Defining Success

I have a folder on my computer that is full of ramblings. Some of them are complete, but most are simply fragmented thoughts that were gnawing at me because of specific circumstances and writing those thoughts out helped me think it through logically. I usually have written a brief explanation of the circumstances surrounding my rant and this one was written in my second year as a teacher after hearing several upperclassmen in my Christian school discussing how their parents were discouraging them from attending Christian colleges.

I have noticed an alarming trend among teenagers—a willingness to do what their parents direct them to do. Alarming!? Not only is it alarming, it is unbelievable! This is exactly what parents, teachers, and most other authority figures have been trying to accomplish for years. This trend is, however, leading our Christian school students down a path that could be less desirable than God’s best for their future.

Recently, on a snow day, I happened to see a small portion of the Dr. Phil show. While I certainly cannot agree with his overall world view, he did make one point that was particularly thought-provoking: “The greatest tool that parents have in raising their children is a clear definition of success.” It is this definition that determines what we want out of our lives and, ultimately, our children’s lives. It sets the purpose for the existence of our offspring.

This simple tool is not so easy to use for success is not easy to define. For different people, the meaning of success could be quite different. It could be happiness, wealth, health, longevity, peace, morality, spiritual growth, development of character, a good sense of personal responsibility, value to the community, a family, or even the completion of simple goals. These are certainly desirable and should be sought after, but if we are truly Christ-centered, shouldn’t our definition of success come from Christ? When asked what must be done to inherit His kingdom, Jesus responded that one must “follow Me.” (Matt. 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22)

Perhaps Jerry Falwell summed it up best when he defined success as “getting into the will of God as quickly as possible and staying there as long as possible.” Is this the message that our children are seeing from our lives? Is this the direction we are pushing them? The sad truth is that many parents assume that someone else’s child will go into the ministry, after all “the ministry isn’t for everyone.” But if it is not for the Christian school students who come from Christian homes, attend church regularly, know the Bible better than most, and have lived in the midst of Godly examples for their entire lives, whom is the ministry for?

If you think it best that your child not actively pursue the perfect will of God, if you do not want the ministry to be their “Plan A”; then please, do them a favor and stop sending them to a Christian school. Stop dragging them to church. Stop teaching them about the things of God. When you give them this knowledge and experience you are giving God the green light to hold them to a higher standard, and He will. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Luke 12:48)

I’m not really sure why I revisited this topic so many years later. Perhaps it’s because I am not dealing with anyone whom I feel is failing in this area right now and it feels “safe” to talk about since no one will think I am calling them out. Perhaps it’s because I feel that I need to evaluate my own definition of success.

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About Jeff Postlewaite

high school principal since '07, father since '04, teacher since '03, husband since '03, sound tech since '96, UVA fan since '92, gadget junkie since '89, Christian since '88, Giants fan since '84, golfer since '83, brother since '83, human since '81

Posted on January 19, 2012, in Biblical Thought and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Jonathan Postlewaite

    Good thoughts Jeff. It is interesting how people will agree up and down with you about the importance of missions and the importance of following God’s will for your life, but when it is their child or grandchild they find every reason in the book (or I guess out of the Book) to discourage them. You and I are both blessed to have parents and grandparents who set good examples of defining success by God’s definition and not their own .

  2. Jonathan, you are absolutely right about our parents and grandparents. They showed us what they considered success to be through example and with their words.

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