Today, many people measure success in terms of their economic, educational or social achievements. Jesus determined that His life was successful when He said to the heavenly Father, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." (John 17:4) True success is never measured in self-centered terms. Eternal success is determined by how well we are able to complete the will of God for our life and ministry. Let us once again turn to the life of Jesus Christ to discover truths about viewing success from His mind. Jim Elliott, a famous missionary that sacrificed his life for the Auca Indians of Ecuador in the 1950’s once said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
1. Jesus struck at the core value of people like the rich young ruler who thought he was successful, but was really a failure from a Christian perspective. The man thought he had kept all of the commandments from his youth, but Jesus looked at him and said, "One thing you lack, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." (Mark 10:20,21) Sadly, most people are not willing to accept Christ’s criteria for eternal success and live their lives as empty failures.
2. Jesus cautioned people about all kinds of financial, social and political greed that spoils their chances for success. It is sad that many are willing to accept the counterfeit type of success that is offered in the world. One day a man came to Jesus asking help in getting his brother to share the inheritance with him. Jesus said, "Beware and be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:14-16)
3. Jesus warned people against just building up treasures on earth rather than in heaven. Christ identified these people as being rich in earthly things, but being poor towards God. The Lord told a parable about a rich fool. He said, "A certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, "I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones and there I will store all my grain and goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’" But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:16-21) Jesus abhors materialism and selfish accumulations of possessions. The more we store up for ourselves on earth the less time and energy we have to focus on investing in eternal riches!
4. Jesus wanted us to measure our success in terms of His kingdom and righteousness. The Lord wants us to resist the temptation to measure our success in earthly terms. One day the Lord told His disciples, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body what you will wear, life is more than food and clothing…Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be." (Matt. 6:22-34) The Lord wants us to measure success by how well we know, trust and obey the Lord. In this relationship we may boast more than a rich man, a strong person, a powerful individual or even a highly placed political official. Jeremiah said, "Let not a rich man boast in his riches. Let not a mighty man boast in his might, but let him who boasts, boast of this that he understands and knows me." (Jer. 29:23,24) A person realizes the heights of success when they are able to please the Lord in all respects and bear fruit in every good work.
5. Jesus knew that the price of success would divide some families. Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." (Matt. 10:34,37) Perhaps, the biggest hindrance to eternal success is people’s inability to place their love for the Lord above the loyalty to their family.