As Christians, success is a tricky dichotomy.. We learn and believe that we need to set our hearts on eternal things, that we have a mandate to make disciples of all nations, to die to ourselves, to love the Lord with all our heart, our soul, and mind. We know that things of this world are passing, and we are to be foreigners in this world – in it but not of it.
We are also told, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through him” (Col 3:17). We are called to be excellent in the work we do on earth and to work hard as we pursue Jesus’ standards. So as we help our children learn to live out a Christian life, it’s important to deliver both of these messages fully.
That’s a lot for an 8-year old who wants to be in the 2030 World Cup. So how do we strive for sacrificial success, knowing that the fruit of our labor should ultimately honor God, while also holding it all loosely, giving our successes and failures up to the Lord?
For now, we teach our kids to work hard at the things they love, and to say prayers of gratitude when they tie up their cleats. We remind them to pursue success in other areas (not just in sports) and to explore interests that might provide a future in a profession they enjoy and in which they thrive. We remind them God has given them talents and unique qualities, and those talents are precious gifts. It’s up to them to discover and to develop their gifts through both play and hard work. We relax, we read, we go outside, we take breaks.
We don’t categorize our talents into the world’s model of success. (My middle child uses duct tape and cardboard with such purpose; it’s a form of worship, we tell him!) We talk about balancing work to create a life worthy of His calling, and to be professionals that work hard and cheerfully. We don’t have to shy away from competition, because it sharpens our skills, and we don’t have to muffle our drive or potential.
God has created a beautiful framework where He asks us to work hard and pursue success, but for His glory. He gives us the freedom to fail, as it’s all for Him anyways. Our successes don’t define our personal worth. They are just gifts back to the God who created those beautiful talents in the first place… simple as that! There’s joy in success, no matter how great or small, when it’s done with a grateful heart and dedication to the Lord.