Today success is often related to tangibly winning, reaching a goal, or finishing a task. But as we know, culture’s definition of success and God’s definition of success are very different.
Jesus reminded us of this when He said, "'But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (Matthew 19:30)'" in the Kingdom of God.
Being first or successful by God's definition is of utmost importance. Our paradigm when we choose to follow Jesus is upside down when compared to culture. Peter Marshall, a former U.S. Senate chaplain, said, “It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.”
With this in mind, we have to learn that what’s important to God may not be important to this world. Our priorities must adjust to realign our focus on the life to come, not solely on our lives now. Our Lord gives us a great promise knowing that when we do this, life on Earth will be increasingly difficult.
"'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'" -John 16:33
Our Father’s joy is not found in our position, our balance sheet, our fame, our recognition, or our accomplishments, but in our obedience to what He asks of us. There will be times of great accomplishment, like when Peter preached at Pentecost and 3,000 came to faith in Christ (Acts 2).
There will also be times of obedience without visible, positive results. An example of this is in Acts 26 when Paul struck out publicly in front of Governor Festus and King Agrippa. They said he was out of his mind (Acts 26:24)! The world would call this instance a failure, but in God’s economy, it was a success because of Paul’s obedience.
Ken Boa summarized these truths when he wrote, “This can be traumatic for those whose expectations are limited to this planet, but for believers whose hope is in the character and promises of God, it can be a powerful reminder to transfer their affections and ambitions to their only true home, the kingdom of heaven.”
Great faith is siding with our Savior’s paradigm for success based on obedience because eternity will ultimately have the last applause. His ways are better than ours.
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” -Isaiah 55:8-9
John's travels for ministry behind the Iron Curtain led him to found East-West Ministries International in 1993. John and his wife, Susie, live in Dallas, Texas and have a grown daughter and two grandchildren.