Moving forward after success...
I've often wondered about the pressure that comes after success, or even during. The pressure to maintain that good stride... and not just to maintain, but to succeed again and to perform greater than before.
I'm not really a sports fan, but my husband loves football and basketball. So whether I like it or not, you'll find me watching his favorite sports teams during the seasons. One of our favorites is no other than the Seattle Seahawks. We've been following their story for years, and after living in Seattle for most of our lives, they've been our home team.
The Seahawks recently played some really good years back to back, and then went on to win the super bowl in 2014. I was there watching that game, and once they won, and after the excitement wore down, I couldn't help but wonder...
"Well. What's next for the Seahawks? Where do they go from here..." The pressure they must feel to make it happen again... But only next year, better. Its really a never ending game. (Unfortunately, the next year the lost by one play.)
After a lawyer in the movie The Rainmaker, played by Matt Damon, won the biggest case of the century, his reflection was this:
"Every lawyer in America was talking about me - I'm hot. In fact, I'm so hot, there's no place for me to go but down. Every client I ever have will expect the same magic, nothing less."
I propose a question: Have you ever felt frustrated at your own success, that the success you've experienced is now working against you?
Let me explain...
1) For some, success can become so great they are unable to replicate and the pressure to replicate only makes it harder. The only place to go is down, so to speak. You've arrived and you cannot go any higher. Like winning the super bowl, you have won the highest achievement. You're at the top.
2) For others success can be our greatest deterrent for new success. We can get stuck in that moment of success as though we've arrived and before we know it, that moment is long gone and we have nothing to prove for our today.
I've often wondered how to overcome both scenarios. I'm not taking about success on the world's terms, but real, meaningful, eternal success doing Gods will. How does one ride above, move forward and continue to fulfill Gods great plans despite the success they once new.
What do you do?
The life of Paul in Acts has been a centering and empowering example. Paul, no doubt, is a legend, he set such an example for believers to follower. He embodied the heart of Jesus, and carried on the mission set before him selflessly. Signs, wonders and miracles flowed freely from Paul's life. In fact, everywhere he went, everything he touched, even his own shadow were part of the miracle workings of God. If anyone could attest to success... It. Was. Paul.
Not only did he experience success, but he also experienced the highs and the lows. From one moment he was seeing success for the kingdom - always being around people, seeing thousands baptized, healed and finding true life. Then the next minute he was in jail, alone, shipwrecked, and without food. Imagine experiencing these extremes.
Yet, when there was a moment of victory for Paul, he celebrated them but never took ownership of the victory... He always gave that right and ownership to God. Even at one point, after healing a man in Acts 14, the people in Lystra thought Paul and Barnabas were gods. The people of Lystra began calling them Zeus and Hermes after their own gods, and began preparing their sacrifice to worship the disciples. After realizing what was happening, Paul and Barnabas ripped their clothes and instantly stopped their worship. Instead Paul and Barnabas lowered themselves, professing to be nothing great and that they themselves were no different than any other man represented by the crowd. They needed no special treatment or attention. Then they proceeded with the gospel.
Have you been here... In a moment of success were you could easily take the credit?
It can be so subtle, actually so subtle you might not know it's there... That you've all of a sudden started enjoying the praise that really belongs to Jesus. It exudes itself in a attitude... An attitude that you've "arrived." That feeling of success can deceptively lead to a place of superiority.
I've learned from the life of Paul, and from the great example he was, that he never had that attitude. He did not claim to know it all. He never took the praise or adoration in any situation. He never was stuck on prior successes, instead he was completely submerged in what God was doing in that moment.
Paul writes this:
"The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ— God’s righteousness.
I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally (Philippians 3:7-11 MSG)
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)
If anyone could have been closest to "arriving," it was Paul. Yet, his attitude sets an example for us all.
Maybe that is the key.
(A note to self:
Don't look back to relish in his moments of temporary success. That time has passed, and now, if you still live, there's more to be done. Lay that moment of success at the feet of Jesus, relinquishing all rights of ownership. Then come to him to rediscover his initiative for you NOW. There's no time to waste getting caught up in ourselves, having a party and swimming in our good deeds. If it were not for Jesus we wouldn't know what good truly is.
Instead of getting caught up living in the moment mentally, reminding and rehearsing those successful times, get caught up in his presence where you find true worth of being. By laying your past before God, you now have room to embrace your future. You now have a greater capacity of will to give yourself to what's right in front of you.)