Are you pursuing success in life, or success that lasts? A traditional of success can be found in fortune, fame, power or pleasure. Indeed free market systems are centered on providing these four pillars of personal success. But lasting success is achieved through the application of timeless principles. Real success is not measuring what you amass, but rather counting how you live, and what you leave as a legacy to those who are following behind you.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus details what it means to have lasting success. In Matthew 6:31-34, He teaches, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” In these verses we find three simple but powerful principles for success that lasts.
Don’t pursue things. Matthew 6:31 unpacks the race for material possessions. “What shall we eat and drink?” and “what shall we wear?” Jesus reminds us that God knows our physical needs. Most men spend the majority of their lives maximizing the horizontal—how much they have, who they know, what they control. Measuring this becomes your standard of living, but that is a wholly different measurement than your quality of life. God already knows all of the negative aspects of pursuing possessions—they fade, there’s always something new around the corner, they require maintenance, they clog your time, and inevitably you will compare yourself to someone else who has more. Jesus calls this a pagan pursuit. His answer? Trust the Heavenly Father for the things you need. After all, why spend the majority of your time and energy pursuing what God has already promised to provide?
Seek God first. The centerpiece of Jesus’ teaching on lasting success is to seek after God. To pursue His Kingdom is to pursue His purpose for your life. What Jesus is teaching is not an objective, but a perspective. There are really only two perspectives for life, and they are the temporal and the eternal. If you are a temporary person living in a temporary place, then by all means seek the most of what you can get for yourself right now. You only have perhaps 70-80 years if you’re healthy, and then that’s it. If that is what our existence is then it only makes sense to get as much as we can out of life while we’re alive.
However, if we are instead eternal beings living an eternal existence, then a billion years is the blink or an eye, and our lifespans are even less of a mark on time. If eternity is real, then Jesus is teaching the only perspective that makes sense. Seek an eternal God and His eternal Kingdom. This is the focus not only of our important decision-making years, but of all of life, and the lives of those around us. And as Jesus says, almost as an afterthought, “all these other things will be added to you as well.” Keep your mind on the eternal and God provides the necessary but temporary.
Make the most of today. A Business Insider study found that happy people in general pursued finding more time to do the activities they enjoyed, versus more money to have the things they wanted. As Jesus has put into perspective the things we have and the perspective we live buy, He ends this passage with a note on the time that we are granted. A person who relies on God for the things they need and seeks God first through their eternal perspective, Jesus says, will also live in the moment. Make the very most of today and all that it offers, in your vital relationships, in your decisions, in the example you are to family and coworkers.
These three elements of life, the physical, the spiritual and the temporal—Jesus addresses from an everlasting perspective. Indeed, pursuing that which lasts and pursuing and everlasting legacy is foremost a matter of perspective. An informal Time Magazine survey revealed that finding happiness, while the life goal of the majority of people, was not found in money, possessions, power, or temporary pleasure. Rather, children, family, faith, marriage, friendships and doing good in the lives of others were found to bring people the most joy in life. Making life everlasting is not pursuing that which is of worldly worth, but finding a world which is worth pursuing.