on the fact that a soul was added to the family of God this summer; or that three young men were baptized in the cold waters of a nearby lake as they declared their willingness to follow God completely; or that two little boys who overheard our pitchers talking about the Bible during a game were forever affected for the better. These wins? They matter most. Because God is in the business of resurrection and new life.
By the world's standards, what we do is never good enough. We'll always be needing to do more, to work harder. But God says to stop trying so hard. His gospel is liberating in that we weak ones are told that He's done everything already. It's no longer about what we're doing or how well we do it...it's about who we're becoming. So when the world tell us we're losing, we're actually winning - with God. For God. Because of God. Yes, folks will probably call us crazy and foolish...but isn't it better to be called a fool for the King of Love?! To know that your life-worth isn't up to you but up to Him?! You're not the maintainer of your value or success. You're nothing without Him...so it's up to Him to carry that load.
As the Olympics begin in Rio, we'll be seeing a lot regarding people's definition of success. Medals will be draped around athletes' necks as they are lauded for their achievements. Those who win silver or bronze will think they've failed because they were so close to the gold...but didn't get there. At the same time, the best will receive gold and think they have it all. But the true winners?! They'll be the ones who compete with a higher purpose...who use their abilities to glorify the Giver of Life. Win or lose...they know that He is everything and that He often blesses in ways that are only calculable in Heaven.
Today, I leave us all with this word of encouragement: whatever it is you're striving to do, give it your best...but let Him be the sole reason for your endeavors. All other motives will leave you discouraged, fearful, doubting. But if you live your one life well...if you fight fear with faith, if you live in Grace everyday...you may not always win in the world, but you'll win at what matters most.
Note: Over the next two weeks during the Games, I will be posting quotes and stories regarding the concept of success and what constitutes a winning life.