FamilyLife Today® Podcast

What is Real Success?

with Tim Kimmel | September 26, 2006
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Today on the broadcast, Tim Kimmel, a father of four and author of the book Raising Kids for True Greatness, defines real success according to the Scriptures.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Tim Kimmel, a father of four and author of the book Raising Kids for True Greatness, defines real success according to the Scriptures.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Tim Kimmel defines real success according to the Scriptures.

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What is Real Success?

With Tim Kimmel
September 26, 2006
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Bob: Given the choice, as a parent, would you rather that your children were successful or truly great?  Here is Dr. Tim Kimmel to help you think that through.

Tim: True greatness is a passionate love for Jesus Christ that shows itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others.  But let me tell you this -- that when you aim your kids at true greatness, all that success stuff that most parents want -- most of the time God throws that in for free.  That just becomes more of a foregone conclusion of a life well lived, a life lived effectively, extraordinarily.  But the difference is they didn't need any of that stuff to feel complete, and now they're able to actually enjoy it and steward it properly.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, September 26th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  As we raise our children, it's important to know what the first things are and make sure we get first things first.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  Knowing that …

Dennis: I've been reading a book here recently …

Bob: You just interrupted me.

Dennis: I did.  Did you have something …

Bob: No, no, by all means, it's your program.  Please, Mr. Rainey, go ahead.  All I was going to say is that knowing we were going to have Tim Kimmel on the program this week, I brought in five pages' worth of questions that I wanted to ask him and, so far, we've gotten to two of them.  So we could be here a while.

Dennis: It does feel like a slow-pitch softball.

Bob: T-ball …

Dennis: Toss it up, and he whacks it out of the park.

Bob: What have you been reading?

Dennis: I've been reading -- well, I was wondering why they'd call anybody "Merriam Webster" -- Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

Bob: Oh, just, in your spare time?

Tim: It's better than reading the phone book.

Dennis: The 10th edition, that's exactly right, and you guys saw me.  I opened it up …

Bob: Right.

Dennis: Directly to the page that I wanted to go to.

Bob: Well, bully for you.

Dennis: I wanted to open …

Bob: I'm sorry, you interrupted me, I got thrown off my rhythm.  But, please, go ahead.

Dennis: You know what, Bob.

Bob: It's your program.

Dennis: I change everything I'm saying here, go back and introduce the broadcast the way you wanted to, and I'll save this for later.  I'm getting in the way of …

Bob: I want to hear about what you …

Dennis: What you wanted to -- what you wanted to do, Bob.

Bob: The Merriam Webster …

Dennis: I'm paying for it too much and the cost is way too high.

Bob: Please, please, tell us what you opened the dictionary to.

Dennis: Well, the word is "great."  Now, if you think about it, what's the definition of "great?"  Tim?  Tim Kimmel joins us on FamilyLife Today.

Tim: Yes.

Dennis: Tim, you've written a book about this.  What's the definition of "great?"

Tim: As far as great kids?

Dennis: Just give me the definition, because I'm afraid I won't get the microphone back if …

Tim: No, no, no, no.

Dennis: … if you answer on "great kids."

Tim: You know what?  Something that's better than good, better than successful, something that stands out on its own.

Bob: I’m not going to even try.  I want to know what Merriam said.

Tim: I want to hear what Merriam had to say.

Dennis: It is "huge, notably large in size, remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness."  Now, when you think about that, as you think about living a great life, living a huge life …

Tim: A remarkable life …

Dennis: … an effective life.  The question is, what is the measurement of effectiveness?  Or what is the measurement of huge?  Tim, earlier, we were talking together, and as you were talking, I was thinking, you know, Hebrews 11 gives a list of people who lived and walked by faith, and the description in there doesn't use the word "great," but it said these were men of whom the world

Tim: … was not worthy.

Dennis: Right.

Tim: Right.

Dennis: They lived "great" lives, and that's what you've written about in your book.

