What Is Success?

“He’s really successful.”

What comes to mind when you read that?

For most people it involves money. When we use the term “success”, or ”successful” it typically infers financial wealth or significant income. That’s certainly the case in the world’s eyes. And, oftentimes that can be the case with Christians as well.

Should the people of God have a different concept of success than the world? Absolutely!

So, as beloved children of God, what’s our definition of success? I think this is a really important question for us to answer. If you don’t intentionally define what success is for you, through a biblical lens, then you’ll naturally drift into the world’s definition which is at odds to God’s definition.

What does God have to say about success?

Ok, first things first, success for God’s people is found in obeying God’s word.

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

God’s word is our standard for success. We need to understand what God says He values. Is knowing and loving God all we need concern ourselves with? I would suggest “no”. Jesus summed everything up in 2 commands:

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Bottom line: whatever we do we need to love God and love people. And we need to understand that love is a verb. It requires action.

Paul tells us,

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

We have been created to work, to partner with Jesus is God’s Kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in Heaven. Work is not part of the fall, God placed Adam and Eve in the garden to work it, to partner with Him in His purposes on earth. We were actually created in Jesus to do good works which God has already prepared for us to do. God has goods works planned for you to do with Him.

In the parable of the talents Jesus explains to us that we’ve all been given talents by our Master to invest. Our Master, God, is expecting a return on His investment. The Master does not tell the servants how to invest the talents they have been given – He simply asks for a return. Matthew 25:14-29

And what is the reward for faithfully investing our talents and creating a return for our Master?

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Matthew 25:21

You’ve been given unique talents/gifts/abilities by your Father to invest on His behalf. Peter tells us that our gifts are to be used to serve others,

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

So what is success from a biblical perspective?

It’s being a student of God’s Word so we can understand His heart for loving Him and loving others. It’s investing the talents God has given us to serve others and partner with Him in the work of His Kingdom coming and His will being done on earth. It’s partnering with our Father in the good works that he has prepared in advance for us to do.

Why do you go to work? If you go to work to simply make money you’ve missed the heart of God. We go to work to partner with God in His purposes on earth. Simple said, that’s loving God and loving people – understanding that love is a verb.

Love has legs, so let’s get going.

Gritty for God

What’s the key to success?

This week I heard 2 different answers to that question.  I was in a meeting with a handful of leaders in Vancouver.  The one who called the meeting and was leading our interactions, told a story…

He was speaking at an event with David Foster.  David walked into the audience, which was comprised mainly of young people – university age or early on in their careers.  He asked the same question I just asked you:

“What’s the key to success?”

No one in the room gave him the answer he was looking for.  His answer was simply,


Ok, I certainly see networking as being important on a number of fronts.  But, I believe there is something far more important than networking that will actually enable you to be successful.

In fact, I believe there’s something that will enable you to do many, many things well.

So, let’s jump to another meeting I was in this week, again in Vancouver.  This meeting was a small group of about a dozen leaders, who lead leaders.  They each work with numerous CEOs, entrepreneurs and executives who impact the lives of thousands of employees.

One of these leaders was a former leader in the Jimmy Pattison group of companies.  He was presenting on an issue of relevance to the leaders in the room.  In the midst of his presentation he brought up an expression he often heard Jimmy Pattison declaring as the bottom line to accomplishing anything of value.

No matter what you’re pursuing; no matter what you’re trying to accomplish; no matter what your goal is, this is the key to success.  Without this you will not accomplish anything of consequence – according to Jimmy Pattison.

So what is Mr. Pattison’s key to success?

“You gotta wanna!”

At the end of the day, you have to want it.  You have to have a deep desire to keep moving forward in the face of opposition.  You have to have a fire in your belly that keeps you focused on the task at hand and on the goal ahead, so you don’t give up.

I agree with Jimmy Pattison.  If we don’t have a passion to persevere we will not succeed.

Angela Duckworth, the author of the New York Times best-selling book Grit would agree as well.

Ms. Duckworth set out to study the key to why some people succeed and others don’t.  She wondered if it really is talent and genius that separates success from failure.  The short answer?  No.

