The Greatest Gift

2016 has been a fascinating year, and, as we approach the New Year, I have already started reflecting on some of the major events of the year. Probably the most significant are the blessings that I received by being engaged with “successful people”.  I put quotation marks around “successful people” because the term success can mean a wide variety of things.How much do you care about others.

As a Christian, the primary measure of my “success” is defined by relationship with, trust in, surrender to and love for our Lord, Jesus Christ. As I follow, obey, love and listen to our Lord, our Creator, he will take on us paths with unexpected twists and turns. But the closer we stay with him, the more we trust and worship him, the more likely that we will thrive and receive His blessings.  He will make our paths straight.

Success can be measured by motive and what is really within our heart. Life is full of good intentions. Yet it is often said that the “road to hell is paved with good intention.”  Good intentions without action, leads to wishful thinking and eventually to nowhere.  In this context good intentions are always passive. What we need is to live a life of being intentional. Simply rephrasing the word produces action, purpose, definiteness and a sense of probability.

The Greatest Gift is the gift of giving.

But here’s the thing: “The key to intentional living is making daily actions focused on making a difference, large or small, in someone else’s life.” John Maxwell (Intentional).  Success is not about us.  It is about others.

My favorite movie of the Christmas season is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. The story of George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), who gave up his hopes and dreams in order to stay home and follow in his father’s footsteps. George Bailey wanted to conquer the world and create his own success and legacy.  He did not want to follow in the footsteps of his father. And yet he stayed in Bedford Falls. He put his hopes and dreams on hold in order to preserve what his father had established.  Along the way, George Bailey served others and successfully provided opportunities for the people of Bedford Falls to thrive and achieve the American Dream. George gained the friendship, allegiance, love and respect of his family and the townspeople. By foregoing his hopes and dreams he saved the town. George Bailey did not fully appreciate what he had accomplished until the end of the movie.  By making a difference, large or small, in someone else’s life, George Bailey was a success.

Did you know that the original title of the movie was not “It’s a Wonderful Life”? The story derived from a short story inserted into a Christmas card. The writer (Phillip Van Doren Stern) was unable to make it home for Christmas and being separated from family and friends, wrote a letter about “The Greatest Gift”.  The gift of friendship, of love, of service to others.

John Maxwell’s assertion reminded me of that story and struck me as absolutely true. A simple shift of focus, from ourselves to others, will make the difference between not meeting your goals and succeeding beyond your wildest dreams.

One final thought.  George Bailey did not intend to follow in his Father’s footsteps but he did.  And the legacy he left is similar to the legacy that we leave when we follow in our “Father’s” footsteps.  Whether we travel willingly or unwillingly, the legacy is His.

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