This world defines success in a number of ways, but these all seem to center around accomplishments, achievements, power, clout, and other outward gains. All too often these same ideas form the basis of what we think of as “successful” in the church as well. We can be overcome by the pressure to move up the rungs of the leadership ladder, desiring more recognition for our service, wanting more atendees than that other church down the road, or a bigger paycheck at the end of each month. Truly it is difficult to keep clear of what our culture deems necessary for success.
We who are in Christ have a different definition of success laid before us. The Gospel shows us this in our Savior, Jesus. He was a homeless man, who was hated by the religious leaders of His day, was falsely accused of many crimes (chiefly blasphemy), and died a criminal’s death. This is NOT exactly what we think of when we think of a successful person. No employer would pick this man to be the next president of their company. Yet Christ accomplished His Father’s will on earth. He did what He came to do- what He was born to do! He finished His work on earth completely, leaving nothing undone or unfulfilled which was spoken of Him through the prophets.
In light of this reality, we must decide how we will define success. Will we define it the way the world does or think of success as we see it in Christ and His Kingdom? Will success become for us something we can measure on paper or with temporary pleasures, or will we embrace a view of success in which the chief aim is obeying God regardless of the outcome? This approach to success may bring us ridicule and may not be glamorous, but if we are being obedient to our King it is worth it.
I would rather be successful and faithful in the eyes of my God, than successful and having all the money and acolades this world can offer.
In the words of an old hymn:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace”
One of the greatest lessons to learn, regardless of when, is believing other people when they tell you that they care about you, love you, and value you. This is also one of life’s hardest lessons when you have to believe people when they say these things, not for anything you do or give, but simply for being you.
This is one of the things that I tend to struggle to believe. Life tends to demand so much of us and it is tempting to think that people only hang around us because they want something from us, something in return for their friendship. It is easy to become a relational cynic. At one point in my life I was stuck in that place. But God continues to break down the walls and the remnants of my cynicism. He continues to teach me how to love people for who they are and take joy in their friendship just because they are who they are, rather than because of something I can get out of it. Not only that but He continues to show me that others can feel the same about me. Others can love me for who I am and take joy in my friendship because of who I am, not just because I have something to offer or give them.
To some of you, this may sound like a no brainer, but for others this may be something you have faced before or currently face. For all of us, being loved and appreciated and considered a blessing just for who we are is a great gift. Even if we don’t see this in our lives presently, or in the lives of those around us, there is one who always loves us. Our God loved us enough to save us from our sin even when we were utterly lost in it. He sent his son Jesus to take the punishment we deserved. He freely gives us the gift of salvation if we believe in Him. My prayer for you, reader, is that even if you doubt the love of others for you, that you would begin to grasp the great love that God has for you and that in understanding God’s love for you your doubts concerning the love of others would fade as well.
I am still learning this lesson, but by the grace and mercy of God I am learning it and believing it more and more each day.