Redefining Success

6 Dec

ORedefining Successne of the most frequent buzzword that I hear very frequently is the word “success”. The word itself is not necessarily new, it has existed for quite some time in the English dictionary, as well as church sermons.

The sad part is that a lot of us equates success to wealth. Success somehow became synonymous with being rich for most people.

What does the word “success” means? According to Google and the interwebs, the word “success” comes from the 16th century Latin word “successus”, which means to “come close after”, and it evolves over time to the recent interpretation and meaning as “an accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. You see, it is nowhere near the term “wealth” unless if the aim or purpose is to gain wealth.

Why is it then, the word evolves to be almost synonymous with wealth? The reason why is that a lot of “successful” people is most likely wealthy and well-off. There’s a boom in the area of motivational speakers in the recent years, and most of them are divided into two types of seminars: how to manage your finance so you can be successful, and how to build your business so you can be successful.

In short, all of them are mostly talking about being successful. I do wish these people would just simply say “how to be rich” or “how to be wealthy” instead of a more generic, nicer-sounding, and not-greedy-looking umbrella term “success”.

But as children of God, what does it actually mean to be successful? I don’t think it deviates much from the true meaning of the word “success”. “Success” in God’s eye does not equate to wealth, it doesn’t even equate to being rich. It is more to how well we serve His kingdom purpose instead of our own will. It is more to how we accomplish the things that He has set in front of us, rather than simply not worrying about money.

In the past six months, God has been very good to us (as He always been, and always will be). For those who don’t know, I am currently married to a beautiful and wonderful woman. She came to Australia approximately 1.5 years ago, and has been trying to find a 9-5 type job, a full-time job, if you will. And when she finally found one, she was laid off after about a month for no apparent reason.

At that time we were in a church conference in Sydney, and there’s nothing much we can do about the layoff. But God is and always faithful to us. In just minutes, He comforted her, and spoke directly to me on the things that He is about to do for us. In a matter of weeks, suddenly I was being promoted into a senior role in my company, and my lovely wife got a part-time job.

But the best thing that happened after that day was not about the promotion, or the new part-time job. It’s how He transformed both of our minds at that time. After we went back to Melbourne, we were never worried anymore about our finances, money, and any other things that concerns our future, in that matter.

What does this have to do with “success” then? Well consider this, in the eyes of most people, we wouldn’t be what people call “successful”. In fact, most of my friend around the same age group are actually quite busy to establish their own brands and businesses, both Christians and non-Christians.

For us, we would rather be called successful by the Lord of lords, and King of kings, rather than by our friends and peers. We do not consider being wealthy as successful, and we have no desire to pile up riches in this world. As Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV) put it, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Does that mean money is not important for us? It is important, in fact, most of things in this world cost us money, but it’s not the most important things we are trying to gain.

Does that mean I’m not an ambitious person? If you talk to my wife and/or my parents, I’m pretty sure they can attest how stubborn I am and how I never gave up once I set a goal. I am a fighter, and will always be one.

Does that mean I don’t have plans for my own family? I do, and in fact, it’s probably more comprehensive than most people.

Does that mean I don’t want to leave my legacy behind? I do, and I think it’s important that we left our fingerprints in this world, but our view of “legacy” also differs from what most people would define.

And these are the things that God has changed in our lives. We are no longer focused on attaining worldly gains, but instead on what’s pleasing Him. In our own eyes, we would rather be called “successful” by God Himself, not by other people. And believe me, “successful” according to God’s standard is far more interesting and exciting compared to what the world sees.

“Don’t you want a house? Don’t you want to have your own business? Don’t you want to be financially independent? Don’t you want this? Don’t you want that?” Well, in fact, I probably do. But it no longer matters for us. What matters is what God wants in my life, in our lives. There are things that we know for sure God has prepared and set out for us, and that’s what we are aiming to accomplish.

You’re odd. You’re weird. You’re not ambitious. You’re not productive.” and I get that a lot. Even if people don’t say anything to me, I noticed from their look that somehow we’re odd. And again, to us, it doesn’t matter. Because as 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (NIV) had said, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

So what do you want to be successful for?

Stay blessed.

A Question for Love

17 Feb

Romans 5:6 – 8

A Question for LoveMost of us would know that recently a lot of people in the world commemorated St. Valentine’s day, where people will give flowers, chocolate, cards, and anything to prove their love to their beloved. Love is everywhere. Couples had their dinner together, and a lot of them had a great night. In some parts of the world, people even get married (or at least trying to) on Valentine’s day.

A couple of days before the day, though, one of the pastors that I know who lived in Indonesia posted an interesting blog post, and I feel that I had to share it. After receiving his permission, I translated the post to English, and I’ve added some things that I’ve experienced on my own.

