I would like to paraphrase an interesting story about an old-timer who lived in a small rural Southeastern town near Coastal Georgia. Everyone thought he was a man of great wisdom. He sat on his front porch every evening and kept an eye on what happened in his neighborhood. He often was visited by people of the town, especially younger men and women seeking advice on matters.
One evening, a young man who was about to graduate high school walked up to the old-timer’s front porch and asked to sit down beside him. He old man said, “Sure, young man. What can I do for you?”
The young man said, “I have heard from many people that you are very wise and could possibly tell me how I can find the secret of happiness and success in my life.”
The old man was silent for quite some time before he asked the young man to follow him down the street to a nearby pond. He told the young student to take off his shoes, walk out into the pond until he was completely under water, hold his breath for as long as he could and turn and walk out of the water. The young man stayed under the water for awhile and when he was unable to hold his breath any longer, he surfaced and came out of the pond.
The old-timer asked him, “When you were under the water, what was it that you wanted more than anything else in life?”
The young man exclaimed, “I wanted a breath of air more than anything sir!”
The old-timer replied, “Young man, when you want happiness and success in life as much as you wanted that breath of air, you will have found the secret you seek.”
And so it goes for so many of us, young and older alike. We are dissatisfied with our current or past occurrences and statuses in life. We wish for something better and hope for things to be just right. We wish and dream, but don’t resolve, plan and act. We don’t seem to know what we really want and don’t seem to realize that before we can succeed, we must define our goals.
We must want something enough to formulate a plan that makes sense and provides us with the opportunity to achieve our goals. We must follow that plan each and every day, step by step, without losing focus. When we clearly can see in our own minds a picture of what our goals for success really are, that will motivate us and give us the determination we need to take action and get it done. Then we can expect to find the happiness and success we desire.
I believe many of us have been fortunate to know “an old-timer with great wisdom” in our lives. But to those of us who are Christ’s followers today, how do we combine the vision and drive mentioned above and act upon the ideas and needs we have for happiness and success God’s way? Success in today’s society seems to be measured by a set of standards established by some person or people we are exposed to. We should be aware that, according to Scripture, why and how we pursue success and happiness is just as important as whether or not we achieve it.
John the Baptist, a true street preacher of his day, stressed that without God’s ultimate criterion, our efforts could result in failure. It is as true today as when John the Baptist told the people who followed him then — the issue is not whether we pursue happiness and success, but how. It’s worth it for us to always consider who sets the standards by which we measure success, what are the motives and behavior in pursuing it and what price are we willing to pay to achieve it?
We shouldn’t forget that it is everyone’s right to do their best to achieve happiness and success. But, by all means, we must avoid wasting our opportunities in life by failing to carry out our master’s wishes like the third servant in Matthew 25: 14-30.
We must have the internal drive, desire and vision for the “secret of life” shown to the young man by the old timer but, more importantly, we must always remember that true happiness and success means faithfulness to God’s will in our lives.
If you or someone you know is struggling with issues pertaining to happiness, success, turmoil, lack or loss of direction, concern for themselves or others, wanting to learn more about God’s plan or other areas, a Stephen Minister can make a huge difference. Stephen Ministry men and women will talk, walk, support, refer and simply care about your needs in a totally confidential, one-on-one, gender-sensitive, faith-based environment. Counseling is free. All you have to do is call 912-320-7840 for an appointment. The Stephen Ministry Program is a worldwide program with more than 1 million caregivers in the United States and 29 countries.
Scherer is a crisis intervention minister and the leader of the local Stephen Ministry.