Success - Round about now many young people are eagerly waiting - a text message, an email or an envelope through the letter box. The arrival of exam results will be a measure of success and a major factor in the year or years ahead. Comparisons will be made - did I do better than I expected? Did I do better than some of my peers? Did I do as well as my teachers or parents believed I should? Perhaps most significantly - is it enough to take me to the next stage of my career?
Success can be difficult to gauge; one person may be satisfied with a set of results - while their friend with very similar ones might just miss a college place and be totally disappointed. That can happen in a variety of life situations. Some athletes are over the moon just getting to Rio; others will consider it a failure if they don’t win gold. As Chris Coleman, the Welsh football team manager said earlier this summer - ‘the bigger countries have to make the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final; we just have to perform for us.’
American comedian George Burns once said - I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoyed than a success at something I hated. Now while that sounds like a good bit of advice - pursuing only what you truly enjoy, if we live only for personal enjoyment and satisfaction, we’ve got a pretty restricted attitude to life. Put that another way, if all you do is ‘perform for you’, if all your goals are purely and exclusively personal, will that bring real satisfaction? Will that strategy mean ultimate success?
Jesus was once approached by a man who clearly wanted a simple set of goals for his life. How do I get there? That was his question. Typically Jesus returned the question to him - well what do you think; what have you learned as you grew and were taught? The man answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind"; and, "Love your neighbour as yourself." "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." (Luke 10:27-29)
According to Jesus this is the greatest goal any person can have and one that will lead to the greatest happiness and peace of mind. But notice how little emphasis there is on me and my and mine. It’s all about loving and pleasing and helping others. Of even greater significance is this - Jesus did not simply say it; he did not simply set the agenda or issue the challenge. He lived it too.
One of his most thankful followers, Paul, who began 'in opposition' said "the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me". (Galatians 2:20). Paul then invites us to "be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God". (Ephesians 5:1-3).
So for all of us trying so hard to find success for ourselves, there is another way of living and that is by asking God to let us live in and by the success Jesus achieved - a success He is delighted to share with others.
Rev. Colin Morison
Elgin & Forres Free Church