How would it feel? That was what I found myself asking as I watched athlete after athlete receive their gold medals. How would it feel to have the whole world look on, and applaud (albeit from a great distance) in recognition of my accomplishments? Some of them beamed with joy. Others cried tears that were perhaps a combination of relief, joy and pure exhaustion. How would it feel to know you were the greatest in the world at your chosen feat?
I guess I’ll never know. By comparison, my sporting achievements are pathetic. A large number of park cricket and touch football games, which have netted me very little glory, and even less recognition! So it’s natural to dream about that kind of success. We all want to be successful. We want to make a difference in the world. Just as students enjoy the buzz of an assessment that receives a high mark, we adults enjoy the promotion or the success in our profession, or the little markers in our lives which are evidence of our achievements.
So what is the Bible’s take on success? Should we value it, or not? Well, short answer: value it by all means. But don’t worship it. What’s the difference? Doing good work in the world was part of God’s desire for us – and recognising those achievements is appropriate. Yet at the same time, it counts for nothing with God! His love for us isn’t earned by our efforts, our achievements or our victories. The story of Naaman which I shared in this week’s Senior School Chapel reminds us that the God of the Bible wants us to see that a relationship with Him is about what He can do for us – not what we can do for Him. One Aussie Olympic hero – Nicola McDermott – captured that beautifully, reflecting on her silver medal. “I realised that no gold medal could ever bring satisfaction to my heart. I discovered satisfaction was found not in a performance, but in a person”. The person she found was Jesus; the same one who can release us from our slavery to success, and enable us to joyfully use all the gifts that we have been given for the good of others, and out of gratitude to him.