“It’s abstract. It never ends. I can never accomplish it.”
This is the type of thing people often say to me when I lay out for them the definition of success every Christian competitor should have.
Success: I pursued my God-given potential and became more like Christ in the process.
You know what? They’re right. This definition of success (which I believe is Biblical and I’ll explain why in future posts) is abstract, it never ends, and you never fully accomplish it. I can’t deny that.
Think about it. What is your God-given potential in your favorite sport? How good of an athlete can you be? Coaches, how well can you coach? How perfectly can you lead? Is there anyway to really know? Nope. Not really. Sure, you can have an idea of whether or not you have high school, college, or professional talent, but ultimately there’s no definitive way to know. You don’t know what your potential is. Only God knows that.
Not only is it hard to know what your God-given potential is, but there are so many factors that are out of your control that might keep you from ever reaching it. The most obvious one is injuries. This was a big factor for me. When I was at the height of my game as a quarterback in college I dislocated my throwing shoulder. At the time of the injury I was playing the best I ever had and it seemed like I was going to have a great season. There wasn’t anything I could about the injury and it kept me from every fully realizing my potential as a quarterback.
Similarly, will you ever be fully like Christ? Not in this life. The New Testament clearly teaches that we are called to be constantly growing in our likeness to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, but it also teaches that we will never fully realize complete purity and sanctification in this life.
The bottom line is that we cannot know what our God-given potential is and we will not become fully like Christ (in sanctification) in this life. So yes, defining success as having pursued your God-given potential and having become more like Christ in the process is abstract, never ending, and impossible to fully accomplish.
Here’s the reality: this abstract, never ending, and never fully accomplished definition of success is perfect for believers in Christ. Why? Because we bear the image of God for the glory of God. We are called to use the talents and opportunities God has given us for His glory. We are God’s workmanship destined to live this life for the good works He has established for us before time began (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is our calling and our destiny to live and to compete in this way.
I also want you to remember that this definition of success flows from our ambition.
Ambition: to glorify God in and through competition.
When your ambitious to glorify God in and through competition you have a huge ambition and as a result you will have a huge goal and a huge definition of success (click here for more on that thought). We need to embrace this abstract, endless, never fully accomplished definition of success because it is worthy of our ambition which in turn is worthy of the Gospel.
If this task of striving for an abstract, endless, never fully accomplished definition of success feels overwhelming let me reassure you with the words of the great Christian writer George MacDonald who once said “Our God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.” In his well known Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis expanded on MacDonald’s thought:
“Every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in grown-up son. In the same way, he [George MacDonald] said, ‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy’.”
We serve a loving and gracious God. He sent His only Son to serve as the fully, satisfying payment for our sins so that we might be freed from His wrath. As believers in Christ God looks down upon us satisfied with the payment His Son made on our behalf. Similarly, He is pleased with ever attempt we make to compete for His glory by the power of the Holy Spirit, but He is loving enough to never be satisfied while always receiving our efforts as a living sacrifice to Him.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)
We are called to live every day (and to compete) for the glory of the One who saved us. We must know that God is pleased with our efforts to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. We must accept the reality that we will always come up short AND we must rest assured that in Christ God is fully satisfied though we sin against Him daily.
Our ambition to glorify God in and through competition is a response to what God has done for us. It is not our attempt to earn our way to Him. I often say it like this: we compete for God’s glory not to try and earn a spot in Heaven, but because Christ has already earned our spot for us. From that perspective, our definition of success is very freeing and transforms competition into a loving act of worship.