Date published: September 28, 2012
SUCCESS (PART II)
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” – Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)
We bring to you the concluding part of last week’s article. Last week we said that SUCCESSis a word which has been greatly misused. Too often it has been used to mean power, status, self-fulfillment, and happiness. Christians have also stumbled into wealthily ideas of success through non-biblical teachings like, to become a Christian means to become rich. It is extremely important for us to return to a correct idea of success. We need to study it, but carefully. Please read on!
Finally, of course, we take our cue for SUCCESS from Christ. As we become more familiar with His life, we more clearly see what success is all about. To be sure, Christ is not ‘’successful’’ if we apply many of today’s measurement used by the world. But when we see success for what it really is, we see in Him the life of deepest success. It would be impossible to fully describe all the elements of success in Christ, so let’s take a different approach. Let’s see how He is the example of success in relation to the words which we used to begin this article:“power, wealth, status, self-fulfillment and happiness.”
Jesus certainly had power! Even a quick reading of the Gospels shows Christ’s power in relation to the natural and supernatural. But what we see is not one who ‘’throws power around’’ either for show or the mere demonstration of it. Instead, we see Jesus using His power constructively and compassionately. He uses His power to take a stand against evil and to promote the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of people. Jesus changes power from its tempting and destructive display and shows us how to use power.
What about wealth? At first glance, it may seem that Jesus has very little to teach us about success in relation to that. It is true that He Himself did not have a lot of wealth, but neither did He avoid fellowship with rich people or automatically condemn anyone for being wealthy. Instead, He taught two very important lessons. First, He taught that ‘’life is not measured by how much one owns’’ – Luke 12:15. He consistently steers us away from measuring our success by how much more we have than others. Rather, He tells us to measure our wealth in terms of those things which we store away in heaven, where ‘’ they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them’’ -Matthew 6:20.
His second teaching encouraged those with wealth to consider how they might use it for the good of others. In the parable of the rich man who built bigger barns – Luke 13:13-21, He condemned selfishness and temptation to use one’s wealth to provide false security. By this parable, He is telling us to be grateful for any material riches which might come our way, but at the same time to be seeking for ways to share what we have with others. Jesus understood that wealth is never ‘’equally distributed’’ on the earth; that the task of stewardship is given to those who are blessed with a lot of this world’s goods. By viewing wealth in this way, we do not have to keep prosperity and success separate.
Turning to status, we find puzzlement. On one occasion, Jesus draws back from someone even calling Him ‘’good’’ – Mark 10:18. But at another time, He frankly says, ‘’You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that is what I am’’ – John 13:13. What are we to make of this? How are we to understand Jesus’ relationship to status? The answer comes from the context in John 13. He is willing to be called ‘teacher’’ and ‘’Lord’’ in relation to servanthood. He had just washed the feet of His disciples. In effect, Christ was saying, ‘’If you are willing to let me teach you about service, then I am your Teacher. If you are willing to let me show you how to be lord of ordinary tasks, then I am your Lord.’’ Or to say it another way, Jesus rejected ideas of status which artificially elevated Him above others. He redefined status in terms of humble acts of kindness which edify others. In this way He keeps status and success in their proper relationship.
Self-fulfillment likewise finds its transformation in Christ. It is not to be seen as ‘’doing your own thing’’ or ‘’getting your own way.’’ Instead, it is finding your highest joy in doing the will of God – John 4:34. By comparing this with food, Jesus is telling us that there is a nourishment of the self which is incomparable when God’s will is the source. Once again we find a puzzle: we discover that, ‘’For whoever wants to save is life will lose it, but woever loses is life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). Self-fulfillment and success can be partners when doing God’s will is at the centre of our lives.
Needless to say, happiness is the greatest outcome of this kind of living. Jesus demonstrates that this kind of happiness is not the result of self-seeking, but rather the product of self-giving. Through this example, the simplest, yet most profound definition of success emerges: KNOWING AND DOING THE WILL OF GOD.
The Bible teaches us that the truly successful person is the one who ends up with the most ‘’joys’’-joys rooted in character, experienced in the blessed life, and expressed in countless acts of service. On these terms, we need never to avoid SUCCESS.
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