Powerful Disciplines for Personal Success
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36
How do you measure success? What does winning look like for you?
In today’s society, we’re subjected to so many mixed signals that a clear definition may seem impossible: Is success defined financially, based on reputation, or power? Is it from “winning” and accumulating wealth? Most people in the world answer, “Yes.” Although Christians regard Jesus as the greatest success story in history, according to the world’s criteria, He’d be viewed as a failure! Christians generally define success as being all that God designed us to be. It’s doing what God ordained, the way God commands us to do it and for God’s reasons. It’s going where God sends us, with God receiving all the glory. The ultimate form of recognition at the end of a life so lived is hearing Jesus say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Jesus perfectly modeled faithful obedience because He only did or said what the Father told Him (John 12:50). All we need to do for success is follow His example.
Discipline #1: Being Proactive: This first discipline involves accepting personal responsibility to act in a positive way in our lives. Being proactive involves living intentionally by making conscious, informed choices and owning our responses. Reactive people respond to the circumstances of life as they occur often blaming circumstances, conditions, or environmental factors. They feel they’re dancing to a tune imposed on them by others, often feeling victimized by the events of the day. They see their “circle of influence” as relatively small in comparison to their “circle of concern.”
A proactive person drives an informed and intentional agenda while viewing their “circle of influence” nearly as large as their “circle of concern.” A thermometer is a reactive instrument that responds to its environment and reflects its surroundings. A reactive person acts much like a thermometer by responding to their current environment but doing nothing to improve it. A thermostat is a proactive instrument that works to control the environment. It senses the situation, determines to change the status quo, works to make the alteration, and finally stabilizes the condition. Proactive people act like thermostats. For example: deciding to lose weight and maintain discipline to gain health and to act as a steward of the temple the Lord provided demonstrates proactive thinking. When dealing with your family, business, and the ministry flowing through them, does your leadership resemble a thermometer, or a thermostat? Are you an active steward or a fearful victim?
Discipline #2: Beginning with the End in Mind: The first discipline of being proactive flows naturally into the second: “beginning with the end in mind.” We’re able to make good choices if we know our ultimate objective. If our goal is to live in such a way that inspires Jesus to say, “Well done!” we can consciously make proactive choices toward that end to the best of our ability—doing as He did and living on earth with Heaven in mind. Although only Jesus did this perfectly, it should be every believer’s goal. There’s accountability for our choices before God on a day and in a place promised to every believer called the “Bema” or Judgment Seat of Christ. “For we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the Body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Discipline #3: Putting First Things First: Accepting personal responsibility for positive action and knowing where we want to end up makes it easier to choose what to do with our time, talents, and treasure. This 3rd discipline nurtures the achievement of our goal. We can proactively strive to hear Jesus say, “Well done,” and minimize everything else by living a life that God can bless. God always blesses obedience and He never blesses disobedience. Someone experiencing what we see as blessing, while living a life that’s obviously disobedient to God, isn’t a true blessing and may even be a damaging distraction from godly living. While all things have their beginnings with the Creator, our adversary has been allowed temporary influence over worldly resources and prowls around seeking to derail us.
As the company’s primary stewards, we should be especially diligent in deciding where to devote our time, talent, and resources. How we spend our time is the clearest indicator about what’s truly important to us. Scripturally, our ministry priorities seem clear:
1. Our intimacy with the Lord
2. Our spouse and family
3. Others we interact with (including business stakeholders)
Pressing on Toward the Goal
Our success, as God defines it, has little to do with God-given attributes like where we’re born, our race, sex, or appearance. Success has to do with our understanding and obedience. We have the opportunity to err by either commission (doing/thinking things He forbids) or omission (not doing what He desires). No one will arrive on “that day” with a perfect score. Even the best of us will fall short in many ways. But our “end” should be to maximize our contribution and fruitfulness, and finish strong under His Lordship.