Journeying Toward a Life of Significance
March 16, 2021
by Krystal Mattox, DDS
“You want to be a dentist?! Ohhkayyy Doc, you’re going to be so successful!” I heard some variation of this comment countless times while pursuing my studies of becoming a dentist. Today when I introduce myself in a non-medical setting, I casually say I work in dentistry. If the conversation progresses further, the individual may learn I am a dentist. Then they are wowed by the fact that I am so young to be a doctor, they assume I am successful and often comment on how proud my family must be given my success. Of course, the inevitable question of, “When are you going to open your practice?” comes along, as if to suggest there is yet another layer of success to be attained.
I have no problem with these questions, and I know they come from what society typically deems successful—individuals who are financially stable with great careers and can afford a nice car, home(s), etc. However, is that true success? When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, I did all I could to make certain I was a strong candidate for dental school. As my faith began to deepen, I understood that my identity and self-worth could not be consumed in anything other than Christ! You see, I wanted to be a dentist from the age of 10, thus a lot of my adult life was spent pursuing this goal of mine. At 13 years old, I began to understand the gospel and surrendered my life to Christ; however, I felt that when I became a dentist then I would be successful enough for Jesus to use me. Nothing could have been further from the truth, because if I never got into dental school would I have been doomed to a life of mediocrity, never to be used by Christ? The answer is a resounding “No!” and the same is true for you. God does not need your family to be perfect, your career to be established or your finances to be stable before He can use you.
We are not on this earth to chase societal success, which is often wrapped up in our vocation, our family, our job, our finances, our health, our relationships and so forth. Rather, our lives have a purpose when we submit to God’s will for us, when we are open to growing ourselves to become more like Christ and when we are willing to serve others for His name’s sake. It is when we sell out to Jesus Christ that we move from a life of success to a life of significance.
In the process of taking our focus off ourselves, we can live a life of significance, which may include some societal successes such as great relationships, health, family, job, finances, etc. that are not bad on their own merit. I am merely suggesting our identity cannot be consumed by these things nor our life goal be the pursuit of these things. If we care only about our earthly success, we will never be satisfied, nor will we truly impact others. I challenge you to think about your journey thus far and ask yourself, are you living a life of earthly success or heavenly significance?
What’s the difference you may ask? John Maxwell really captures this concept well as he describes five key differences between success and significance which stem from our motives, influence, time, focus and reward. He writes:
With success, my motives may be selfish, with significance my motives cannot be selfish.
With success influence is limited, with significance, our influence is unlimited.
Success can last a lifetime; influence can last several lifetimes.
With success, I ask the question how can I add value to myself? With significance, I ask how can I add value to others?
If I pursue success, my joy is the result of my success; If I pursue significance, my joy is the result of other’s success.
As you reflect on whatever success in life you have had so far, how can you shift to now living a life of significance? Who is in your life or who might you meet where you have no agenda other than to add value, enhance their life and positively influence that person to be all that God has called them to be; to use your time for a heavenly mission as opposed to only earthly gain, creating a reward that is more valuable than any earthly possession?
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21, NKJV).
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:26-27, NKJV).