You can find love between a husband and his wife. You can also find love between a husband and a woman who’s not his wife. You can find love between a man and an older woman. You can also find love between two men. It’s a portrait of love in postmodern era, something that Seno Gumira Ajidarma, an Indonesian author of short stories, essays and movie scripts, said in his collection of short stories called “A Question for Love” (translated directly from Bahasa Indonesia: “Sebuah Pertanyaan untuk Cinta”).

In the book which was based on every day observations on daily things, it seems like love itself is no longer boxed by the aged social norms and beliefs. Love transcends limits, overcomes challenges, and frees itself from rules. As a result, we can see a lot of love stories that some might think unique and out of its place.

 To Love and Be Loved

The stories that are illustrated in the collection of short stories shows that love is still one of the primary necessities of humans. Times may change, people may come and go, technology may develop quickly, but humankind needs love. We need to love and be loved. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we will find that to be loved is being put after physiological and safety needs. The problem is, what kind of love that we actually needs?

We humans are oddballs. We put expectations in every single thing that we do, and love’s no exception. We love and we expect to be loved back. Some people might say they don’t need to be loved, but that’s not true. I have seen, and I trust some of you also have seen, a child that grows up into a delinquent, rebel youths that doesn’t have any respect for his or her parents, simply because the parents refused to love them.

At one time when I was riding a train home, I saw a family in the carriage, where a boy, aged 8 years old at most, swore and badmouthed almost everyone in the carriage. His mother and his elder sister were trying as hard to shut him up with a lot more swearing, and despite their effort, they were unsuccessful. His dad and two other younger siblings just stayed silent and pretended nothing happened. And the worst part was that, the boy knew that his parents couldn’t do anything and kept throwing tantrums. What went wrong in this somewhat dysfunctional family? Was it because of the lack of love?

There’s also a lot of people that correlate love with sexual relationship. Where there is love, there is sex. It’s no wonder that people think that sexual intercourse is the actualisation of love itself. There’s a whole lot of questions in online forums where teenage girls and youth are struggling with their love interests’ “demands“. Is this the kind of love that will fill our basic necessities? Is it true that people who never had any sexual acts will never know true love?

There are countless of stories, particularly in eastern countries or in countries where marriage is still being regarded as a sacred matrimony, about girls who got pregnant before tying the knot with her boyfriend. Most of these stories will end in two ways: either they will have to be married, or the girl will have to abort the child. These kinds of stories usually brings a realisation (to the girl, mostly) that she was actually being used, instead of being loved.

Based on those stories, I realise that there is one single, simple fact that we often forgot: we need to be loved, not used. Being loved means being accepted. It means being acknowledged as who we really are, with both our positive and negative traits. If to love means to accept unconditionally, then loving someone is not an easy task. We can easily love something that is good and interesting from other people, but we hardly accept something that is bad or boring. In the end we try to compare and weigh both sides, giving more attention and love on those who we deem interesting, and showing disapproval on those who we deem unworthy.

Sadly enough, we have double standards in regards to love. Even though we measure our love to others, we expect and long for people to love us for who we are. We are often disappointed when people will only accepted us for our good traits, but rejected us for our bad behaviours.

Unconditional Love: A Necessity

We need love, that much is true. A love that can accept us wholly and unconditionally. We need this love because we know that we’re not perfect and there are so many things wrong with us, so many weaknesses that it would be almost impossible to fix. Could there be a true, unconditional love? That is a question for love.

In the terminologies of the Bible, unconditional love is what we call grace. The word grace is often tied to the personality of the owner and giver of the unconditional love, God himself. There is one simple yet beautiful quote that Philip Yancey once said in his book: Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. It is a pure, true love, with no strings attached. A love without any conditions of any kinds. A love that is longed by all of us.

The good news is that we can receive this love from God because He has given it to us. In Romans 5:8 (NIV) it is written:  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That unconditional love was made perfect in Christ’s sacrifice. Not only during His death, but that very same unconditional love was also demonstrated by Christ when He walked the earth. He accepted and forgave a woman who was caught sleeping with someone else’s husband. He accepted and love a corrupt tax collector. Christ knew that there is no greater power than an unconditional love. It is that kind of love that has the power to change someone else’s life for the better.

In this so-called month of love, in the midst of couples celebrating Valentine’s day, have we ever thought that we actually need that unconditional love? Have we ever thought that the people whom we loved so much actually expect unconditional love from us? It is what the family and the girl that I mentioned earlier needs. I believe that when we accepted that we have been loved unconditionally, we will be able to love unconditionally as well.

How many people around us are actually feeling alone, unloved, and unappreciated? Those who feel rejected, denied, unwanted because they had never feel how it is to be loved unconditionally? Those who feel tired, losing, and disappointed because they were being used instead of loved? Take a moment to reach to them, and reflect that very same unconditional love that Christ has given to us. It’s just what they need in this Valentine’s day.

Stay blessed.



Translated from Bahasa Indonesia with permission of the original author and personal experience added to the post.