What does success look like?
People answer that question in so many different ways. Those answers might be about money, children, fame, relationships, or many other things. The same person might even give different answers at different times in his life. I want to share a few thoughts on what I believe success truly means. It has to do with the kind of legacy you will leave behind.
My dad’s family, the Ashers, were poor, uneducated, law-breaking, and violent. They always seemed to be fighting. As a child, I witnessed my uncle stab and cut into the belly of another uncle, whose belt saved him from worse injury or even death. My wife, Andrea, first experienced the chaos of my family early in our marriage when she was pregnant with our firstborn, Alex. We went to my grandpa’s funeral, and all the uncles and aunts were there. One uncle was released from jail for the occasion. He was serving time for arson. That night, after the service, we gathered at Grandma’s trailer. All of a sudden, I saw one inebriated uncle chasing my dad with a shotgun. He pointed it directly at Dad’s chest before my brother and I were able to wrestle it away from him.
Andrea gathered the small children and hurried them to a back room for safety. My aunt fired another gun into the air to stop the chaos. So, you see, my family didn’t have a legacy of seeking God’s plans for our lives. But because of the Lord’s work in my grandma and my mom, a new legacy was being formed. Because of them, I knew God had a plan for my life. I didn’t know what it was, but just knowing that much gave me hope.
Dreams within dreams
Mark Batterson writes about dreams within dreams. One person’s dream is born out of another person’s dream. It’s a ripple effect, part of someone’s legacy. Only God knows how far those ripple effects will go. My grandma had a dream of telling everyone she knew about the God she loved. That birthed a dream in my mom to see her children come to faith in the Lord and to do something for his glory. My dream of following Jesus deeper and deeper into his purpose for the world and for my life grew out of Mom’s dream for us. So when I look back at my family, even as I am aware of all the brokenness and chaos and darkness that surrounded us, what really catches my attention is the faithfulness of my mom and grandma. I look back in gratitude and wonder and awe at what God did in our family.
Today I like to think of my story as the story of 2 Timothy 1:5. Paul says to his protégé, Timothy, about his legacy of faith: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” I have a debt of gratitude to my mother and grandmother for sharing the Gospel with me. I shared that same Gospel with my own children, and as they start to raise their own families, they will share the Gospel with their children. The legacy of faith continues!
What Will You Treasure Most?
As I write this, I’m looking back on more than fifty years of life and almost fifty years of following Jesus. I excelled at football and left my poor, uneducated family background behind for a scholarship and an education at a top-tier university. I worked as an engineer and earned a master’s degree. Now I’m the president of a growing nonprofit organization serving the Lord in global missions. But when I consider my greatest treasures, what comes to mind isn’t an accomplishment or a career success. Those are all signs of the Lord’s grace and goodness, but what really fills my heart is the fact that I’ve been on this incredible journey with God, and he has taken care of me and my family through it all.
God made it clear to me early on that if I would follow him and take my family along with me, he would take care of all our needs. Looking at my kids now, I believe the evidence is there: my five children love and support each other; they are married to wonderful, godly spouses; two of them have children so far; all are successfully pursuing careers; and most importantly, all are serving the Lord.
ANM is a Treasure
Here’s one of the things I treasure most: As part of my work with Advancing Native Missions, I have the privilege of traveling to other countries to see firsthand the missions work taking place. Twice I have taken my oldest, Alex, with me. One of those trips was to Mongolia in 2015. There, we met the Korean missionary who had almost single-handedly ignited the growth of the Mongolian church after the fall of communism in the early 1990s. Since he started making disciples in that country, the number of believers skyrocketed from fewer than ten in 1992 to well over 50,000 today. We visited a number of different Mongolian churches during our trip there, and those believers are on fire for the Lord! What a blessing for me to witness their passion for the Lord alongside my son.
Invincible Joy is being in the Lord’s presence and care in the midst of whatever the world throws at you. With that in mind, I guess I’d say that is what success looks like: going where the Lord leads and taking your loved ones with you. In other words, it’s sharing Invincible Joy with those around you. I look forward to sharing more experiences like Mongolia with my children and even my grandchildren as we walk with the Lord together in the years to come.