Tim: I refer to that passage in this book because that's a great example -- that their parents may not have gotten them into the best schools, and they didn't have a great SAT, but, boy, they turned the world upside down by the reasons why they were living their life and who they were living their life for.  And, see, because of the way the world programs us to measure our effectiveness as parents, we fall into that trap of thinking if we don't have these really beautiful kids that are very smart and well set up academically, they're going to get these big jobs that are well known, and they really wield a lot of influence out there, then we have failed.  We're stuck with these average kids.

 But I tell the story in this book, "Raising Kids for True Greatness," of one couple, and they were foreigners in a city that was very hostile to them, and they raised a kid, and they've tried to do their best to pour God's heart into him.  He was kind of taken on by some wealthy citizens and set up for Ivy League school and all that stuff, but he had a temper problem.  He got in trouble with the law, he fled, and he's on the lam.  And you're thinking, "What a waste." 

 I tell another couple who was infertile, they prayed like mad to conceive.  They finally got this kid, they poured their heart and their love into him.  He became this kind of a critic of public policy and vented a lot of his frustration on the powers that be so much so that he was in prison and ultimately executed.

 I tell of another couple who were in love.  They were going to get -- they were engaged to be married and then she got pregnant but not by him, and he had to make that hard decision -- should I marry her or not, and there was a lot of public scorn.  And you think, well, talk about three train wrecks in a row, and how in the world can you come out with great people out of this?  But the first couple raised Moses.  The second couple raised John the Baptist.  The third couple raised the Lord Jesus.  And so greatness is not measured in the Bible the way we measure it.  And because we get off course here, we can spend a lot of great time, valuable time, crucial time, spinning our wheels, aiming our kids at nothing.

Dennis: I don't know who said it, but someone said man measures true greatness by putting a tape measure around a person's head.  God measures greatness by putting a tape measure around our hearts.  What He wants is, He wants us, first of all, to give our hearts to Him so that we're about living great lives.  But then He wants to turn that infectious love into a generational relay race where we raise a generation who have hearts that are large, huge, effective for Jesus Christ.  We raise a generation of children who are great.

Bob: You talk about not unconditional love, but you talk about uncorrupted love as you talk about what parents need to be modeling and giving for their children.  What do you mean by "uncorrupted love?"

Tim: Well, see, I like to define love this way -- it's a commitment of my will to your needs and best interests regardless of the cost.

Dennis: Say that again.

Tim: Love is a commitment of my will to your needs and best interests regardless of the cost.  It is not in the needs and best interests of our children to aim them at empty success -- things that only reward them here on earth and cause them to live their lives basically for their own self interest.  If we are people of faith, we must be raising our kids to embrace a holy, magnificent, awesome God and let Him put His love and passion and grace through them and spill over in everything they do.  They can still go out and become doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs.  They can still be professional athletes and gain great respect and notoriety in the world sense, but they didn't set out to gain any of that.  That just happens to be what they were putting -- gifted on earth to do.  But that's not what they lived their life for.

Bob: So you're not saying that greatness means you can't have success, you're just saying that you don't aim for success.  You aim for greatness, and you take what God blesses you with.

Tim: Well, let me tell you one of the punch lines of the book now -- instead of waiting until later.  You know, I said that true greatness is a passionate love for Jesus Christ that shows itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others.  We have not yet described the four qualities that you build into your kids, but we'll do that in a few moments.  But let me tell you this -- that when you aim your kids at true greatness, all that success stuff that most parents want -- wealth, beauty, power, fame -- most of the time God throws that in for free.  That just becomes more of a foregone conclusion of a life well lived, a life lived effectively, extraordinarily.

 But the difference is, they didn't need any of that stuff to feel complete, and now they're able to actually enjoy it and steward it properly.  But the problem is, when I live my life for wealth then I'm never satisfied.  When I live my life for beauty, my beauty starts to fade or my wife starts to fade, we're in trouble.  When I live my life …

Bob: By the way, I've noticed that happening with you.

Tim: With you -- fortunately, Darcy's -- her beauty is staying stronger than ever, but her eyes are failing, that's good.  And so …

Dennis: Don't you appreciate Bob pointing that out about you, Tim?

