Success is a choice!

“All joy reminds.  It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still “about to be”.

                                    Surprised by Joy, by C. S. Lewis

“Joy is feeling the exhilaration of having God as No. 1.”

Taking Your Soul to Work, subtitled, Overcoming the NIne Deadly Sins of the Workplace

“Two roads diverged in the woods, and I, I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”

                                    The Road not Taken by Robert Frost

“Happiness or success, what is your choice Anjji?  I answered my friend casually, happiness.  “You are right in choosing happiness over success!” Then he showed me an article that he just read with the title, “Happiness or Success?”  The writer of the article argued that if one chooses to be happy when he becomes successful, then when he fails or does not become successful, he would not be happy.  If he chooses to be happy even before he becomes successful, even if he fails then he will be happy.  When he becomes successful as he happily pursues success, then he will be happier! Is this argument logical?  Does it have enough evidence based on your experience?  If you ask me those questions, my answer will be, “It depends!” Why?  Because the answer depends on your definition of success! 

I recall speaking to a group of CPAs on the topic of Ethics.  During the question and answer, I was asked a similar question.  “You are talking about ethics as a choice. Which one would you choose, happiness or success?”  I answered, “Why not choose both happiness and success rather than either one or the other?”  I was forced to select only one between the two choices.  How did I make my choice? Here is my retort, “Well I need to premise my answer with my definition of success.  I will say I am successful when I am able to obey everything Jesus taught us.  From my perspective, success is a continuing journey of obedience to Jesus’ teachings.  If given only one choice between happiness and success, I choose the latter first.  My happiness is the product of my successful effort to obey Jesus’ teachings.  There were no further questions from the participants after my answer.  I wrapped up and concluded the session and thanked all the participants for their active engagement with my Ethics talk.

More recently I heard a wise evangelist who preached about obedience and success.  He argued that all of us could become successful!  The question to ask is, “Success in what?”  He added that one can become successful in becoming poor while another can become successful in becoming rich.   

To be born of a poor family is not your choice but not doing something about it and staying in that sorry lot or “becoming successful in being poor” is the choice you are making.  There is another path that is the proverbial “road less travelled” or in Jesus’ parables, “the narrow road”.  You and I can take that path!

So what should be the more appropriate answer to that question, “Success in what?”  He argued his case that success in finding joy is the truest definition of success.  He then brilliantly unpacked the following teachings by Jesus in the gospel of Matthew chapter 6 verses 24 to 33:

 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘what will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

He anchored his arguments on the last verse that everything we need such as what to eat or drink and what to wear will be given to us if we seek the kingdom of God above all else and live righteously.  This is what obedience to all the teachings of Jesus is about and the reason why we should obey them.  When we are successful in finding the kingdom of God and living righteously, we will not only be happy but we will be full of joy.

I resonated well with this wise evangelist’s message about obedience and success. I have a story that I continue to tell which was about the time when I was to retire from my more than 30 years of professional work in the public accounting practice.  I was 55 years old retiring as one of the partners of the public accounting firm.  My partners who were a bit concerned for my retiring at such a young age of 55 were asking me.  “Anjji, what are your retirement plans?” I perceived their asking that question as, “Aren’t you worried about your retiring and not having your profit share from the partnership (not a small amount) anymore? Do you have a prospective employer that may give you a pay that approximates the profit share you are getting from the firm?” Since I get this question from quite a number of my partners then, I already prepared my response to them.  I had a stock answer for them, so to speak. I told them, “Well, I have been with the firm for more than 30 years and the good Lord has provided for all my needs.  I am sure that in the next season of my life post my work here in the firm, He will continue to do so.  Then with conviction I will add, quoting Jesus’ words, “ Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 

That story was 10 years ago already.  And the good Lord continues to provide and give my family and me everything we need.

I know and believe in my heart that success is obeying everything Jesus taught us.  This truth is actually the second part of Jesus’ parting message to his disciples on that Great Commission.  Sadly though this “teaching to obey everything Jesus taught us” part may have been missed by some people. 

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always even to the end of the age.  (Matthew 28: 18 – 20)

Yes, “seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” and you will find success in finding joy, feeling the exhilaration having God as No. 1 in your life.

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