When I was a boy, I thought I knew what being successful meant. It meant that you got good grades, looked good, had lots of friends and was a good athlete. I got good grades and I was physically attractive, but I only had a few friends and I wasn’t a talented athlete. I envied those who seemed more successful than I.
What does it mean to be a successful adult? Most people seem to think that one has to have a good appearance, live in an impressive house, drive a desirable car, make lots of money, and have a prestigious job, a good sex life, a successful marriage and well-adjusted children. No wonder most people feel inadequate!
Jesus had a greater impact on history than any other person who ever lived. Yet, by the above standard he wasn’t successful at all. That’s because God defines success in a radically different way. Anyone, by God’s grace, can achieve this kind of success and one doesn’t have to be particularly intelligent, good looking or talented. One only has to say “yes” to God and do one’s little part. The Bible contrasts worldly success with spiritual success in many places:
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul” (Mark 8:36)?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy … But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys…” (Matthew 6:19-20).
“He has brought down the rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53).
This does not mean that worldly success is necessarily evil. However, in order to achieve worldly success, people often do evil. They, in effect, sacrifice eternal success for temporary success. They trade heaven for a mess of pottage. If you have achieved worldly success, do not become arrogant and prideful. Thank God and use your success to help others and to glorify your Creator. If God has not blessed you with much worldly success, do not become envious, resentful or angry. Strive to please the Lord. Beauty, fame and fortune are fleeting, but heaven is eternal.