Spiritual Growth

Significance vs. Success

Years ago during a spiritual disciplines class in seminary, a very wise professor involved the entire class in a simple, yet powerful exercise.  He asked all of us to take a blank sheet of paper and write a number on it that, in our mind, represented the age of “old.”  Old meaning, the age that most everything in one’s life or career has been either accomplished or forgotten or, the majority of life goals either fulfilled or retired.

Simple enough.  We all wrote a number on our paper.  He then asked us to wad up the paper and throw it at someone across the room.  We ALL got into this part of the exercise, quickly found our target and took aim.  When we each had someone else’s “wad” we were to uncrumple the paper so the number could be read.  He looked around the room and asked each of us to announce the number we had in our hand.  The numbers did not fluctuate much, they ranged between 80 and 90.  We all agreed, life is about over by 90.

The next thing he did I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

He looked around the room and said, “All of you sitting in this room today are either half the age you wrote on your paper, or over half the age, so we can agree that based on the number you have determined to be old, you have lived over half your life, agreed?”

We all looked around at each other and shook our heads in the affirmative — we agreed.

God took this professor’s next words and branded them into the walls of my heart.

“The majority of people live the first half of their lives striving to be successful — earning a living, building a business, growing a family, busting their tails for the “good life.”

“These same people wake up one day and realize their lives are half over so they start trying to do things that are significant — to leave a legacy, make a difference, change a life, invest in the future of someone they will never know.”

“Why not begin today to live on purpose?  Stop striving for success, strive for significance.”

Boom.  Right between the eyes.  God used this illustration to wake me up.  Life is not about me.  It’s not about success.  It’s not about what will make me happy.  That was many years ago.  I am well past the half-way mark in my life, and I simply want to make a difference.  I want significance.  I don’t want to be so busy looking forward to tomorrow that I miss out on today.   I have determined to stop looking for the sensational and start focusing on the significant.  I believe this is what Jesus meant when He talked about storing up treasure in heaven.  Treasure that nothing can destroy, moth and rust cannot touch it.  Earthly success equals earthly treasure in my book, and the more I think about it, success revolves around “me.”  Significance revolves someone else.  If I am going to make a difference, my investment must revolve around someone else.

The Bible is bulging with teachings concerning investing our lives into someone else and turning our eyes off of “number one.”  This is certainly what Jesus did in His short 30 some years on earth — it was all about serving, teaching, healing, ministering to someone else and never about self-satisfaction.

Kingdom perspective, doing things with Christ in mind and even developing this blog is out of obedience to Christ and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  It is an effort to invest in the lives of others and prayerfully make a difference for the Kingdom.  It is about doing things on purpose and doing things that are significant, not necessarily successful.  My prayer is that through the words posted, others will be challenged, encouraged, and guided more toward the truth of Jesus Christ.

So, my first challenge to you is this.  Write “your” number.  Crumple up your paper wad and toss it in the air.  Smooth it out and get real with God.  Where are you in this journey called life?  Are you half way there?  Over half?  It’s never too late to start doing significant things for the future by investing in the life of someone else.  Oh? barely a quarter of the way there?  Wonderful!  You can have an entire adult lifetime FULL of significance — what a treasure will await you in heaven.

Significance vs. success.  God illumined my eyes and branded my heart with this truth many years ago.  Think about it.  You have heard it said, “You only live once.”  Where are you in this life?

2 thoughts on “Significance vs. Success”

  1. What a wonderful reminder of life success. I am more than half way there and pray that each day will be more significant. Everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

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