I recall being a bit surprised when the superlatives were announced during my senior year of high school.
Elizabeth Ingram, Most Likely to Succeed.
Sure, I was a very hard worker and involved in everything from sports to marching band to VP of my senior class, but I don’t recall thinking of myself as “successful” and definitely had no idea others viewed me as such. I was just a tomboy who loved to fish and have mud between my toes. A nerd who loved to read late in to the night. A jock who loved the thrill of a track race. A band geek who loved the beauty of music. A success? I don’t think I’d considered it.
Even now, nearly 9 years later, I wonder what this means.
What, exactly, were my classmates saying that I was most likely to do? What were they expecting me to do?
A part of me admits that in my Americanized, female mind, this picture of success may have meant that I would graduate college and grad school within a reasonable amount of time while staying away from sex and alcohol (or – to be quite honest – at least while not getting caught), find a job that I would love going to every day and make more than enough money, meet an established man who would sweep me off of my feet in to a romantic everlasting marriage, build a dream home, and have four well-behaved children who also did well in school and wanted to grow up to be like their momma.
But really…? Is this it? Success??
By whose standards?
When I recently found myself single again, this snapshot of “success” flashed through my mind as Satan tempted me to view myself as a failure.
Yes, I did finish college in 4 years followed by my masters degree.
Yes, I do have a career that I love.
But I married for forever and he left me less than a year later, leaving me with the nasty “divorced” label. I’ll be 27 this year and I’m single. I have student loan debt that leaves me living paycheck to paycheck. I rent an apartment and have never owned a home. Success??
Did I miss that part?
…Or is the definition wrong?
To consider the meaning of success, you really have to establish your objective. How can you measure success unless you have a goal in mind? You can’t. Without it, the measure is totally subject to opinion.
If I’m trying to shoot a basketball in a hoop, it’s easy to know if I succeed.
If it goes in, success! If not, unsuccessful.
If I’m trying to lose 5 pounds, the numbers on the scale tell me if I succeeded.
You get the point.
So if the question at hand is how do I succeed at LIFE, then we have to ask what the object of life is. Oh, that timeless question… the meaning of life!
As a Christian, my goal is to live my life completely surrendered to God. My goal is that I turn away from my sinful nature and turn toward Jesus instead. How will I know if I succeed at this?
I believe that there are examples throughout my life that support the idea that I am working towards this goal. I could tell so many stories on myself of how sinful a person I am and how different I am only because of Christ. But I am not the judge of my success in this area. There is only One judge. And the ultimate decision-making time is the day of judgment.
I will know that I have succeeded if one day, I find myself in heaven.
This is my measure of success.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
So there you go.
Only those who do the will of the Father will enter heaven. Plain and simple.
How do I live a successful life if my goal is to live a life fully surrendered to Christ, a life worthy to enter heaven?
I LIVE OUT the WILL of GOD.
As I write tonight with 26 1/2 years of life behind me, God has not yet called me to marriage. He has not called me to put roots down anywhere. He has not called me to make a fortune and live in a huge house surrounded by nice things. But He HAS made specific callings in my life that I have and will continue to respond to.
Moving to Bowling Green last summer was one of those things.
I thought God was crazy and I couldn’t believe He’d want me back where I had been wounded so badly by divorce… but He opened all the necessary doors for me to move back and literally every day I am reminded by Him how blessed I am to be here. I am so filled with love by my brothers and sisters in Christ and can’t imagine not having my church family. And they’re just one of the reasons I believe God wanted me back here. It makes me so excited to see what else He has up His giant sleeves… I want to know His will. And I want to succeed at living it out.
When my 17 and 18 year old classmates wrote down my name for “most likely to succeed,” I doubt the thought ever crossed their minds that I would one day attempt to pick apart what their vote actually meant for my life. And I definitely don’t think they were correlating their vote with “most likely to get in to heaven.”
But if I get to choose for my life what it means for me to succeed, this is what I want to be as the measure of my success:
Did I give every part of my life back to the Lord, dying to myself every day in order to live for Him, as He died for me?
Did I remain in constant communication with the Lord through prayer and the reading of His Word in order to discern His will for my life?
Was I obedient in responding to His call?
Will more people enter heaven because of how I was obedient to God’s command to make disciples of all nations?
I thank God for bringing my measure of success to my attention. Because it was wrong.
I have taken the time to evaluate what my goals are, and who and what I’m really living for.
Having a worldly standard means never having satisfaction and working your life away towards something that is just going to rot or burn in the end.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
But living with our eyes on heaven means that we work towards rewards that will never fade, and that our fulfillment in this life is from Jesus, who never fails us.
2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
What’s your measure of success?