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There is no factor that motivates quite so strongly as the desire to be successful (except, perhaps, the fear of being unsuccessful). Everyone understands the ambiguous term of ‘successful’ differently, which makes it a peculiar bullseye for so many people to fixate on.

We are fixated upon it though. ESPECIALLY at the time of my writing, which is in the midst of final exams for college students.

Generally, if you ask someone what success is, he or she will say different things, from wealth to the company of lovers. Ultimately, though, most people define success as accomplishing a specific goal.

If success is simply a matter of achieving goals, why do we not aspire for goals that are easily achieved? Why do men stretch upward for riches when they could easily step down and be poor?

If we are honest with ourselves, we are trying to achieve goals that others have set for us. Success is not a matter of us reaching our goals so much as it is a matter of being viewed a success by others. It is for this reason men will sacrifice everything they have in order to achieve something they do not want. Success is just a matter of being perceived as a successful.

Another troubling aspect of success is how subjective it is. If I truly were to aspire for poverty, and acquired as much debt as possible while spending all the money I had to begin with, I could look in the mirror and tell myself ‘job well done’. But I would be surrounded by a society that pitied me and looked down their noses at me. I would proudly shout, “I am a success!” while they would whisper quietly to each other “Failure.”

So now we arrive at an interesting question: Who defines what we consider success? The answer to this question will point toward the person, whom you respect most, love most, and most desire approval from.

If you set your own goals, then success is nothing but a selfish game played in order to get yourself to the highest state. If society sets the goals, then success is an impossible attempt to please everyone with the goal always just beyond our reach.

There is, however, a third option.

Suppose man valued something more than society’s opinion of society. Suppose man valued something even more than himself. If God determined our success, and we valued His opinion above all else, would our lives be any different from the Sisyphean task society places upon us? Would it look the same as the self-centered success?

God does not shy away from saying what He expects from mankind. (This is where I expect the reader is sighing “Oh shoot, not those commandments again…) But God’s expectations are simpler than the 613 commandments in the Old Testament. What God expects can be stated in two verses:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

That’s it. That’s what God expects. Emphasis should be put upon that very first word, “Hear.” God does not want us to give him our ears but not our hearts. God wants obedience.

No matter if you are scorned, mistreated, maligned, slandered, beaten, discredited, cheated or spurned, if you are obedient to God then He will welcome you with open arms, and say, “Well done.”

For the Christian, success is this: Faithful obedience to God’s will.

It’s impossible to be obedient to God’s will without knowing God’s will. I cannot stress how imperative it is to be actively engaged in studying the word of God and praying. In order to obey God, it is necessary that we listen to what God is saying.

May you have a life of abundant success.