Survival, Success, or Significance?

significanceWhat is your main goal in life? For a lot of people in various parts of the world, the main goal is just to survive! There are many people who, through no fault of their own, are in such incapacitating circumstances that each day is battle for survival! They are struggling and straining just to eke out another day of existence; they are struggling to survive! While there are many who find themselves in this situation through no fault of their own, there are others who are in similar straits because of bad choices and foolish decisions. But no matter how they got there, the fact remains that there is a sizable population in the world who are struggling to survive! Their main goal in life is just to survive!

And then there are those, who through providence, vision and hard work, have risen above the goal of mere existence and have adopted the ideal of success as their main goal in life. The funny thing about success is the fact that it is really an ambiguous idea! A person can be successful in one area of life and be complete failure in another area. For example: Is a person really successful if they have reached the top of the corporate ladder, but yet their family and other personal relationships are torn and shattered? There are many people who are successful financially, but their personal lives and relationships can in no way be characterized as successful. Perhaps these are the ones Jesus had in mind when he said: “For how would a person be better off if he gains the whole world at the cost of his life?” (Matt. 16:26 McDonald Idiomatic Translation) We normally view that passage from the perspective of the term “life” as a reference to eternal life but the principle applies to everyday life also. What good is it if a person gains the whole world (achieves success) and loose their personal relationships, personal happiness and yes, even their own self in the process?

I would like to suggest that while success that is balanced and healthy may indeed be a worthy goal, it is nevertheless so far below the intended goal of life that God has in mind for us! I would like to suggest that the goal of life ought to be more than just mere survival! It ought to be more than just material success! I would like to suggest that goal of life ought to be significance! Significance is making a positive and worthwhile difference in the lives of other people. Significance is working to make the world a better place! Significance is leaving the world better than it was when you came! Significance is leaving a legacy that lives on even after you are dead!

Now, the great thing about significance is that you really don’t have to be successful to be significant! In fact, you can be successful and yet not really be significant! You may not have much money, but you can still be significant! You might be barely making it, trying to survive from day to day, but you can still be significant! Real significance does not come from what you receive, real significance comes from what you give. Even if you don’t have much in material resources, you can still give of your time and your talent. As the great songstress; Mahalia Jackson sang year ago:

“If I can help somebody, as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,

If I can show somebody, how they’re travelling wrong,

Then my living shall not be in vain.”

If you help someone as you pass along and make your life about the service you can give instead of just the benefits you receive, your life will not be in vain. You will live a life of significance!

 

 

The Failure of Success

sad successThere are a countless number of people in the world today who are driven by the quest to obtain success! They dedicate all of their mental, spiritual and physical energy to the task of obtaining material success. Now while the apprehension of success has been touted to be a worthwhile endeavor, most who sincerely engage in the quest usually are disappointed in the end. They are disappointed, not because they fail to achieve a measurable amount of success, but rather because they do indeed become successful! Now you may ask: “Why would anyone who achieves success be disappointed?” Well, they are disappointed because they discover that success is not all that it has been reported to be! The person, who makes the achievement of success the ultimate goal and reaches it, discovers the failure of success!

What is the failure of success? The failure of success is in the fact that success was not designed to be the end or the goal of life! In the New Testament, Jesus put it this way when he asked the question: “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?” Now the traditional interpretation of the question is that Jesus was asking what good is it for a person to gain all of the material success in life and then die and go to Hell. But I think there was more to that question than just the eschatological interpretation we have traditionally given it! Jesus could have also been asking: “What good is it if a person is successful but loses themselves in the process?” Jesus knew that success, as we commonly define it, was a failure! That is why he replied to the man who asked him to settle a property dispute he was having with his brother: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses!” Jesus already knew what many spend a lifetime to discover: Success does not satisfy!

But why is success a failure and why doesn’t success satisfy? Success is a failure and it doesn’t satisfy because we weren’t made just for success; we were made for significance! The ultimate purpose of our sojourn upon the earth is not to accumulate; but rather to contribute! Not to gain, but to give! The ultimate goal is not how much we can count, but rather in how much we count! Success is a failure because the real goal is not to make a living; but rather to make a life! And how do you make a life? You make a life by making your life count! And you make your life count by making a positive and lasting impact in the lives of those around you and even in the lives of generations to come!

People today are frantically engaged in the pursuit of success, but what they really want is significance! People just want to matter!  People just want to make a difference! Now if you make a positive difference in the lives of others by being successful, then that’s good! But if your success only benefits you and yours, then your success is really a failure! For in the end, the measure of a man’s life will not be in how successful he was, but rather in how much of a difference he made! Not in how much he gained; but rather in how much he gave! Not in his success; but rather in his significance!