Achievement is the knowledge that you have studies and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others, and that is nice too, but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success. ~ Helen Hayes
I read this quote the other day and immediately liked it. I don’t know that I love the last part…”and forget about success” because I think we all need to occasionally see the fruits of our labor and be appreciated. But the idea that each individual, working to their greatest potential… doing their personal best… is more valuable than if that work is ever noticed by others rings true to me. Without the factory worker calibrating the machine that strings the tennis racquet to the perfect tautness…where would the professional tennis player be? Without the teachers that encouraged a love of learning and the importance of education where would the doctors and lawyers and business leaders be? Without a parent’s giving of themselves for the good of a child and being an example of sacrificial and unconditional love where would humanity be?
It is the unsung heroes that do what many would consider mundane or unimportant tasks…and do them with a happy heart and do them as well as they can day in and day out …these people change the world. And the world doesn’t even notice. Thank God for them. Truly.
Perhaps it is the child in me remembering the verse I wrote on a white sheet of paper with crayon…a verse that hung on my bedroom wall for years that says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” Col.3:23.
Also taped to my wall was the verse “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
I took those words seriously. I tried to live by them. I still take them seriously.
The quote above by Helen Hayes, as much as I like the message that achievement (by that definition) is more important and satisfying that success (by that definition) makes me consider how words are used.
Being the lover of words that I am, it made me think about how we choose words when we are talking or writing. What word is the best one to use? Which one says what we really mean? Does it matter if we use “walk” when we really mean “stroll” or “meander”? When we say, “fat” does it mean that a person is a little soft in the middle or excessively obese? When we send a quick text or an email do we consider that the sarcasm we are trying to convey cannot be seen or felt and therefore will very likely not be understood…which can lead to a cycle of misinformation and hurt feelings?
Does choosing the right word really matter? I think it does.
But what happens when there are words that could be used interchangeably…but that have a nuance that makes it mean something different in my mind?
Let me give you an example… it is something that I have wanted to write about for a while. Consider this commandment:
Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
We are reminded of this commandment again in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. John doesn’t repeat the commandment but says something else startling about “honor”. Read the words of John 12:24-27: 24:
“…Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”
Why should we hate our life? This is what my study Bible says, “To love one’s life here and now – to concentrate on one’s own success – is to lose what matters…Love for God must be such that all other loves are, by comparison, hatred.
Wow. There is that word ”success” again. And it is a Worldly word here too…
But this verse tells us that if we are focused on serving God and others…and following the example of Jesus, then we will be honored…BY GOD! Imagine that.
Let’s look at the beginning of that passage too. Our life is the kernel of wheat. We can live our whole life long chasing our own desires and accumulating the things that we think will make us satisfied. We can be the “Poster Child” of success…but if we live a life where we are living for us then we will not produce anything that is lasting. We will not be fulfilling our purpose. Our purpose is not to be consumers but to be producers. Literally, our job in this world is to continue the work that Jesus began.
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God…because that is why I was sent.” Luke 4:43
The kingdom does not mean preaching about when we die and when we go to heaven. God already has Heaven in His control. We are supposed to help God get earth under control…and to tell people who are slogging through their life day in and day out that the Kingdom of God is already within our grasp. It was available to us on the day that Jesus cleared a path for us. The cross is the bridge that touched the earth and lifted our purchased and cleaned up lives to God.
Jesus prayed, “Thy Kingdom Come…Thy Will be done. On earth, as it is in Heaven.” God’s will is done now when we accept God as the King in our life. His Kingdom has come to us when we allow Him to be the King of our heart and our thoughts and our fears and our hopes and our days and our nights. God’s Kingdom can come to earth and His Will can be done on earth… if we submit.
