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The Paradox of Being Christian in a Success-Driven World

  • Name
    Neal Samudre
If I’m honest with you, I’m weary of today’s model of success. Today’s success measures everything—from followers to likes. Today’s success values production more than anything else. Today’s success looks at the end-result while ignoring the process. As Christians, many of us know that the American Dream has lied to us. We know we can’t receive meaning, satisfaction and joy by following the standard path of work hard, get a job and make money. We know there is a path outside the American Dream that supplies us with deep meaning.

And yet, as many of us Christians try for success, we follow along the same pattern as the culture around us.

When we work, we fixate on achieving the right results. We try to measure the return for our investments. We become obsessed with working despite our health or family life. The problem is, our culture around us is convincing as to what success means—and we’ve bought into it, whether we like it or not. This has been convicting for me lately. I am a dreamer—someone who aims for success with my aspirations. But as I reach for those dreams, I often define success like my culture around me. I’ve gotten stuck in measuring the likes, obsessing over the stats, and checking every number associated with my brand. I’ve been in that sinking pit where I neglect sleep and exercise because I’ve believed both were distracting from what’s truly important. I’ve defined myself by how well others received my false image I shove in their face. And you know what? It gave me nothing. As a Christian, I know success isn’t about the results. If it were Jesus would’ve gone about His mission differently. He would’ve measured everything the disciples were doing. He wouldn’t have given them grace for their failures. He wouldn’t have been patient with their learning. Instead, to Jesus, success was an internal thing, not an external thing. It wasn’t something that could be immediately seen, measured or calculated. It was a matter of becoming the right person for change.

What I mean is: Success is about character, not results.

The paradox of being Christian in a world that defines success by outward results is that we know if we give up character, we lose everything. But we operate in a world that in order to achieve the large results we want, we oftentimes have to give up our heart. We have to push our beliefs aside if we want to multitask and concentrate on a million tasks at once. We have to deny our Sabbath rest if we want to stay on top of our work. We have to cheat others of our treasured time if we want to commit ourselves to our jobs.

Success today wants us to abandon our character. But the success of Jesus wants us to refine our character.

Jesus sees success as rising from an internal reservoir. He knows that if you handle what’s inside your heart, you’ll become the person of change that this world needs. If you keep your character and your beliefs central, you’ll make the most impact. I know this, and yet there are still times when I get caught in trying to measure everything and make the most money. There are times where I forget that it’s not about achieving results, it’s about character transformation. If you look at yourself and see that you are also caught in this destructive pattern of success, I encourage you to be different. If there’s anything I’ve learned from Jesus, it’s that you can’t make a difference without being different. This is because being different sometimes means being better. It means becoming the best version of yourself, the version God knew you were going to be from the start. Stand above the tides that want you to operate in conventional ways. Define success differently. See it as a result of your character above all else. And then, make the impact you were always meant to make. Live like Jesus by first being different. How do you think we can live differently in today’s culture? Comment below!