What is Success?

Original Post Date: October 17, 2014

I walked into my two o’clock Counseling class as if it were any other Tuesday. My professor waited for the entire class to get there to give announcements and confess that he was not feeling well and that we were free to go. The Lord asked me to step out in faith and pray for him, so I did. As I was leaving the building, the Lord put it on my heart to pray with a girl from my class who was sitting near the staircase, so I did. I left the building and began walking to my apartment and saw another girl who was also in my class. She was sitting on the wall next to the sidewalk. I told her to have a good day, but her headphones kept her from hearing me. I walked a few more steps before the Lord stopped me and turned me around. I was standing right in front of her before I could realize what was happening.

“Hi,” I waved to get her attention, “I was walking past you and felt like God wanted me to come pray with you about something.”

“Really? Me? About what?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I was seeing if there was anything specific you needed me to pray for.”

She began to explain that this semester is a stressful one. She is taking two of the most dreaded classes among Psychology students (I would know, for I too am in one of them), one of which she has already taken. “If I don’t pass, I don’t graduate.” She began to cry, and told me that she was grateful to have me pray for her. We prayed over her semester, and after we recited the routine “Amen,” she asked one of the most challenging but honest questions I have ever been faced with: “What if it’s God’s will for me to fail?”

Before I can fully answer this question, I need to define a few terms.

1) God’s will. God’s PLAN and God’s WILL are two completely different ideas. His PLAN is unique to each individual. His WILL, however, is the same for all. God’s will for all people, in a nutshell, is that we would make Him Lord of our lives, come to know Jesus as our Savior, love Him, and walk faithfully in relationship with Him for the rest of our lives until we are reunited with Him for eternity. We fail to do this by refusing to submit to His will; it is a choice, and certainly not what God longs for.

2) Failure. What does it mean to fail? Really, ask yourself. I would personally define failure as not meeting the expectations I set for myself. However, the expectations I set for myself are always changing, and they vary in nature. I could have high expectations, low expectations, realistic expectations, and false expectations. They are faulty and rarely stable. The first chapter of James tells us that God is constant; He does not change like the shifting shadows, which means that His expectations, unlike our own, are always the same. If I am honest, most of my ideas concerning success and failure are derived from what society says is successful or unsuccessful. In the case of my friend, who now sat before me wide eyed and waiting for an answer, success was defined as doing well in a class. Likewise, unsuccessfulness was defined as doing poorly in a class. In the larger scope of all things, that is a faulty definition of success. What if I made Jesus the center of every part of my life, including my educational life? What if I walked with Him faithfully and walked in confidence that because I belong to Him, I am victorious over all things? If this were my mentality and I failed a test, class, etc., would I still be successful? My answer is absolutely, because when Jesus is the one whose expectations we are trying to meet, we are no longer ruled by what society calls successful or unsuccessful.

“I don’t think it’s ever God’s will for us to fail,” I began, “and if we are in a place where we feel like we have failed, it is never for no reason, there is always a purpose. God is usually trying to teach us something, so I would encourage you to look for God in the failure.”

She nodded, and we stood to walk and talk for a little while longer. We eventually went our separate ways, but only after God had placed us on the same path.

Christ as my anchor

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