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Finding the Success that Matters
By Phil Shaffer
October 24, 2005

There’s talk on the street, it sounds so familiar.
Great expectations, everybody’s watching you.
People you meet they all seem to know you.
Even your old friends treat you like you're something new.

Perhaps you recognize the lyrics from the famous Eagles song about the promise and potential of a man’s career. A rising phenom receives the accolades of countless people who see his ability and potential to do something for them. Everyone watches with great expectations as he enters the scene. All too quickly the glory fades. Perhaps the people forgot what he had done for them or maybe they found someone else who could do more. He walks away reminded “They will never forget you till somebody new comes along.” As the song ends, the crowd welcomes another new kid in town. We hear the final refrain:

There’s a new kid in town. I don’t want to hear it.
There’s a new kid in town. I don’t want to hear it…

I see my own career in the lyrics of this song. Like most men in their twenties, I set out to prove that I belonged in this complicated world, intent on showing that “I’ve got what it takes.” I strove to earn my seat at the table of men in order to receive the respect, honor and affirmation I craved. I worked long hours, focused on achieving professional excellence and making sure that those above me noticed and rewarded this effort.

Notice it they did. They were always eager to acknowledge my accomplishment by rewarding me with membership in some sales recognition club. Of course, there were always more prestigious club levels obtainable if I tried harder. On January 1 of each year, I started the process of proving myself all over again as my production started anew at zero. I committed myself to some day achieving membership in the highest of all sales club levels. On that day, I would officially “arrive”.

I distinctly remember the emptiness I felt when that day finally came to pass. At the meeting to celebrate this accomplishment, I found myself surrounded by what John Eldredge calls “posers”, people bent on showing everyone how impressive they are. They, like me, were still trying to prove themselves despite their significant achievement. It seemed as if we had all “arrived” only to find that the destination of success did not deliver what it had promised. I felt a significant sense of disappointment and even depression in learning first hand that success does not fulfill the deepest longing of our hearts.

Now as I approach my fiftieth birthday, I am nearer to the moment Gordon MacDonald describes “when one discovers that younger people may know more than me, may be willing to work longer and harder than I’m willing to work, and be impatient for me to move over and give them the same chance to prove themselves that I once demanded.” There will someday be a new kid in town to take my place. The company I work for and the clients I serve will look to new leadership. Indeed, they will never forget me till somebody new comes along.

I am certainly not against using the talents God gave us to strive toward achievement in our endeavors. If one attains long term career success, they have most likely served other people, served their customers and served their employees. The world will reward people who do these things successfully. This can be done in a way that honors our God.

I learned the hard way that we will never find the sense of wholeness, purpose and contentment we seek apart from true intimacy with God. Success will not fill the void in our souls. Achievement will not prove a long term fix to our poor self image. No reward or accolade bestowed by man will provide lasting satisfaction.

Only in Christ will the longing of our hearts be filled. Paul wrote “Do you not know that in a race, all runners run, but only one gets the prize. Run in such a way to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25) .

Brothers, I urge you to join me in investing our lives into endeavors that truly matter, into things that are of eternal consequence. The crowns that the world bestows on us wither away all too quickly. But long after the accolades are gone and the light fades on our careers, we can wear a crown that lasts forever if we yield our time, treasures and talents to God. Let us lock arms together and purpose to make a difference for eternity.

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