Tim: Thanks.

Dennis: I thought I'd pass that along.

Tim: Once again, you know, it's friends like these -- can I tell you a story about a professional athlete that I ran across that I thought just so illustrated this.  Darcy and I were on a plane, and we were riding in the nice seats in the front of the plane flying from Dallas to Tampa.

Bob: Cashing in some frequent flyer miles, right?

Tim: Absolutely.  I travel a lot, so I get to turn those things into a comfortable seat every once in a while.  Halfway through the flight, a man stood up, he turns around and cases the place.  Looked around and approached what he thought was the most beautiful girl in the front of the plane, which was Darcy, and she was.  Got down on one knee beside her so his face was right next to her ear, and he whispered in her ear, "Hey, beautiful lady, do you know who I am?"

Bob: This is somebody talking to your wife?

Tim: To my wife on a plane.

Dennis: With you sitting next to her?

Tim: I'm sitting right next to her.  And she turned around and looked, and she said, "I'm sorry, I don't recognize you."  And his countenance fell, he said, "I'm the great Bobby Hayes."  And then she turned to me, and I looked over, I said, "Oh, Darcy, this guy was one of the greatest wide receivers for Dallas Cowboy history.  He was there when we were in grad school.  We saw him play."  And he was so glad to be recognized.  He stood up, and he shook both of our hands, and then he went on to tell his resume.  You know, he set the world record in the relay at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, and he tied the world record in the 100, and then he reached in his blazer pocket, and he took out his gold medal from the Olympics in 1964.

Dennis: He was carrying it with him?

Tim: Carrying it with him.  He put it right in front of Darcy's face, and she held it in her hands, and she studied it some, and then she looked up this faded ribbon, I mean, it was just all faded from the years, into this man's poor bloodshot eyes, and this is Bobby Hayes.  He said, "I'm Bobby "The Bullet" Hayes, I'm the fastest man in the world.  Well, this fastest man in the world looked like he was going to need a walker and a good, stiff belt of whiskey to hit on a pretty girl.  Bobby "The Bullet" Hayes looked more like a spent casing.  I mean, the reason I did not just take this guy and clean -- I pitied him.

 Anyway, she looked up this ribbon at this man's bloodshot eyes and said what I think you're supposed -- "Boy, that's a beautiful medal.  I'm glad we got to meet you, Bobby, and see your medal."  And then when he was satisfied that we recognized who he was, he went to the curtain, and we could hear, very clearly, him go to the first people in the front of the coach section -- "Do you know who I am?"  And then he went on, and he introduced himself all the way down to the coach section.

 Here is a man who had all the accolades of success.  I remember when I was in grad school.  I mean, you'd go into the restaurants and the bars in Dallas, there's this poster, and kids had it in their room.  This is what you wanted your son to grow up to be, like Bobby Hayes, and now look at him.  He was just falling apart, and he had to live on the accolades of something that happened decades earlier.

 I have a friend named Dan Bowlen [sp], who lives down in Texas, and he'd gone out to Texas A&M to run a 10K race.  Now, Dan Bowlen wasn't the fastest man in the world.  He was more like the slowest man in the world.  He wasn't sure, but he wanted to see if he could find that guy and pace him.  He was just there just to kind of finish the race.

 And the race was staging right there behind Kyle Field, the big football stadium where the Aggies play football, and he was stretching out like you do before a 10K, but he noticed kind of a stir over by the wall, and it was these people that had started to crowd around somebody, and he thought maybe somebody had fallen or was ill, and went over to see what they were crowding around.  It was a huge dumpster in order to look, and there in the dumpster were hundreds and hundreds of trophies and plaques from the Athletic Department.  They were sitting there waiting for the truck to come and take them away, and apparently what they'd done is they'd gone through and needed to make room for a new generation of champions and heroes, and so they took all these things that were worked hard for and once held with pride for a photo op by a champion, and now they were waiting for a truck to take them away, and he's running the race, and the whole time he's there, he's thinking "I wonder how many things I've worked so hard for, so many trophies and awards in my life, are waiting for eternity's dumpster to come along and crush them to powder."

