“What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is there anything worth more than your soul?” – Jesus Christ, Mark 8:36-37
One of the things I think a lot about in this season of my life is this whole idea of “success.” For those who know my background, know that I grew up with a heritage that embodied entrepreneurial success. Both of my grandfathers were successful entrepreneurs. My father took “success” to a whole new level, serving in the Marine Corps as a dive bomber pilot in both the Philippines in WW2 and in Korea War. After returning from Korea, he was able to in just 10 years build a restaurant chain that would become nationwide chain with his restaurant partner. My father was able to retire at age 44 and we moved to Hawaii. 50 years later my father passed away in 2018. He taught me much in his lifetime that makes me who I am. I am proud of him and I greatly miss him.
Growing up with this background I was able to get a “front row seat” in watching many men who would be considered by this world’s standards very successful people. Many of these men gained great wealth and influence in their lifetimes. They viewed my father as a peer and sometimes even a mentor. Because I was my father’s son I was able to be like the proverbial “fly on the wall” to observe these interesting lives over a period of time. I remember most of them with respect for who they were and what they were each able to accomplish.
But these feelings are tinged with a concern of knowing that when it came to the end of their lives and facing eternity, they may not have turned to the Lord before it was too late. A faith in Christ was not evident when they climbed to the top of their own ladders of success. The ladders they climbed, how they counted success, appeared to be purely by worldly standards.
In other words, their ladders very well could have been leaning against the wrong wall.
Knowing I was a Christian, one of them (a peer of my dad, and co-founder of a national hotel chain still in existence today) joked to me over dinner, “The golden rule to me is to do unto others BEFORE they do it unto me.” Another one (a mentee of my dad), after I had shared with him about my new found relationship with Jesus Christ, said sarcastically, with cocktail in hand, “I don’t know about that stuff, but your dad is Jesus Christ to me.”
Now as a senior adult I think about what true success really is for me now as the end is much closer than the beginning. The questions I ask myself is how do I build upon my past so I can “finish strong” my race here in following Jesus? How can I leverage it all (the good, bad and ugly!) to help me fulfill my unique calling? How can I look ahead with faith and anticipation rather than look back with either nostalgic longing for “the good ole’ days” or with regret over past decisions, lost opportunities and costly detours? I Timothy chapter 6 is very helpful.
1.Be Grateful for what I do have. Don’t grumble about what I don’t have! (see I Timothy 6:6-10)
It is so easy to focus on what we DON’T have and to compare ourselves with others. It is natural to think of what we could have had if we hadn’t made this decision or that decision. We are saturated with advertising and media images that prompt us to fall into two temptations…fear and envy…fear of not having enough and envy of others who have more than us and look like they are doing just fine! When we can learn to be content it is easier to focus simply on meeting our needs and serving others… not being continually distracted by never our ending wants. We become protected from chasing after what could never satisfy us.
2.Pursue Being Rich in relationship with God with at least as much intensity as a successful entrepreneur pursues the wealth of this world. (see I Timothy 6:11-12)
Those who pursue great wealth do it with a singular, sacrificial, disciplined focus. These are all very positive traits in anyone’s book! Their success is rarely an accident. Paul says these same qualities need to be applied to my relationship with Christ. We need to pursue knowing Him, loving Him, growing in Him with at least as much passion as an entrepreneur has for temporal financial gain.
3.Be “rich” in good deeds (see 1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Successful entrepreneurs are always “scanning” for opportunities to make more money. They don’t turn off their brain when the 8 (or more like 12-16!) hours of their work is done. They are often thinking about, mulling over, obsessing on and dreaming of ways to either make what they are doing more successful or to discover next big opportunity. More often than not they will say that the “pursuit” is more thrilling than the attainment. For us, making godly deposits into the lives of others should be done with an even greater intentionality than them.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Open my eyes to true and lasting wealth. Make me successful in what counts. Help me climb the ladder of what true success for me is. And please let it be leaning against the right wall!
In Your Name, Amen
Written by Jamie Bohnett. Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org