How to really measure success in an upside-down world

I recently read this quote by Timothy Keller as he diagnoses our culture. He writes,

 "It is an embarrassment now to be merely faithful and not successful. This is a new weight on the soul, put there by modernity. Success or failure is now seen as the individual's responsibility alone. Our culture tells us that we have the power to create ourselves, and that puts the emphasis on independence and self-reliance. But it also means that society adulates winners and despises losers, showing contempt for weakness."

What Keller is getting at is that, in our culture, it is no longer good enough to simply be true and faithful to whatever calling you may have - you now have to be successful too. This is new in the world, and in our culture. This is a new problem, and it does bring a new weight.

It is no longer good enough to simply be a wonderful parent - you also need your kids to be successful, and to show your success on Facebook. 

It is no longer good enough to simply be a true and good employee - you need to be moving up the ladder, conquering, and showcasing your skills. 

It is no longer good enough to simply be faithful in your finances - you need a bigger house, boat or gadget to showcase your success.

This is the world in which we live. We don’t ask people if they are being faithful - we poke and prod to see how successful they are and how we measure up. And, this is a problem, especially when this attitude infiltrates the Church. Because, what matters in the Church isn’t success, it's faithfulness. Being faithful is being successful. Being true is all that matters. Having that long obedience in the same direction is what matters.

Are you being a faithful and good parent? Rest in that because that is success, even if your kids aren’t perfect and you don’t have perfect Instagram pictures. 

Are you being a faithful and true employee? Celebrate that, even if you don't have a corner office and aren’t flying around to conferences.

Are you being a faithful steward of your finances? Honour that because life isn’t measured by what you have.

The measure of success shouldn’t be bigger and better - it should be faithfulness. Click To Tweet

Now clearly I’m not saying that mediocrity is what we should be shooting for. What I am saying is that the measure of success shouldn’t be bigger and better (i.e. cars, kids, achievements, money, etc.) - it should be faithfulness.

Faithfulness is just a way better marker of success. And, that might mean you get promoted. That might mean you get a new house. That might mean you finally get that perfect picture with your kids. 

When you shoot for being faithful, the weight of constantly performing and proving yourself falls away. And, I think that is actually what Jesus is looking for - not perfection and success, but faithfulness.

So today, look not to be successful, rather rest in seeking to be faithful, and leave the rest up to God.

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Andrew is the Teaching Pastor at Bethany Community Church, in St. Catharines, ON. He is passionate about Jesus, people, their stories, and great food. He blogs at Andrews mills.ca