 And, you see, when we live our life, we, the people of faith, the people of the way, the truth, and the life, go and live our lives and aim our kids at a future that is only about them, we miss the biggest opportunity to make our greatest impact as human beings by transferring to a new generation a life greater than life.

Dennis: One of the greatest privileges a human being can be given is to be called "Daddy" or "Mommy."  And then to shape that life or, if God blesses, lives, toward the right harbor, toward the right finish line, and what you're exhorting us to do is to do that and do it well but to make sure you picked the right objective, the right goal. 

 And as I think about greatness, and I think about our Savior, who I think we ought to consider to be the ultimate yardstick …

Tim: … absolutely …

Dennis: … the One who is the measurement of what true greatness is all about -- Jesus Christ has had greater influence upon the planet than any person who has ever walked the face of the earth.  But Jesus gave us two commands that had the world "great" in front of them.  One is the Great Commandment, which really encompasses what you just defined as true greatness -- love God and love others. 

 But, secondly, He also commanded us with the Great Commission, which is the greatest task a person can be given, and I think if parents will pull back, and they'll look at their children and take nothing more than just those two commands of Jesus Christ, which, really, there's three -- the Great Commission to go to the world with the Gospel and make disciples; but, secondly, to love God and to also love their neighbor.  That, in itself, will help your child really achieve true greatness.  And that's what you're about in your book.  You're calling parents to recalibrate not according to the world but according to Scripture and to shape their children toward true greatness.

Tim: And, in the process, they subordinate all these other things that the world worships, like wealth and beauty and power and fame.  They subordinate those to this higher calling of greatness.  These things have their place if they happen by default.  In other words, they just happen because it's just the way the gene pool made them look like Angelina Jolie or, you know, they just happen to have a Midas touch, or whatever.  But that's not what they were living their life for.

 And, by the way, this is great news for the bulk of the people listening, because most of us basically are average.  Now, we like to think we're above average, but the bulk of us -- most people don't get to stand on the top rung at the Olympics.  I always think, if you look at the thousands that march in, how many get the gold medals?  Just 100, maybe less.  But, still, it's part of the fun of just being there and participating.  And, see, God isn't measuring it by that, anyway.

 And we've got to remember that we're going to heaven someday, and we're giving an account, and He wants to reward us in heaven, and it's not going to be based on how much money we made, how good-looking we were, any of that stuff -- how well known we were.  It was how faithful we were.

Bob: And I had to think, as you were talking about Bobby Hayes' Olympic medal or about those plaques and trophies that were in the dumpster at Texas A&M, I had to think about the imperishable wreath, the crowns that will be given in eternity that will never wind up in a dumpster but instead will wind up at the feet of the Savior in honor and blessing for Him, and the ribbon won't fade on those medals like it did on Bobby Hayes'.  And we work really hard for the stuff here that winds up in the dumpster and ignore, too often, the eternal reward that Christ has promised us.

Tim: You know what we're forgetting, too, in this whole thing, because what you just said there, Bob, reminded me of something, is we're forgetting the joy factor because, you see, when you live your life for others, and you live your -- it's a pouring out of your incredible love for God, and it just -- the way He lives through you, there's great joy in that.

 The joy isn't in the paycheck, the joy isn't in the notoriety.  It's just the fact that you can be used by God in other people's lives.  Dennis, you were talking about Jesus, you know, being the top of the line on this, and yet how much did Jesus get paid while He was here to go die on a cross?  You know, He wasn't making much money here, and if Isaiah 53 is talking about His looks even before He was crucified.  He wasn't necessarily much to look at; He wasn't some Brad Pitt.  And as far as back in those days, He wasn't famous as much as He was notorious.

 And as far as power goes, well, they just felt like -- because He worked in submission to all the forces out there, including His own parents at times, they just thought He was just another guy.  But once He rose from the dead, we reset the clock, and it's now Anno Domini, the year of our Lord.

