For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6–8—NKJV)

Success is an easy thing to measure if you measure the meaning of your life by only one litmus test. Whether it is business, acting, investing, inventing, politicking, climbing the corporate ladder, preaching to the largest church, or what-have-you, measuring a life in one arena is quite simple and generally straight forward. Where the measure of success becomes difficult is when you try to answer the question, “Am I a successful person?”

The reason this is exponentially more difficult is because there is not one item being measured among peers; now you have launched into the deep and you are looking at the whole persona. Not only that, you are looking at the whole person from the cradle to the grave, and adding new measures with every new milestone met and surpassed. The successful parent now morphs into the successful adult friend and confidant. The successful businessman becomes the fulfilled retiree. The well-adjusted single retools himself into the shepherding husband. The sturdy soldier comfortably slips into the self-directed citizen. The unsaved rebel meets the grace of God and is warmly transformed into a loving servant. Assigning the label of success is indeed complicated.

When my children were young, I taught them several simple Bible definitions. I found that God defines success by the statement found in Matthew 25:23. A Christian must ask himself throughout his life, “Can God say to me, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’?” Certainly, God does not judge a believer through only a single lens; He sees His child as a person. He did not just die to redeem your childhood, your business career, your parenting, nor your retirement. He died so that you can say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ!” It is when we encounter the milestones in life (graduations, new jobs, marriage, childbirth, teaching/discipling opportunities, promotion, retirement, and even death) that we have the opportunity to assess with a new measure our success in the sight of the One who really matters and who always gives the greatest reward. Milestones are “restore points” for the spiritual man more than for any other individual.

Our passage is a very poignant point in the life of the Apostle Paul. He authored the words as he faced the certainty of his death. These are the words of a triumphant servant of the Most High God. In his expression of his well-rounded success, there lies the key to marking the milestones that go into the assessing of your success. Like crossing state lines on long road trips, you need to embrace, reflect, assess, and replot by God’s grace.

Paul gives three word pictures in verse seven: a wrestler, a runner, and a soldier—each from a unique vantage point that informs every man who comes after him, no matter where he is along in life’s journey, how to gauge his success as a man in the eyes of God. His words measure the stuff of which you are made. Three questions can be crafted from his words. (1 Timothy 1:18, 2 Timothy 6:12):

  • Are you enduring well? “Fight the good fight” (not a good fight, the good fight). The fight is an athletic contest, a match, a dual, a fight. The term “good” is not just picking your battles and assuring a good fight; it is rather a well-fought match to the eye of the audience because they have caught the unmistakable evidence of your studied technique and mastery of the fundamentals of the sport, fluidity in motion and well trained reflex. It is intrinsic goodness that is seen as great athleticism. In the spiritual realm it is handling oneself as a spiritual professional. This is the measure of inner quality.
  • Are you finishing well? “Finish my course” is completing the runner’s course laid out specifically for him. No one else quite has the same track as you, nor are you always in the presence of the stands. There is a great deal of the contest away from the eyes of others. Complete this course before going on to others. This is the measure of inner performance.
  • Are you treasuring well? The soldier has his orders and he cannot deviate; he must guard bravely and never shrink from the enemy. He must not corrupt his commission and must be ever vigilant. Faith is saving faith (belief), body of faith (doctrine), and living faith (obedience). This is the measure of inner fidelity.

What milestone are you reaching in your life? Use it to measure your success and replot in a God-honoring way. Trust and obey.