What success actually looks like (it might not be what you think)

Despite my best intentions, I still eat vanilla ice cream right out of the carton. I sometimes wrestle anxiety like a wild alligator. I feel confused by social media and stressed out by the news. Curled up in bed, I tell all this to Jesus one day. And I ask, “What do You want me to picture as success?” It seems the answer that comes quietly into the dark is this: faithfulness.

This is not the answer our world would give. We’d be told fame or material possessions, staying young forever or getting to sit at the cool table are markers of success. But in the Gospels, the master doesn’t say, “Well done, my good and famous servant.” He says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, emphasis mine).

This morning I read an endearingly human story about the disciples. Jesus has been crucified. Their lives are in turmoil. They’re unsure of what the future holds. Peter says, “I’m going fishing” (John 21:3). Haven’t we all had those days? We throw up our hands and say, “I’m going to get a latte,” “I’m going shopping,” or “I’m going to the gym.” We turn to what we know. The disciples fish all night and catch nothing. Then Jesus appears, although they don’t yet know it’s Him, and He tells them to let out their nets one more time. They catch so many fish, they can hardly handle them all.

This is faithfulness. It’s continuing to cast the net because Jesus says so. Even when we’ve been up all night. Even when we’re weary. Even when we’re confused. Even when we’re discouraged and want to quit. Our role is obedience; God’s role is results.

Eugene Peterson describes faithfulness as, “A long obedience in the same direction.” It’s not sexy. It doesn’t make headlines. We’re not likely to get awards, applause, or even an abundance of “likes” for it. But faithfulness is quietly, often invisibly, life altering and world changing.

I want to be faithful to Jesus for a lifetime.

I want to be faithful to use my gift of writing for a lifetime.

I want to be faithful to my husband for a lifetime.

I want to be faithful to intentionally cultivate friendships with other women for a lifetime.

One of the keys to peace is not taking on what God has never asked us to carry.

I used to think that what mattered most was growth. The difficulty with that is we can’t control growth. God alone is the One who makes things grow (see 1 Corinthians 3:6–7). We are instead invited to be faithful, to plant and water. Out of that naturally comes growth, but we don’t make it happen. That feels like a weight off our shoulders. One of the keys to peace is not taking on what God has never asked us to carry.

If you’re putting pressure on yourself today to do more, be more, achieve more, then pause and take a deep breath. Just be faithful. If you’re comparing yourself to others in life or ministry and feel you’re falling short, refocus on your own journey. Just be faithful. If you’re striving for perfection and trying to make everyone happy, let go of those unrealistic demands. Just be faithful.

We don’t need big resolutions. We don’t need to check every item off our bucket list. We don’t have to prove our worth. Instead, we can simply say, “Jesus, I will do what I can, where I am, in this moment to love You and others today. Then I will do it again tomorrow.”

That’s faithfulness. That’s powerful. That’s enough for a lifetime.

Let’s Pray

God, thank You that You invite me into faithfulness. You’re a God not of pressure but peace, not of heaviness but hope, not of relentless striving but relationship. I ask for the courage and wisdom to simply do what I can, where I am, with what I have to love You and others today. Amen.

Question for Reflection

What’s one small way you can love Jesus and others where you are, as you are, with what you have today? Share below or take time to journal your answer today.

What Your Soul Needs for Stressful Times: 60 Truths to Protect Your PeaceNew Devotional

My new devotional released last month! If you want to live with more peace and less pressure, more calm and less chaos, more worship and less worry—What Your Soul Needs for Stressful Times is for you.

More for You

How have your roles in life shaped your identity? And what happens when they change? Today on More Than Small Talk, we discuss how to not lose our true selves in our God-given roles.

About Holley

About Holley

Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author and Life Coach

I like humans, words, and good coffee. And I’d love to help you beat what’s holding you back, become all you’re created to be, and kick butt for the greater good.

Cheering you on,


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