At the end of the day; after all the research, Angela Duckworth determined there is one key to success:


And what is Grit?  It’s passionate perseverance toward a goal.  Grit is the tenacity to keep going in the face of opposition.  Grit is a passionate persistence, an unwillingness to give up.  Five key characteristics of grit include: courage, resilience, conscientiousness, follow through, and excellence – amongst many others.

The power or passion and perseverance is being hailed by many as the key to success.  Grit is it.  Passion is one of the core foundations of success.  And in the vernacular of Jimmy Pattison that’s referred to as, “You Gotta Wanna”.

So if grit is the engine driving us toward our goals, we would be wise to ensure our goals align with God’s definition of success.  I would suggest a Godly definition of success is, in Paul’s words, “to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me.”  God in me and through me.  And to do that, we must know His Word.

So how badly do you want to know Him, and His plans for your life?  Perhaps our prayer needs to be, “Lord, please change my heart so that, above all things, I want you.”?  We must dive into His Word and be changed by it.

How much grit for God do you have?  Do you demonstrate a passionate persistence to know Jesus and follow Him?  Are you pursuing God through His Word?  Is your goal God Himself?

Our success is found only in God, in us and through us.

True success?  Let’s get Gritty for God.  You gotta wanna!

Psalm 73:25

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14a

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.”

Joshua 1:7, 8

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Philippians 3:12-14

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

The Power of Stories

“Daddy, tell us another story please!”

The kids were gathered together on the bed waiting for their favourite part of the bedtime ritual.  Every night at bed time their dad would tell a story from his childhood.  The kids could pick whatever age they wanted, and he would recount a memory from that time in his history.

They most loved hearing stories about their dad’s exciting adolescence.  He was quite a character and got up to some interesting adventures in his teen years.  They “oo’d” and “aw’d” and laughed a lot.  It was a delightful bonding ritual that built great relationship.

Their dad wasn’t really intentional about what stories he told.  He simply told stories that were exciting, involving subject matter he was passionate about.  He told lots of stories about teenage adventures, and many of them just happened to involve Volkswagens.

Yes, he loved his beetles.  He bought and sold a number of bugs when he was a teenager.  He was passionate about his Volkswagens.  And, his passion for VWs has persisted to this day – over 30 years later.  So much so, that he took his family to a Volkswagen plant and museum in Germany.

Now that his children are in their late teens and early 20s, he’s noticed something: they all drive Volkswagens.  And often their significant others drive VWs as well.  But not only that, a number of them work for Volkswagen.  All of his children are directly connected with Volkswagen.

How did this happen?

Well, this is a great example of the power of story.

Story is the stickiness of truth.  Story engages the hearts of people and connects them to the content of our message.

For whatever reason, the stories of his adventures with Volkswagens made a significant impression with my friend’s children.  They caught his passion.  And we must realize, more is caught than taught.

Recently the Lord brought this lesson about the power of story to my friend – in an uncomfortable fashion…

The Lord reminded my friend about this special time in the lives of his children.  He fondly remembered all the life they shared at bedtime as he shared stories that were meaningful to him.  He loved those years.

As he was reminiscing he began to piece together the fact that all his kids were now, seemingly, as passionate about VWs as he was.  Wow, what a coincidence.  It’s amazing that his kids all love VWs.

Or is it?

Our kids tend to catch what we’re passionate about.  And, when we communicate repeatedly with the power of stories the content of our message lands in fertile soil – and produces fruit.

As my friend was recalling all of this, the Lord asked him a simple question:

“Why didn’t you talk about me?”

As the depth of this penetrated my friend’s heart, he realized that he had chosen to share stories about Volkswagen’s instead of Jesus.  Not that there’s anything wrong with having a passion for cars, but when it supersedes our passion for Jesus we end up in trouble.  He was a Jesus follower during all those years – even in his teen years – but he just didn’t choose to share those stories.

He knows that he’s a great story teller.  He also realizes he needs to tell stories about his journey with Jesus.  With a certain degree of regret he has realized the power of stories to communicate our passion.

