Defining a Successful Life

What if it were true that a successful life is about learning to become less independent, and more dependent?

We spend our entire lives striving to become independent. Think of our children, as an example. My wife and I now have three teenagers living under our roof. On the one hand, we have rules in our home that we expect our kids to follow. We still have many lessons to teach and wisdom to share with them before they go out to take on the world. And of course, we still feed them, clothe them, and put a roof over their heads. Though they are growing quickly, there are many ways in which they still depend on us.

At the same time, we want our teenagers to grow in their independence. This means getting part-time jobs and learning to manage their time and money. It means giving them the keys to the minivan for an evening out with friends. It means preparing them for the next steps of their lives – things like university and choosing a career, moving out on their own, finding a spouse who loves Jesus and shares the same morals and values as they have been taught. We are preparing them to make some of the biggest decisions of their young lives, decisions that will affect the trajectory of their lives for many years to come.

Our natural trajectory is from dependence to independence.

Jesus once said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” How does a little child receive almost everything? With wide-eyed wonder, with unconditional love, with trust as a starting point and a faith to follow almost anywhere.

Yet how do we as adults approach almost everything? It is a sad reality that we have been conditioned to see the world through the lenses of scepticism, fear, mistrust, and doubt. We might blame what we watch on the news, or some painful past experiences for this, but the self-help aisle at any bookstore will testify to the fact that our default outlook on the world is less than positive.

The Journey from Independence to Dependence

King Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” In other words, if we give everything we do to Jesus, we can’t go wrong.

Now, I know what you’re thinking because I’ve been there. I long ago lost count of the times my plans have failed, the times when things haven’t gone quite right in my life. Maybe for you today isn’t looking so great either. So what is King Solomon getting at here?

The way we typically understand this verse goes something like this; let’s say I want to be a rockstar, even with my rapidly thinning hair and complete lack of singing ability. I practice my guitar and spend countless nights in my bedroom screaming along with the latest hits. Along the way, I keep praying something like this, Jesus, I really want to be a rockstar. So, I’m giving you my plans so you can make them happen – I commit my plans to you. And if you’ll make that happen, just think of what I can do for you! I’ll use the stage to tell people about you. All that money I will make – I’ll give a bunch of it (okay, at least some of it) to the church. How does that sound to you Jesus? Because I really like the way my plans sound to me. Do we have a deal?

We’re “committing” those plans to Jesus, so it should all work out… right?

Thankfully, this isn’t how life in the Kingdom of God works.

Success is Dependency on Jesus

Think of committing your everything you do to Jesus just like rolling a big rock up a hill, or the rolling away of the stone from the tomb; to commit to the Lord whatever we do means, literally, to roll care for, or responsibility for, all we do on to Him.

The word commit does NOT mean that we give to Jesus whatever we have already decided to do. It means letting Jesus decide what is best for us, and following his plan. It means giving Jesus the responsibility of leading us into what he has planned for us to do in this life. We give Jesus the reigns of our life, and become his followers.

The trajectory of a Jesus-centered life is from independence to dependence.

Like little children we come to Him; wide-eyed, trusting, ready to follow, because we believe that what He has for us is good. In fact not just good, but the best for us; far greater than anything we could ever plan for ourselves, accomplish by ourselves, or even dream of by ourselves.

This way of living isn’t easy, which is why Jesus described it as the narrow path. It is the way to a full and successful life. Committing everything we do to Jesus is the way to a life that matters, for now and for eternity.