June 28th, 2017
#iCONVICTION (The Success of the Soul): Cape May County Herald

(Actual Column Online) I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, maybe because it’s graduation season, and since I work with youth, the obvious topic of discussion is ‘What are you doing now that school is out or where are you going to college?’

I can't help but look back through the window of my own past and have some very strong feelings beginning with the questions: Is it worth it to gain status and success, yet only to lose your soul through the process?

What you are doing may look like progress, but success alone as the bottom-line can actually be destructive. Progression is commonly looked at as any advancement in life.  Diploma. Scholarship. Degrees. Certifications. Promotions. Higher salaries…

I progressed through 16 years of schooling and obtained a scholarship, which resulted in a degree in Business Administration from Temple University.

Progression?  Maybe by the world’s standards but personally and eternally, not so much. And that is because I was moving up at my soul’s expense.

The world has us believing that progress is chronologically linked with success. Think about it. “Years involved” in striving to advance only makes one tenured or scholarly or masterly.  But if that next stage of “progression” is the ends to the progressive means, I wonder, is the desire to progress controlling you or are you controlling it?

I don’t know, but I know this: Whatever we choose to serve becomes our master, even progression.

Outward success does not equal inward progress. So, is there a right type of success and progression? These days I look to a different paradigm to examine that question.

Progression can’t only mean “chronologically moving forward in success or advancing to another stage of an outward development process.”  Because if so, how then did Jesus rise well above His contemporaries?

How did He progress with His life when it ended up hanging on a cross?  At the time, the propagators of theology, royalty, and nobility had ridiculed that He was nothing more than a carpenter; therefore they refused to stop their “progression” and appetite for "succession" to hear Him. They progressed in the world at their souls' expense. 

Consider this: Jesus was not schooled, nor did He sit at the feet of great rabbis. He did not climb the corporate ladder, nor did He spend more than three years in His work.

Progression then had nothing to do with advancing chronologically or succeeding materially and everything to do with developing maturity, success of the soul.

Thus, no matter how much one may gain in this world, without Christ, they have nothing. No matter how much one may lose in this world, with Christ, they have everything. True progress and success in the soul.

[ED. NOTE: Matthew Maher is a former professional athlete and author of the books "U MAY B THE ONLY BIBLE SOMEBODY READS: R U LEGIBLE?" & “Imprisoned by Peace.” His “Decisions Determine Destiny” assemblies are funded by State Farm and service youth in the tristate area. He is the President of Soldiers for Faith Ministries and also the Director of Student Ministries at Coastal Christian Ocean City. He served four years and seven months in N.J. State prison and was released August 2014. You can learn more at Follow him on Twitter @mattmaherstory and Instagram @matthewmaher7.] 

"22 years at AHS and the best speaker I ever saw was @mattmaherstory. Great speaker, great message. I think they heard you."
@SebastianMarino Audubon High School
"I'd rather stand alone with Jesus than sit in a crowd without Him."
- Matthew Maher