The word “success” means “to move forward.” In common usage this refers to accomplishing one’s goals. The word “succession” means “to pass something forward to another.” For each of us, our personal success can be assessed by the degree to which we are moving forward. When we stop moving, we stop succeeding, we stagnate. So also, if we do not pass our successful accomplishments on to others, we ultimately fail. As someone has said, “Success without succession is failure.”
Thus, two of the most important questions we can ask ourselves are, “Am I truly continuing to progress successfully?” and, “Am I passing my success on to others, so they are able to proceed and continue the successive progress?”
If the ultimate point of success and succession is progress, then the ultimate enemy of each is regress and regression. Going backward is the obvious opposite of moving forward. But when we stop too long to admire our progress, we very subtly begin to regress. Paul understood this as he learned that single-mindedly pressing toward his ultimate goal necessitated “forgetting what lies behind” and “pressing forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
The resistance to progress, whether individually or corporately is tremendous, especially in the church. We fall so in love with our past success that our nostalgia brings stagnation and regression. Success can turn into failure very quickly, but very subtly. The Spirit keeps moving, like the wind (John 3:8) as we are left with nothing but sentimental and fading memories of the days when we once felt the wind.
Of course we should never change just for the sake of change, and we must never forget the lessons from the past. But instead of being suspicious when succession leads to change, our more legitimate concerns should arise when succession starts to look like a nostalgic attempt at repeating the past. The Spirit wants to move us forward, covering new ground. He doesn’t pine for a return to the “good old days.” He has moved on, and wants to do something better. Something new.