Early in my career as a stockbroker, I perused success with all my might. I had a daytimer where I tracked and measured my daily, weekly, monthly activities and evaluated my success annually. I had behavioral goals. These were disciplines I committed to do each day that I believed would contribute to my success. I had financial goals. By helping my clients reach their goals, I believed I would be able to achieve financial success. I even had family goals where I tracked how well I was balancing work life with home life so that I could also be a successful husband and dad. My definition of success at the time was to spend my time in such a way as to make the most of every minute. I was determined to be successful in every area of my life.
Part of my daily routine was to memorize every verse in the Bible that dealt with success. One of my favorites to this day is Joshua 1:5-9, particularly verse 8. "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
On the road to success I began to feel God prompting me to leave my “successful career” and go into full-time ministry. I resisted that for several years. I thought by staying focused on my success the prompting would eventually go away. In God’s grace, I came to redefine success as being what God created me to be and doing what He created me to do. It became clear that by running away from God’s call, I wasn’t going to be really successful.
I went to seminary and made my way into full-time ministry. I maintained my previous daily disciplines. Colossians 1:1-12 became the new focus of my life, particularly verse, 10. “…that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
It is very subtle, but there is a big difference between being successful and being fruitful. The difference for me was that success was focused on my ability, skill and discipline to accomplish my goals. Fruitfulness is focused on allowing God to produce good things through me rather than doing them myself. My fruitfulness is now measured by how closely I am able to use my time to please the Lord in the things I do. How well am I increasing in wisdom and knowledge of God? Am I daily able to function in His power and might rather than my own?
When I exchanged success for fruitfulness, it has been my experience that fruitfulness is considerably harder to achieve. Adjusting my ways to God’s ways is far more fulfilling. There is a caveat however. God can only produce fruit through me as I am willing to allow Him to work in my life. Some days I am just not willing. At those times, I find myself longing for the time when I was in control of my success. The daily routine back then was rigorous, but my daytimer made me feel as if I had the power to determine my own destiny.
The Bible verse that reminds me of the difference is found twice. In Proverbs 14:12 and again in Proverbs 16:25. It says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The success treadmill was killing me, but I believed I was in control. The fruitfulness journey has brought me life, but at times I struggle to yield my will to God’s. Today, I believe fruitfulness is more rewarding than success. I do not want to go back to the old ways. God’s ways are always better than my ways. My experience has been that perusing fruitfulness is not as easy as success, but it is worth it. If you are unfulfilled chasing success and want more out of life, I encourage you to begin your journey into fruitfulness. You won’t regret it.
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