The meaning of success

0629nepeaches1_w250“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. Luke 6:43-44

What is it that makes a person successful? Make no mistake; the world has many definitions of success.  One of the most acceptable definitions of being successful is having the ability to create something that can benefit others, then multiply it and make it readily available at a fair price. Successful people are those who are in control and have the respect of others. They are high energy people who are not easily swayed from achieving their goals. Successful people are well known for their diligence and can measure their success in several ways.

People who are successful can usually point to tangible evidence that makes their case for a successful life. Whether it is a large home, an expensive car, or a wardrobe of fine clothes, the world most often measures one’s success by the amount and quality of material possessions. On a cautionary note, that doesn’t necessarily mean that successful people are so caught up in their stuff that they are only focused inward, guarding what is theirs. There are many successful people who are also generous and humble. Taking that into consideration, could it be that there is another measure of success?

Another way of measuring one’s success is by his/her fruitfulness. Success and fruitfulness are both positive traits, but they are vastly different. Success is born mostly out of strength and control while fruitfulness is born primarily out of humility and unselfishness. While the world measures success in things tangible, measuring fruitfulness is done in terms of non-tangibles such as love, joy, and community. So while both success and fruitfulness can be measured, their value is much different. Another way of looking at value is by measuring the amount of return.

According to the world’s definition, as success grows wealth is spread, but not always proportionally. Typically, as success and wealth are spread, there is usually someone at the top whose gains are more substantial, and is therefore viewed as being more successful than those found beneath. Worldly success is so subjective that it cannot be identified by a singular trait or circumstance. Success also does not come with a guarantee. All too often, the success of one depends on the failure or misfortune of another. Yet there is home for those striving for success. We simply need to turn from the worldly definitions and look for the biblical model.

Our Lord Jesus defines success with a much different word, fruitfulness. Fruitfulness always gives way to fruit of the same kind. Fruit bears seeds which produce even more fruit. Love breeds love; joy breeds joy, and like a flower blooms and grows, producing even more beautiful flowers, Christian community breeds Christian community. Followers of Jesus Christ are known by the fruit they produce. Each time we express God’s love, God plants a seed that when fed and nourished by faith will also produce the same loving fruit of the Spirit.

Certainly pleasure can be found in success; but such pleasure is fleeting at best. Fruitfulness gives way to joy, which is long lasting. As proclaimers of the gospel of Christ, we should take care to remember the differences that exist between success and fruitfulness. In all of our successes, we should take time to measure our fruitfulness, so that we take pleasure in the joys of others and glorify our Father in heaven.

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