Summary: Gives the characteristics of true success from Scripture: spiritual riches not material wealth; righteousness and humility not prominence or position; and spiritual insight not human wisdom or education.
When you look ahead to your future, if you’re normal, you want to have a successful future. In fact, the desire for success drives many of our most important decisions. Something that will make us successful, we do, and something that will make us unsuccessful, we try not to do. We live our lives in such a way as to lead to success. There is nothing wrong, of course, with wanting to be successful. However, the world’s view of success and the biblical view of success are often opposite each other.
In 1966, about a year before he died, the brilliant physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer said, "I am a complete failure!" This man had been the director of the Los Alamos Project, a research team that produced the atomic bomb, and he had also served as the head of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Yet, in looking back, he saw his achievements as meaningless. When asked about them, he replied, "They leave on the tongue only the taste of ashes."
The number of people who commit suicide after experiencing the fame and fortune of worldly success is astonishing. Multimillionaire George Vanderbilt killed himself by jumping from a hotel window. Lester Hunt, twice governor of Wyoming before being elected to the U.S. Senate, ended his own life. Actress Marilyn Monroe, writer Ernest Hemingway, and athlete Tony Lazzeri represent a host of highly influential and popular people who became so disenchanted with earthly success that they took their own lives.
Our Daily Bread.
Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state of debauchery. Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken from the knights he had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison. Few noted his passing, and he left this earth completely unmourned. Julius Caesar, ’staining his garments in the blood of one million of his foes,’ conquered 800 cities, only to be stabbed by his best friends at the scene of his greatest triumph. Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years in banishment.
G. S. Bowes.
All of these men I’ve just told you about where people that the world would call successful. They spend their whole lives working toward these goals and they reached them, and yet something was missing. The fact is that they were chasing after what they thought was success, but it really wasn’t. In the race for success they ran hard, they ran with perseverance, and they ran well. The trouble is that they were running on the wrong road. They were running toward the wrong finish line. If you’re running in the Boston Marathon, it doesn’t matter if you can run the 26 miles in 2 hours, if you aren’t running in the right direction. You may have the fastest time, but you haven’t arrived at the right goal. The same is true with life. It doesn’t matter how hard you work at success, what you sacrifice for success, if what you’re chasing after isn’t really success. So, it’s important to determine from the start of your race, to make sure that you’re running toward the right goal. If you’ve already been running for awhile, you can evaluate where you’re running and make some corrections in your course if that’s necessary.
So, then if we’re going to find true success in life, we must determine what true success consists of. We must see what the Bible considers to be true success. We can see an example of a church that thought that they were successful, but were really unsuccessful. Based on their condition and what Jesus commanded them to do in order to become successful, we can form a definition of true, biblical success.
Revelation 3:14-22: 14 "Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen – the faithful and true witness, the ruler F10 of God’s creation: 15 "I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, ’I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 I advise you to buy gold from me – gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. And also buy white garments so you will not be shamed by your nakedness. And buy ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference. 20 "Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends. 21 I will invite everyone who is victorious to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. 22 Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches."