Aiming at Success

In a recent sermon I hinted at the terrible burden we place on our children when we say to them, “I just want you to be happy.”  Not that wishing happiness for them is a bad thing, but it needs to be said that happiness, like other blessings, comes as a by-product when we are focused on living out the life God calls us to live; being the person God created us to be.

It was Viktor Frankle, the death-camp survivor, who helped me see this.  In his landmark book, Man’s Search for Meaning he writes,

Don’t aim at success.  The more you aim at it and make it a target the more you are going to miss it.  For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued – it must ensue.  It only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself…  Happiness must happen and the same holds for success.  You have to let it happen by not caring about it.  Listen to what consciousness commands you to do: go out, carry it out to the best of your knowledge and then you will live to see that in the long run success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.

Not long ago I was having a conversation with a colleague about ways to get our churches to grow.  We talked about programs and strategies, none of which seem to work with the effectiveness we hope.  It then dawned on us that putting effort towards growth, like aiming at success, is the wrong effort.  Perhaps the best way to “grow” the church is to focus instead on living out the call placed upon us to be the church that God created us to be, giving ourselves to causes much bigger than our own.  When we do that growth will ensue but only because we stopped thinking about it.

I don’t think it’s an accident that we have all been brought together in this place at this time.  I can’t believe that God would bring us together with all of our talents and resources, and that the ultimate thing that happens is that we all feel better about ourselves!  I have to believe that God brings us together to effect massive change in our community and in the world that ultimately leads people to looking at this congregation and saying, “Jesus is real.”

I give thanks for all of you who gather with a willingness to give to something much bigger than yourselves and carry out the call that has been placed upon our lives.  For as we do, success will follow, people will want to join us, and the world will be a better place for all.