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Rick Warren is an evangelical leader, best-selling author, and founding and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Along with his wife, Kay, Warren founded Saddleback in 1980 with[…]

There are three levels of life; survival, success, significance.

Question: What is life?


Rick Warren: There are actually three levels of life. There’s the survival level. There’s the success level. And there’s the significance level.

Most of the world lives at the survival level – literally physically barely surviving. Most people in the world are wondering, “Am I going to get my next meal? Will there be a roof over my head? Will I make it to next weekend?”

Nobody in America lives at survival level. Even the poorest of poor are so much better off . I’ve been in the poor places around the world, and most of the world would love to have America’s problems. And they would love to be poor in America because there is a social network here that keeps us far more cared for than somebody in Darfur or in a lot of other places. So that’s the survival level.

Now in America we don’t have people physical survival, but they are at emotional survival level. A lot of people are just kind of putting in their time and living for the weekend. And they have money, but they don’t have meaning. They have prosperity, but they don’t have purpose. They have something to live on, but they don’t have anything to live for. So you have to move first from survival up to the success level. Now everybody in America, by the world’s standards, lives at the success level. And success means options. If you have any money sitting in a change; little bowl or dish in your house, or any money in your pocket, it puts you in the top 4% of people in the world in terms of wealth already. You just got to have not even a bank account – just money in a collection. And so you move to success, and in America we have enormous success among people.

But I’ve talked to thousands of people who said, “If I’m so successful Rick, why do I feel like a fake? Why don’t I feel more fulfilled? If I’m so successful, why am I not happier?” And the truth is I was made for more than success. I was made for meaning. I was made for purpose. I was made not just to live on something, but to live for something. And so we need to move people from success to significance. And significance is when you know the purposes of life and you begin to fulfill them.

First one is to know God.

The second purpose in life is to grow in God. God wants us to grow up spiritually. And that means not be spiritual babies where we go around in diapers, and we know very little about God and very little about ourselves. He wants us to grow up spiritually, and I believe that the model for that is Christ – of what mature spirituality looks like. By the way spirituality does not make you more goofy. It makes you more natural.

A lot of people think, “If I become a believer or a follower of Jesus Christ, regardless of my religious background, will I become a kook? Some kind of nutcase where I walk around; have weird hair, and wear polyester, and say “baby” and the fact is, no. The glory of God is a human being fully alive. And when God looks at you, He takes pleasure in watching you to be you. A lot of people think God only smiles at you when you’re doing religious stuff – praying, helping the poor, giving an offering, doing something else. No, no, no. God takes pleasure just watching you be you. Why? He designed you.

I have three kids. But when they were little, I would go in at night and I would sit by their bed, and I would watch them sleep. And I would just sit and watch them sleep, and I’d watch their little chests rise and lower, rise and lower, rise and lower. I got so much pleasure out of just watching my kids sleep and breathe. Why? Because I am their father and I love them. And I love them with all my heart because I created them. That’s the way God feels about you and about all of us. He enjoys watching you be you. When you do what God made you to do, He goes, “That’s my girl!” If you’re made to close deals, and you close the deal, God goes, “That’s my boy!” If you’re Michael Jackson and you can jump and shoot hoops, God’s going, “That’s the way I wired Michael Jackson to be!” He takes pleasure in watching us be what He made us to be.


Recorded on: December 11, 2007