There is an amazing transition taking place in a segment of the American population. The past years have seen a significant number of adults on a quest to move from success to significance. This particular generation has acquired more possessions, position and power than any in history. It set its sights on achieving success and, for the most part, hit the bull’s-eye. But that success has done little to fill the emptiness of the human heart. Sadly, this successful generation also leads all others in such things as divorce, suicide, addictions and loneliness.
This unsatisfying success has brought about a search… a search for meaning in life, a search for some semblance of significance. By no means is this search something new. Look at Daniel 4; we find one of the most successful men in all of recorded history. King Nebuchadnezzar is on center stage. He had achieved more power and wealth, accompanied by all that goes along with those things, than most people dream about in their wildest imaginations. We are about to observe his own personal journey from success to significance when he came to the ultimate conclusion that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (v. 17).
The way up
One of the problems for our Western culture today is that too many people still believe significance exists in direct proportion to one’s perceived successes in life. Many still look for significance in all the wrong places. We think, perhaps subconsciously, that if we just work harder and do better than anyone else, we will find significance in life. So, we focus on selling more policies or products, getting a bigger home in a better neighborhood, driving a fancier car, getting our kids into the best schools, doing anything that builds bigger kingdoms for ourselves.
Our culture has been permeated by this success syndrome for decades now. Look in the bookstores. Those books on the top shelf teach you to become the greatest. They tell you, “The way up… is up! Promote yourself. Think positive. You are the best!” But we are about to see that Nebuchadnezzar is exhibit A of the fallacy of this philosophy. In fact, his story is recorded in Daniel for all posterity to see that, in reality, the way up is actually down!
A thousand voices in our culture have been telling us in a thousand ways to build up our self-confidence, but the Bible is telling us to “have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Our culture says, “Don’t be afraid to promote yourself,” but the Bible says quite the opposite. It instructs us to crucify ourselves, to die to self (Galatians 2:20). The culture shouts at us, “You must increase!” but John the Baptist’s words still echo through the centuries: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The culture also proclaims: “Never be satisfied with what you have or where you are.” These words are heard in a multitude of motivational meetings. But the Bible still instructs us through the words of Paul to learn, in “whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Our culture is cheering, “You’re number one! You’re number one!” while our Bible calls us to humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6).
Success or significance
What about you? Are you on a search for success… or a search for significance? As the verses of Daniel 4 unfold before us, we see an amazing transformation in King Nebuchadnezzar. Listen to him as he pounds his chest and boasts, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). Those are the words of a man standing in the spotlight, consumed with his own self-importance and success. But a few verses later, listen to the proof of his startling transformation from success to significance: “Now, I Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (v. 37).
Those are actually the last words of one of the most ingenious and innovative, powerful and productive men who ever lived. He left us a lasting legacy. He not only passed form success to significance in this one chapter, but he left us his own story to show us the way to this invaluable discovery in life — that the way down is up and the up is down.
Like Nebuchadnezzar, we have that same choice. We can base our self-worth on our success and our ability to achieve goals and acquire stuff in life so that others take notice. Or we can base our sense of worth on significance that is only found in the place this king found his: in our identity in the Lord Himself, who set us apart since we were in our mother’s womb for a purpose that no one can fulfill quite like we can. Now, that’s significance!
Taken from The Daniel Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2016 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.
O.S. Hawkins has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books, and regularly speaks to business groups and churches all across the nation. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the entire Code series go to support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
Read more articles by Dr. O.S. Hawkins at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/o-s-hawkins/