 We are raising kids who have an eternal life and an eternal purpose that is going to be played out in time-space here, and we cannot miss this great opportunity. 

Dennis: I think if a parent is listening right now and hasn't gotten it, Tim, this probably isn't going to help, but maybe this question will help just finish nailing it.  If your child came to you and said, "Mommy, Daddy, how can I become a great man?"  "How can I become a great woman?"  How would you answer him, or how would you answer her?

Tim: I would say, "You need to embody four things, and they all really are encompassing the last one.  You need to have a humble heart, a grateful heart, a general heart, and a servant's heart.  And you do those four things; you will be extraordinary.  There is absolutely no stopping the impact you will make."

Bob: You unpack all four of those in your book, and we want to spend time the rest of this week unpacking those as well.  But I think you've hit on four things that really define biblical greatness.  Again -- humility, gratefulness, generosity, and servanthood -- if somebody does embody the four of those, they are on the path for the kind of a life that God looks at and says, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

 We've got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  It's called "Raising Kids for True Greatness," and I think no matter where we are, whether we're just starting in this process or whether we've got teenagers and we're on the homeward stretch, this is a book that helps us reevaluate and realign our thinking.  In fact, I went out to dinner recently with my wife and just one of our five kids.  It just happened to be a time when everybody else was busy, so the three of us went out for dinner, and I reviewed the four things you just talked about with my youngest son, David.  I talked about greatness looking like a humble heart, a generous heart, a grateful heart, and a servant's heart because that's what I want him to embody as he grows into manhood.

 I want to encourage our listeners, get a copy of this book.  I think it's an important book to help us make sure we're aiming at the right thing as we raise our children.  You can go to our website,  You will see a red button in the middle of the screen that says "Go," and if you click on that button, it will take you to a page where you can get more information about Tim Kimmel's book, "Raising Kids for True Greatness."  You can order online, if you'd like.  In fact, we have, along with that book, another book you've written called "Fifty Ways to Really Love Your Kids," and any of our listeners who want to order both of these books, we'll be happy to send along at no additional cost the two-CD series that features this week's programs on this subject. 

 So, again, go to the website,  Click the red "Go" button in the middle of the screen.  You can order online or get more information if you need to, or call us.  The number is 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Someone on our team will answer any questions you might have about these resources, or they'll make arrangements to have the materials sent out to you.

 Let me ask you to do us a favor, if you would, when you get in touch with us here at FamilyLife.  I want to ask you to consider making a donation, a financial contribution, to help with the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We're listener-supported.  Folks who listening to this program are the ones who call or go online or write to us to make a donation, and they're the folks who help keep this program on the air in this city and in cities all across the country.  You need to know that more than 60 percent of the annual revenue that we need in order to continue the operation of this ministry comes from folks like you who make those donations.  So your support financially is a significant part of what keeps this ministry going. 

And this week, if you're able to help with a donation of any amount, we'd love to send you a thank you gift.  It's a two-CD series, an interview we did with Shaunti Feldhahn, the author of a book called "For Women Only," which is a book that looks inside the heart of a husband to help a wife understand what's going on in there, and what can I do to help encourage and support and respect my husband?

 The two CDs that feature that interview with Shaunti Feldhahn are our way of saying thank you when you make a donation of any amount during the month of September.  You can do that online at  Just go to our home page, along the left side you'll see a button that says "Donate."  You click that button, and as you fill out your donation form, there will be a keycode box.  When you get to that, type in the word "women," and we'll know that you want to have these CDs sent to you, and we'll get them out to you.  Or call 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  You can make a donation over the phone and be sure to ask about the CDs when you call, and we'll be happy to send them to you.  Again, we want to say thanks for your financial support, and we appreciate your partnership with us.

 Tomorrow we're going to be back with Dr. Tim Kimmel.  We're going to continue to explore what we can do as parents to make sure our children are headed in the right direction with the right priorities as we raise them.  I hope you can be with us for that conversation. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 

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