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David Hegg: The measure of success is significance

Ethically Speaking

Posted: December 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.

As the year nears its end, it is valuable to look back across the months and seasons to evaluate just how we have used the time given to us. Since life itself consists of a succession of moments, the most successful lives are those that use as many of those moments to accomplish what is good. But there’s the rub. Just what is good? What defines success?

At first glance, we usually think success is measured in dollars. We learn this early in life. Our growing-up years are filled with advice about working hard, getting a good job, progressing up the career ladder and accumulating wealth. But once we dig down a bit more, we find that money isn’t success. Rather, we begin to understand that money gives us the freedom to pursue what we really like to do. At this point, success takes on an entirely different definition. We come to realize that wealth allows for leisure, and with enough money we can start to enjoy things like travel, fine dining and the other pleasures we associated with having been successful in the financial area.

But there can only be so many trips, so many great meals, and so many cars, boats and vacation homes. At some point, these also begin to fade. One of the most interesting and ironic things I have learned in my association with many successful people is that, with all their wealth, and with all their capability to go where they want, do what they want and have what they want, they are often quite sad and bored to tears.

Sooner or later, we wake up to the fact that success is really measured by significance. What matters most is what will matter most, what mark we have made and what we’ll leave as our legacy. Unfortunately, those who focus on material gain too often acquire it at the cost of having lived a life of true significance. This is increasingly easy in a society that measures success mostly in terms of what we have rather than what we are.

Monday is Christmas Eve, and the following day is Christmas. Monday, all three of my children, along with their spouses and children, will arrive at our home. We’ve been looking forward to this event for some time. Every decoration my wife and I put up in the house has produced a picture in our minds as to how our grandkids would see them. We are so excited to have a houseful of people who dearly love us and one another.

On Christmas Eve, we’ll all head to Grace Baptist Church for a candlelight service filled with carols, the reading of the biblical Christmas story, and the many hugs and smiles of our splendid church family. Then, on Christmas morning, we’ll make the coffee, and find some breakfast snacks as the kids plead with us to hurry toward the opening of presents. I will take some time to remind our family, by reading from the Bible, that God is the great promise keeper, and that the birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of centuries of promises, symbols, prophecies, hopes and dreams. Then, when the children are almost to their bursting point, we’ll start a beautiful few hours of watching as each package is opened, presented, tried on, turned on and fully appreciated.

I hope you can get a glimpse of how grand and glorious it will be to be in our home. And as we watch my children — all of whom have married so well! — my wife and I will realize once again that we have been privileged to find the greatest success and the greatest significance. True success is found in having what you need, enjoying a company of people who truly love you, and finding the time to enjoy both to the fullest.

And there is one more component. True success is found in living lives of significant influence that take the legacy of truth and conviction passed down from our parents and watch as the next generation comes to understand their necessary value. It’s time we stop measuring success in terms of possessions and portfolios, and got back to strengthening our society by securing the home. We can start by returning the promise keeping God of Christmas to his rightful place as Lord of our lives. Merry Christmas!

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. “Ethically Speaking” runs every Sunday.


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