Success is a concept that has been on my mind lately… How do we know the things we are doing are successful? In what way is it measured? Is it measured by what people think? By how many Facebook “likes” it received? By the number of views it has? People measure how well they are doing in many different ways depending on what it is in life they are measuring. Some compare themselves to others. Some base success on money. Others base it on popularity, looks, credibility, opinions of others…and the list goes on. One thing I noticed is that most of us measure our success by standards of the world. This is the way in which the world says how good you are doing. I am one who has fallen into this many times. I measure my success by the standards of the world, and it is there that I fall. In the moments when my thoughts drift away from focusing on the Lord and turn to what others think, it is there that I have chosen to be distant from the Lord.
Notice that where we put our focus is a choice…many times we put the blame on distractions and the things around us for reasons why we have drifted from God, but in reality, we have chosen to drift. It starts off subtly and we barely recognize that the Lord has grown further and further away from us. Maybe success distracted us, maybe the ministry brought distraction, maybe our own selves have put us in the place where we are not necessarily in line with the world, but we are also not in the will of the Lord. Oh what a place to be. It’s a place that is difficult to come to terms with because it’s such a silent place to be in and the voice of the Lord can barely be heard. I know because I have been there before.
I was reading a book today and it described what the word “passion” means. I always thought “passion” meant something that you enjoy doing, something that you want to make a career out of, or something that you are gifted in. This whole time I have been ignorant to the true meaning of “passion.” I Googled what the word passion meant and there were two descriptions… the first was a “strong and barely controllable emotion.” The next description said, “the suffering and death of Jesus.” Wow. Reading that brought tears to my eyes. Google it and see for yourself what it says. Passion means the suffering and death of Jesus. How powerful the concept of His death is…Passion does not mean some fluffy idea that we love or want to do for the rest of our lives. It’s so much deeper than that. To be passionate about something means being willing to suffer for it. Passion comes from the Latin word meaning “suffering.” Learning this has changed my understanding of the things I thought I was “passionate” about. I truly enjoy playing music and I thought it was one of my passions, but now I want to rethink what this means…Am I really that willing to suffer for music? If my life depended on it, I would have to say my answer is no. The things I thought I was passionate about I guess were just very selfish feelings I had.
The movie called “The Passion of the Christ” portrays the images of the life Jesus lived before He died on the cross. It’s a brutal movie that shows the horrible pain He endured, and I believe with all my heart that Jesus is truly passionate about His people. He created us with such unique personalities, gifts, and value that we can share with others. He died to save us. He suffered for us. Who else would do something like that? “But consider that passion is originally defined as the moment of the deepest willing suffering of Christ for our good. It lifts the word from human desires to a monumental love willing to suffer.” –Jennie Allen.
In America, we live in a place where do not see much suffering compared to the rest of the world…at least not yet, but maybe that will change one day. And when it does, I wonder to myself what I would be willing to risk my life for? What am I willing to suffer for? Freedom? Family? My silly talents? What am I passionate about? In America, the most suffering I will ever face will probably be ridicule. That’s about it…I don’t have to worry about being killed for going to church or being killed for praying in public, and that’s something many of us take for granted. Because I live here and not in a country where our Christian brothers and sisters are martyred for their beliefs, I have to admit I’m not quite sure what things I would suffer for because I have never experienced something like that. I am at the point of trying to figure out what it means to be passionate about something. But one thing I know is that I have a passion to do the work of the Lord. He has placed many special people in my life and I have learned something from them all. Whatever calling He has for me, I am willing to do it. Even if it be something that may seem unreachable or impossible to achieve, I believe that He is able to help me serve the need that He calls me to.
So what does passion and measuring success have to do with each other? Everything. Whatever passion we find our hearts called to pursue, we will wonder at the success behind it. For the past year, the Lord has called me to use my love for music to lead the high school worship team at my church and I will admit that there are times when I wonder how successful the worship went and if people enjoyed it. Those are the foolish thoughts that cause me to fail in my attempts to serve the Lord.
Measuring success in the Lord’s eyes is completely different than how I see it. God doesn’t care if I played guitar well in the morning, or if I sang in the right key, or if the worship sounded good or not. He cares if I was faithful in my call to the ministry He has placed me in. He cares if I choose to use my love for music to bring glory to Him. He did not place me there to play a concert for the high schoolers. He placed me there to worship Him. How simple the answer to measuring success is in the Lord’s eyes. And yet I make it so much more complicated when I stress out about the unimportant worldly details and when I fear what others will think. When I choose to focus my eyes on Jesus, He takes away the stress and fear of the world, and all I see is Him, my Great Shepherd leading the way as I journey through this life on earth before going Home. Since the Lord has called me to serve in high school worship, then I would say that is currently my passion. The things we are passionate about will change as we endure different seasons of life. So what are you passionate about? And do you measure the success of your passions in the eyes of the world or the eyes of a loving God?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” –Hebrews 12:1-3