Author: David Causey, USA (Ret.)

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The United Press International reported on an amazing college graduate in California. His name is Jack Rico. He is set to graduate this week from Fullerton College. What’s so amazing about that? Jack is only 13 years old and he will graduate with not one, but four associate’s degrees. He’s already been accepted with a full scholarship to the University of Nevada and has plans to go on to graduate and doctoral work. He is the youngest person to have graduated Fullerton.

To all the others graduating this summer with associate’s degrees this report might be somewhat deflating. One could easily reason, if a 13-year-old can graduate in two years with four associate’s degrees, what’s the big deal about earning an associate’s degree? But please don’t let another person’s success make you feel like a failure or diminish the joy of your success.

Remember, first, that God’s timing for success and productivity in our lives varies greatly from person to person. Some enjoy a meteoric rise to success and productivity. Others are late bloomers, making their greatest achievements toward the end of life. And still others are perennial successes, maintaining a level of productivity throughout their lives. God has made each of us differently. There are trees and plants which bear fruit in the early to mid-summer (e.g. peach, plum, apricot, strawberries, blue berries, etc.) and there are others which bear their fruit in the fall (e.g. apples, pears, grains, etc.). In the same way different people are productive at different stages of life.

There are definite advantages of experiencing early success. It can build confidence for the rest of life. And, if your life will be a short one, at least you’ve gotten some success under your belt before leaving this world. Yet, there are also disadvantages. If your greatest successes come early in life, then everything thereafter will be overshadowed and judged by those early achievements. And for many, early success often brings temptations and pressures for which a young person is not prepared to handle. God’s plan for many in the Bible was to first prepare His servants through trial and testing before He ever used them in their life’s calling. Moses, David, and Jesus are some of the greatest examples.

Second, the classroom is often a poor indicator of how a person will do later in life. Some of the greatest successes in modern history failed to finish or even attend college. Bill Gates (co-founder of Microsoft) dropped out of Harvard yet is now, with a net worth of over $80 billion, the richest person on the planet. Other successful college dropouts include Oprah Winfrey, Dick Cheney, Scott Carpenter (astronaut), F. Scott Fitzgerald (author), David Geffen (billionaire), and John Lennon.

To be honest, for some people the classroom is pure hell. Yet those same people will thrive under the stress of competitive sports, high-pressure jobs, and the pressure of combat. I often think of the highly successful spy plane, the SR-71. In the shelter of the hangar, the SR-71 would strike you as a worthless piece of junk, incapable of reaching altitudes of 90,000 feet and sustaining speeds beyond Mach 3. In the safety of the hangar its skin was wrinkled in some places and riddled with gaps in others. It leaked fuel by the gallons. Yet, in its performance, where no other plane could go, the SR-71 was truly magnificent. Neither fighter aircraft nor surface to air missiles ever shot one down. That is the way many poor-performing students are. In the shelter of the classroom teachers brand them as failures. But in the stresses of life they flourish.

Besides all this, how do we accurately define success? In the Bible success is not defined by accumulating wealth. Just read Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 and Luke 12:13-21, where the hoarding of wealth is condemned. God did not create us to be sponges – only capable of soaking up life’s blessings. God made us to be channels of His blessings to others. Maybe you won’t be successful by this world’s standards. But if you pour out your life in serving God through serving others, then in God’s kingdom you are successful.

So never measure yourself or your performance against that of other people. God has His own distinct plan and timeline for fruitfulness for you. Just be faithful in your labors for Him and leave the impact and success of your work in God’s hands. Seek the success of hearing from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

PRAYER: Dear Father in heaven, please help me to keep my focus upon Jesus and to make it my goal to please You. I thank You for the success that You give to others and for the contributions which they will make – many which benefit me. But I also thank You that You will not evaluate me based upon their success, but upon my own faithfulness to You and my love for Your children. Please, dear Father, place in me the drive and ambition to hear from Jesus’ lips, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.

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