Everyone wants to be successful. No one wants to be a failure, so how do you measure your success in life?
There’s a whole multi-billion-dollar industry out there that will tell you what success looks like. It will basically tell you how to get rich, because it sees your wealth is a measure of your success in life.
Of course, most people will never be rich, so there’s another whole industry that tells you how to look as if you’re rich. It basically measures success according to what you look like. You have to look as if you’re “successful.” This industry tells you what your body should look like, what clothes you should wear, and what accessories to have.
So how should we as followers of Jesus, measure success in life?
There are two ways to measure success in life: extrinsically or intrinsically. Extrinsic measures of success are all of those things outside of you, like our money, possessions, careers, and even whether people like us or not. When you measure your success based on those things, then your happiness becomes something that is largely out of your control.
Intrinsic measures of success are those things that are within you; things like personal and spiritual growth, meaning and purpose, freedom, deep personal relationships, community, generosity, creativity, and living with passion.
The Bible tells us that when we have a living connection with Jesus Christ, then our true live will flow out from deep within us (John 7:38). This happens because of the Holy Spirit that God gives us when we trust in Jesus (Eph 1:13). When that happens, we don’t exist from the outside in, but from the inside out. In other words, our lives don’t depend on external things, but on the gift of God that is implanted deep within. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us and empowers us to do the will of God (John 16:13; Rom 8:14; Rom 15:19; Gal 5:22–23).
The most successful person who ever lived, even by secular standards, is Jesus of Nazareth. By any measure, he redefined culture and civilisation, and transformed the history of the world. He impacted the lives of more people on the planet, in one way or another, than anyone else who ever lived.
The ultimate measure of success is to be doing what God wants you to do.
From a Christian perspective, Christ must be our model of success, or else we should stop calling ourselves “Christians.” He was homeless, sleeping under bridges to keep warm at night. He had no money at all with which to pay his taxes (Matt 17:24–27). He didn’t own even a pillow (Luke 9:58). At his death, the only things he owned were the simple clothes he wore; nothing else (Matt 27:35). In terms of his relationships, he was misunderstood by even his closest friends, and betrayed by those whom he should have been able to trust the most. In view of those facts, how is it that we can say that Jesus was a success in life?
Here is why Jesus was successful in life: because he did the will of the Father. He said,
The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him (John 8:29).
The ultimate measure of success in life is to be doing what God wants you to do. That’s it; there’s nothing else. It has nothing to do with your bank account, your health, or even the state of your marriage. It’s between you and God. And, like in the case of Jesus himself, it might look nothing like how the world defines success.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Eliezer has two Master’s degrees in Theology and Early Christian History, and a PhD in Early Christian History.