What you see depends on the glasses through which you are looking. Looking through human glasses, we tend to see success. Looking through God’s glasses, we are able to see significance.
Achieving success is usually connected to personal ambition that benefits the individual. Success can be dangerous. It can give us a false image of how important we really are. It can create a mindset where we get distracted and don’t see clearly what God’s purpose is for our lives.
A few years ago, the news reported a celebration at the New Orleans municipal pool to honor the first summer in memory without a drowning there. In honor of this very successful occasion, two hundred people gathered, including one hundred certified lifeguards. After a festive time, the party was breaking up, and the four lifeguards on duty began to clear the pool. They were shocked to find a fully dressed body in the deep end. They tried to revive Jerome Moody, 31, but it was too late.
Jerome had drowned, surrounded by lifeguards celebrating their successful season. There is nothing wrong with having a party to celebrate success – except that success can distract us from what is really most important.
Keith Richards said, “Success has killed more very talented guys than drugs. Jimi Hendrix didn’t die of an overdose – he died of success.” Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Success has a way of turning a man’s head – and when it turns his head, he is facing failure. Proverbs 27:1 reads, “Purity of silver and gold can be tested in a crucible, but a man is tested by his reaction to his success praised by men.”
Uzziah became king of Judah and was “a good king in the Lord’s sight.” (2 Chronicles 26:4) He followed God’s leadership and was successful, and God blessed him. (v. 4-15) But he could not handle success. At that point, he became proud and corrupt. (v.16) He disobeyed God (v.16-18). His inability to handle success led to disaster, and he became a leper until his death. (v.19-21)
Human glasses can be good if they show us a vision of a kind of success that helps us fulfill God’s purpose. There is nothing wrong with success, but it often brings more liabilities than assets.
Looking through God’s glasses, you can see significance. And significance trumps success every time. It’s easy to make money and be successful – it’s hard to make a difference and be significant.
The difference in success and significance is that success is usually for the benefit of the one achieving it, while significance tends to benefit the others the most.
Seeking success will usually create anxiety and worry – seeking significance creates peace and genuine happiness because it is bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth. A life of significance is often not recognized by the one who is living it, but it is a foretaste of what heaven will be like!
Are you living for success or significance?