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Intersection of Life and Faith

The Measure of Success

  • Todd Outcalt
  • 2013 6 Jun
The Measure of Success
"O Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who delight in revering Your name. Give success to Your servants today" (Neh. 1:11).

From an early age, we are instructed to be successful. Children are expected to perform well in school. Teenagers are expected to make the grade in the classroom and in their other endeavors. College students are expected to make a life. Once we enter adulthood, the expectations at work and in the home are so many and varied, it is nearly impossible to list them all.

In short, we constantly seem to be measuring ourselves against others and measuring our own success—whether in business, relationships or play. This same attitude often carries over into our spiritual lives, as well. What would happen, we wonder, if we weren't successful in growing a ministry, staying on the cutting edge, or demonstrating our progress in numbers?

These were some of the same questions that people in Nehemiah's time struggled with. When the Jewish people returned from Persia to rebuild the Jerusalem walls and the temple, they did not want to fail. There was, throughout the whole population, a desire for perfection and a longing for success.

What is success? How do we measure it?

These are the questions that often keep us up at night and compel us to drive ourselves with unwavering attention toward a singular goal; but in ministry, the end goal is not so easily defined. For some, success may be defined by numbers of people, budgets or percentages of people who make a deeper commitment to God. For others, success might be defined as a clarity of purpose. For still others, success might be defined as something spiritual or internal—such as the aim or purpose of faith, of loving God and our neighbors.

Regardless, we always wrestle with success in the church (or, at least our definitions of success). In one way or another, every person in ministry will need to come to grips with a way of defining success. It may not be about numbers, or percentages; but in ministry, we always are praying God will use our lives, our sacrifices and our work toward some greater end. In that end is our success—or at least God's blessing.