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.
“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
Jesus reminded us of this when He said, “many who are first will be last, and the last first” in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:30).
Being “first” or “successful” from God’s perspective is of utmost importance. Our paradigm when we choose to follow Jesus is upside down when compared to culture. Peter Marshall, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, said, “I would rather fail in that which will ultimately be successful than to succeed in that which 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 life now. Our Father gives us a great promise knowing that when we do this, life on earth will be increasingly difficult.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. -2 Corinthians 4:17-18
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, but 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 a traumatic time for those whose expectations are limited to this planet and its offerings; but for believers whose hope is in the character and promises of God, it can be a powerful reminder that it’s time to examine our paradigm again.”
By faith, let’s go with our Savior’s paradigm for “success” based on obedience because eternity will ultimately have the last applause.
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.