You might think you’re already an expert on wrecking your life, but over the course of five weeks, we’re going to help you take it to the next level! We’ll be examining five excellent ways to totally ruin your life!
For some, this series will serve as a precautionary tale, but for most of us, it will be about how we can travel the road to recovery. Throughout this series, we’ll draw on the journal of the wisest man ever to live: King Solomon.
Success can be a good thing, but when that drive to succeed consumes you, it can wreck your life. It happens when you trade a good thing—success in your career—for more important things, like your relationships with your kids, your marriage, or your relationship with God.
What are some signs in your own life that you may be prioritizing success over more important things?
What happened to Solomon?
Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 2:17-23.
Solomon was successful, but it didn’t turn out how he hoped. He had a very strained relationship with his sons. His boys got everything growing up, except an engaged dad and Godly character.
When Solomon dies they end up tearing the kingdom of Israel apart. You can hear the regret in his words, like he almost knows it’s going to happen.
Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, has won four Super Bowls, married a super model, and is incredibly wealthy. In an interview with 60 Minutes following his third Super Bowl win he said:
I’m making more money than I thought I ever could make playing football. Why do I have thre Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, “Hey man, this is what is.” I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think… “It’s got to be more than this.” I mean this isn’t, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.
The interviewer asked him what the answer is, and Tom responded, “I wish I knew. I wish I knew.”
Why do you think the drive to succeed is so strong? Do you agree with the idea that success will not ultimately satisfy?
LIE: My Success Defines My Identity
If you believe this lie, three things will happen.
1. You’ll be consumed by winning.
You think, if I could just be successful at… then I’ll be seen as….
If I could just be successful at work, then I’ll be seen as important.
If I could just be successful at school, then I’ll be seen as admirable.
If I could just be successful at making money, then I’ll be secure.
Parker Palmer writes about being offered the presidency of a large educational institution. Because it was a step up the ladder for a teacher and writer, he was ready to say yes, but first he called some friends to help him pray and discern if this was God’s call for him.
Their first questions were easy to answer, then someone asked, “What would you enjoy most about being president?”
After a long pause he said, “Well, I wouldn’t like to quit teaching. I wouldn’t like the politics involved. I wouldn’t like fund-raising.”
“But what would you like?”
Now there was an even longer pause and he said, “I would like to have my picture in the paper with the word ‘president’ under it.”
One of his friends responded, “Parker, couldn’t you find an easier way to get your picture in the paper.”
What are you currently trying to be successful at? How do you know that it’s something you really even want?
2. You’ll get caught in the comparison trap.
Your neighbor gets a Mercedes, so you need a Porsche. Your co-worker goes to Paris on vacation, so you need to take a grand European tour. Your friends all have the newest iPhone, so you need one too.
When we believe that our success defines our identity, it’s not enough to be rich, pretty, smart, etc., we have to be rich-er, pretti-er, smart-er. And once we are, we need to be the rich-est, pretti-est, smart-est.
Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 4:4.
Solomon, who was the richest and smartest said, “Yeah, that whole comparing yourself to others thing? Meaningless.”
How are you tempted to compare yourself to others?
3. You’ll compromise your character.
If success is the most important thing to you, you’ll do whatever it takes to get ahead.
Cheat on that test? Sure, it doesn’t hurt anyone.
Cover up a major problem with your house to sell it for more money? Well, you know, it’s buyer beware.
Lie to make a business deal go through? Uh, it’s not that bad, everyone does it.
It doesn’t take long before all of the things you thought about yourself—that you’re trustworthy, that you’re the kind of person people want to do business with, that you’re a good role model for your kids—none of it is true.
When is one time you made the hard choice not to cut corners? What was the result? Are you glad you made that decision in spite of the difficulties it may have caused you?
TRUTH: My Identity Determines my Success
Our identity, our worth and value, is rooted in two things.
The first is that we are created in God’s image. We reflect the glory and wonder of God, and each of us does that in a slightly different an unique way.
The second is that Jesus—the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God and God Himself—loved us enough to come to earth and die a horrible death so that we could have a relationship with God.
If we could truly internalize these two things, we would not feel the need to be successful in order to have value.
Practically speaking, how would your life look different if you internalized the truth of your identity as someone created in the image of God and loved by God?
Beginning to apply this lesson is simple. Find one practical way you can prioritize the things that are most important—family, friends, and a relationship with God—over success this week.
At the end of the week, spend five minutes reflecting and journaling on how this felt. Did it feel good? Was it a painful challenge to say reprioritize the success you’ve been striving for?