No earthly leader is our King. No earthly idol…be it a famous person; our powerful title; a ton of possessions; a huge bank account; an addiction of the flesh…nothing of this world can be our King if we want to know the life that Jesus bought for us. We cannot be our King. Sure, for most of us, we are our own king. But if we are honest with ourselves we do a pretty bad job of ruling our lives. Some days may go well…but we cannot be the king of other people’s lives so that can mess up Our Plan. And we cannot always see what the best choice will be…what the outcome and consequences will be…so we fret and worry and kick ourselves when we think we have chosen wrong. And we don’t know what tomorrow will bring… we don’t even know what the next minute will bring. But God knows. He knows us all… Everything about each one of us. And He always has our best interest at heart. He always wants the very best for us. He always wants to bless us.
We are told that God will honor us if we follow Jesus. “…where I am my servant will also be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” God will honor us if we serve.
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” When we live for our own success and for our own selfish desires…when we put our self first and we are the king of our life…when we die, we are dead. Our life has been for nothing. We have come and consumed…taken up space and resources and given nothing in return. We have been a waste.
But if our life is based on being submissive to God …as our King who has our best interest at heart and if our desire is in all ways to do good and continue the work that Jesus began “preaching the Good News”…if in all that we do we have God’s Kingdom in mind…then we will die to our self and in so doing our life will be a blessing to many. We are not dead when we die to our selfish ways! It is only when we consider God first and others second that we understand what it is to live! We are free when we are not drowning in all of the crap! We are free when we are not bound to anything other than the sure knowledge that God has it all under control…no matter what “it”is!
Ephesians 6 tells us that “Honor your father and your mother” is the 5th commandment of the famous Ten Commandments given to Moses from God…but it is the first commandment “with a promise”.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3
This is not a promise for a future reward up in The Kingdom of Heaven. This is a promise for a good life on earth. Get that? God wants for us to enjoy our life here and now.
Humor me for a minute while I go to my next point…the Commandment does not say, “Respect” your father and mother. It says, “Honor”.
Let me give you several meanings for the word “Honor”:
respect that is given to someone who is admired; good reputation : good quality or character as judged by other people; high moral standards of behavior; good name or public esteem : reputation; a showing of usually merited respect : recognition; Privilege; archaic : a gesture of deference : bow; an academic distinction conferred on a superior student : a course of study for superior students supplementing or replacing a regular course; chastity, purity; a keen sense of ethical conduct : integrity
Now, this is where I am going with this entire message today…”Honor” is like the definition of “Achievement” what a person does from the inside because it is the right thing to do whether or not it is ever complimented or commented on or noticed …is like living as a servant.
“Respect” is like the definition of “Success”. It is what a person may give to other people who they deem as worthy…but ultimately it is what and individual wants to get from other people.
We can show honor even when the person we are showing honor to does not deserve it. We can show honor even when the person is not necessarily deserving of our respect… Because, honor is not what we show but who we are.
Notice the very next verses in Ephesians 6: 4:
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Fathers (and mothers) have a duty to their children too. They cannot treat a child badly and think that their child will respect that behavior. Certainly a child can still honor their parent who does not model the love and care that God intended. Honor is not a reaction to something external but a indwelling integrity that is not subject to change at whim or with irritation or provocation. People of honor have a strength of character that is anchored to that person’s soul.
The next verses of Ephesians 6:5-9 give rules and regulations for societal situations which were never part of God’s perfect plan for us, but came out of men not following God. The Bible and God do not condone or encourage evil things…but try to give us ways to deal with the ugly realities we brought on ourselves.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Again, as I began this post, as in Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” even slaves are told to work for God and not for people…always doing their best…not concerned with the favor of men but knowing they will be rewarded for working with honor.
Men and women…wives and husbands…mothers and fathers…all of us…let’s let our light shine. Let’s draw people to the Good News of the Kingdom of God by being honorable. Let’s focus on honoring our Heavenly Father and making sure that He is the King in the Kingdom of our life. And then maybe it will be again how it was in the beginning:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…
Let’s all pray for the day when we can say, “And it is very good.” That day can be today.