The definition of 'successful', with regards to a person, according to the online dictionary is "a person that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity."
When we talk about success, context is important, and the question becomes 'successful at what?'.
There is no doubt that the mention of success almost always goes straight to the latter part of that definition, 'attains prosperity'. That, in and of itself, isn't wrong, in fact earned wealth often is the achieved result of one obtaining an education or training, having good work ethics and effective business management skills, and devoting time and energy to the job all being bundled together to achieve the goal of making money.
And while that is one measure of success alright, our thought today focuses on the other portion of the definition, 'achieving desired aims'. How do we do that, when we aren't talking about making money?. Actually, some of those qualities people use to become wealthy are required to be successful at any level, and while there are obviously many discussions to be had about the best way to achieve one's goals, I'd like to suggest only one today. It starts with a certain attitude that when put into practice, will deliver results at any level. If we want to achieve success in life, we do what would normally be expected of us -- and then some.
The Macedonian church in 2 Cor 8 was commended for going above and beyond in their giving of money. We have a teaching from Christ in Matt 5, where He uses examples like these: 1) "...if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well." 2) "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles." 3) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,... ... If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"
Success in life is achieved by being these types of people. If the boss asks for something, do that to the best of your ability, and then some. If the coach asks for something, accomplish that, and then some on top of that. If the teacher assigns homework, do it, and then some. If we want a successful marriage, we should fulfill our role as a mate and then some. If we want well behaved kids, prepared to go out into the world, we must be good parents, teach them well, set good examples for them -- and then some.
Putting this principle into every aspect of our lives will make us tremendously successful, whether or not we ever achieve fame or fortune. It's the same attitude that drives Jesus' teachings about giving to the needy and praying for others. We don't benefit from that in a 'physical way', those on the receiving end do. But there is no question that we benefit being on the giving end also.
So it stands to reason then, if we want a successful church, we must be and do what is expected of us -- and then some, not sitting around waiting on opportunities, but creating them and pursuing them. In my opinion, we should not strive to be an average Christian, but one who loves that extra measure giving a few extra hugs and smiles, one who gives that extra amount of money when we can, one who takes advantage of those additional opportunities to serve, one who prays more often and more fervently, spends those extra minutes in meditation and study, and tries a little harder each and every day. You get the picture. Let us never forget that some of our greatest successes come out of our greatest sacrifices. We've all felt that satisfaction of success after working hard at something, how much more if that something is our service to God?
People who are successful in accomplishing their spiritual goals are often the happiest people you will encounter. If you know any of them, usually they are the ones who practice the concept of selfless work, giving and sacrifice -- and then some.