My son and I had a chat last weekend about ambition, success, and failure.

It’s a topic that many of us think about – especially men.  It is certainly true of me.  Many people dream of making a mark in the world in some way.

As I grew up, I subconsciously thought of life as a competition.  School was a competition.  I competed with others in hopes of being tops in the class.  I tried to be first in track and good in soccer, gym and hockey in our small elementary school.

I had some successes, but I also tasted failure.  Failure in my studies and failure in some relationships.

At least, that’s how I viewed things.

It is clearly true that some people are better artists than others – or better politicians, or whatever.  Some writers – like Shakespeare – stand above all others.  Some political leaders make a mark for the ages.

Does that mean that if you aren’t Shakespeare or Napoleon that you are a failure?

Most people would laugh at that suggestion.  But we all have our own objectives – our own dreams – and if we don’t reach them, we may feel we are failures.  The key is how we perceive ourselves.

Anyway, this morning I pondered how God views success and failure.

By God’s standards, I am a failure and so is everyone else – Shakespeare and Napoleon included.  As the apostle Paul says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

I can’t possibly by my own efforts achieve what God wants for me.  I will never be good enough for him.

The wonderful thing is that God knows that and he loves me anyway.  He sent Jesus to die for me so that I can live with him forever.  Once I put my faith in Jesus I am forever embraced by God.

Strangely, though, that “success-failure” way of looking at things clings to me.

It is true that God wants me to live a life of love and self-sacrifice.  And when I don’t live that way, I am falling below God’s perfect standards.

But the big thing is that he does not reject me.  He loves me still.

I am learning that success in God’s eyes doesn’t depend on my efforts.  It depends on me letting Christ do his work through me.

When John the Baptist’s followers came to him to ask about Jesus, he said: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

That’s the standard of true success – more of Jesus, less of me.  It’s a lifelong journey to the ultimate goal.


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