Four Overrated Attributes of "Success"
by Steve Backlund
"So it was, when they came, that (Samuel) looked at Eliab and said, 'Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!' But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'” (1 Samuel 16:6-7).
Consider this: Society is often relentless in setting the standard for what "success" looks like in our culture. Beauty, popularity, and wealth are three standards that automatically come to mind, and the monumental influx of social media that streams into our daily lives on a moment-by-moment basis not only supports but also perpetuates these standards at an unprecedented rate. But what if there was another way to define success? God's measurement for success is different than man's. This week at Igniting Hope, we have decided to unpack four attributes that seem to define success in our culture, but all too often miss the mark:
Good Looks –
Our society's worship of beauty and the value it places on being handsome or sexy creates unhealthy emotional stumbling blocks and mindsets for many. Comparison begins to creep in and soon our worth begins to get wrapped up in conforming to counterfeit versions of other people. Certainly it is not wrong to want to look our best, but being obsessively consumed or preoccupied by our appearance will rob us of committing time and energy to our spirituality, character, and relationships. When we prioritize these as primary focuses in our lives, they become keys for us to live as fulfilled people where true beauty radiates from the inside out. That is the ultimate success!
Number of Followers –
Whether it is the size of our churches, how many Facebook friends we have, or the number of Instagram followers we are connected to, know that these are not infallible measurements of success. God isn't as interested in the quantity of our influence, as He is in the quality of our influence! If we operate out of excellence and integrity, and continually trade in mediocrity for high quality, our impact will last through generations, no matter how many people we are reaching today.
Owning Fancy Things –
There is nothing wrong with having nice, expensive possessions, but if we are using them to prove something to ourselves and to others, then we have a problem. Success is not a goal to be attained, but rather a state of being. If we need something outward to validate us, then we have fallen prey to the wrong definition of success. Wisely guarding our hearts and faithfully stewarding what God has placed in our hands, no matter how big or small, valuable or invaluable it may seem to the world, will always result in success in God’s eyes.
Being a Recognized Speaker or Leader –
In my book, Let's Just Laugh at That, one lie we laugh at is this: "Heaven's best places are reserved for speakers and worship leaders." When we read that, it does seem ridiculous, but too often we overemphasize the importance of leaders and underemphasize the importance of those who faithfully and diligently work behind the scenes. Lasting success is rarely accomplished in isolation. It takes vision, unity, humility, and a willingness to contribute our best in every context and application in order to see the goal accomplished. Seen or unseen, your role matters!
People tend to look at the outer appearance, but God looks at the heart. Let's be faithful to steward our own hearts well, and let's celebrate and encourage those who so often find themselves devalued by our culture's priorities. Set a new standard of success in the lives of those around you!
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ABOUT STEVE BACKLUND
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.