So how about you?  What kind of stories do you tell?  Do you tell stories of your Jesus journey?  When it comes to our kids, more is caught than taught.  They catch what we’re passionate about.  And when we communicate using the power of stories our content lands with increased fruitfulness.

When we share the stories of our journey with Jesus we impact people.  If we’ve lived something it’s very difficult for anyone to refute it.  Your story is your story.  It’s real, and it’s powerful.

Your stories enable you to share truth in powerful and non-threatening ways.  It’s your testimony.  Let’s share testimonies.  Let’s share our journey with Jesus.

Let’s harness with power of stories and create stickiness for the truth we want to share.

Revelation 12:11

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

Deuteronomy 11:18-21

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

John 1:32

Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.’”

John 1:34

“I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

Taste and See!

I had an addiction when I was at university.  I didn’t have it before I went to UBC.  In high school I was clean.

I grew up in a solid, middle class family in North Vancouver.  My family was not Jesus following, but we were good people.

When I arrived at UBC as a starry-eyed 18 year old I was introduced to a whole new world.  Wow, I had never really seen things like this before.  I went from a sheltered, homogeneous high school of 1500 where I knew most people and was known by most, to a diverse community of 40,000 students and faculty – a small city.

An appetite was awoken in me that I had not been aware of before.  I was enticed by something that captivated all my senses.

I was first drawn in by the aroma – I had never smelled anything like that before.  I remember strolling through our student union building during a break in classes.  I had time on my hands and was exploring all this new University life could offer me.

I smelled it, and then I saw it…

Cookies By George.

What I would soon learn was that this was home to most incredible chocolate chunk cookie on the face of the planet.  I couldn’t resist, I dove in and bought a bunch.  What a phenomenal flavour!  What an ecstatic, gastronomic experience!

I was immediately hooked!  I had to make this a regular part of my routine.  And that I did.

My addiction followed me through university and into marriage.  When we moved to Winnipeg I soon discovered a Cookies By George in a downtown mall and made many an excuse to cruise by to buy a taste of culinary heaven on earth.

And now?  The only Cookies By George I can find is in the Edmonton Airport.  So whenever I fly into Edmonton I make a point to buy 2 Classic Chocolate Chunk cookies.  Only 2, 3 is too much I have discovered.  I am controlling my appetite for the cookie that changed the world and my life.

You may be asking yourself what these amazing cookies taste like.  Well, it’s difficult to explain, but they’re soft and chewy, not too chewy though.  They’re best right out of the oven when they’re delightfully warm and almost melt in your hands.  The chocolate in the cookie is in soft chunks of amazing Belgian dark sweetness, rich and creamy.

The cookies are beyond description and must be tasted to be believed.

And that’s just my point: it’s impossible for you to truly understand what the taste of a Cookies By George Classic Chocolate Chunk cookie is like through my description alone.  My words can never do it justice.  The world’s greatest writers could not put pen to paper and enable you to experience the taste of a cookie.

You must taste it in order to see for yourself what this cookie is all about.

The things of God are no different.

David encourages us in Psalm 34:8 to,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

There are no words to describe the goodness of God in a way that’s even close to actually experiencing the goodness of God.  David is inviting us to choose to taste and see that God is good.

Don’t just listen to the sermons, watch the videos, read the books and hear the stories of others.  Dive in.  Take God at His Word.  Walk with Him in wholehearted obedience. Take His hand and follow Him where He is leading.  Take refuge in Him.  Go to Him for your life, love, hope, faith, freedom, strength, healing, joy – everything you need.

The key to experiencing the goodness of God, is to trust God – trust in His great goodness and His good greatness.  Believe that He is who He says He is, and follow Him.   Belief is a verb – it requires action.  Our obedience to God opens up our ability to taste and see God.

What action is the Lord inviting you to take so you can taste and see that He is good?  Dive in and experience Him.

Psalm 34:9-14

“Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.  The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.  Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

John 14:23

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’”

Mark 8:34

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”

Proverbs 3:5, 6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”