How does Jesus define success?

Published 3:58 pm Thursday, May 21, 2020

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It is the time of the year we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates. These young men and women have worked tirelessly to earn their diplomas and begin the next chapter in their lives. Although this year has created some challenges and difficulties for our students, they have taken it all in stride. Congratulations to all our 2020 graduates and their families for a job well done! We are blessed with wonderful students! As these students move forward into their future, I want them to think about success. We hear that word thrown around continually in our society, but what does it really mean for a Christian?
Let us first look at the worldly and widely used definition of success: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose and the attainment of popularity or profit. The world definition of success is deceptive and disastrous because it focuses on what is temporary and totally ignores what is lasting and eternal. The world today looks at the five p’s of success: power, position, prestige, pleasure, and prosperity. At some point, we have all bought into this line of thinking. We feel we are successful when we are popular, make loads of money, and have tons of stuff. Is this how Jesus would define success? Do we feel that Jesus was successful here on earth? We know that Jesus had popularity all for what he could provide, but he lived as a beggar with no worldly possessions. Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” His complete mission was to carry out the will of His Father. That was his only purpose. Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Jesus states explicitly that our hearts will be where our treasure is located. He commands us to lay up treasures in heaven. You may be wondering how that is accomplished. Success is obedience to God, empowered by the Spirit of God, motivated by love for God, and directed toward the advancement of His kingdom. Real success begins by obeying God’s command to repent, believing in Jesus Christ, and following Him in all areas of life. I came across this analogy in my studies that puts this concept into perspective, “Picture two hands. In the right hand, there are the offer of true contentment, the ability to handle life’s problems without being overcome by them, amazing peace that sees us through all circumstances, wisdom to know what to do, knowledge and constant direction for life, love for others, acceptance of ourselves, joy no matter what, and, at the end of life, an eternity with the God who freely gives all these gifts. The other hand holds all the money and power and ‘success’ the world has to offer, without any of what the right hand holds.”
I know that real success is found in the right hand, but much of our life is spent chasing what is on the left hand. We waste so much time, energy, and effort trying to obtain the worldly success. A genuinely successful person not only hears the Word of God, but also acts upon it. We must apply all of God’s revealed truth to our lives, and live according to His perfect will. In all actuality, Jesus is Lord of all areas of life or not Lord at all. He will not make you a success if you try to hold back areas from His control. Jesus was the most successful man that ever lived on the earth, yet he did not strive to obtain more money or worldly belongings. He invested His life, ability, and talents in others. God has placed all Christians here to share our faith, lead the lost to Christ, help other Christians mature in their faith, and to influence society through our deep love and compassion. To understand the Biblical view of success, we must look at the two greatest commandments. Matthew 22:36-40 says, “36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” A successful person loves God with every fiber of his or her being and their neighbor as they love themselves.
This commandment has been overlooked and exchanged for the view that we need to climb over any one in our path to get to the top. The “dog eat dog” mentality has won out in our society unfortunately, but this form of success never produces joy, satisfaction, and contentment. Here are a few quotes from some of the wealthiest and powerful men in history that prove that point.
John D. Rockefeller: “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness.”
William Henry Vanderbilt: “The care of two hundred million is enough to kill anyone. There’s no pleasure in it.”
John Jacob Astor: “I am the most miserable man on the earth.”
Henry Ford: “I was happier when doing a mechanic’s job.”
Andrew Carnegie: “Millionaires seldom smile.”
At the end of our lives, how will we know that we were successful? How can we rest assured that our lives made a difference and mattered? I think Jesus answers this question perfect in Matthew 25:31-46, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
You see friends that Jesus defines success by not what a person gains in life, but rather what a person gives. Please let this description of success rule in your lives in the days ahead!
(The Solution Column is provided by Pastor Brandon Young of Harmony Free Will Baptist Church, Hampton, and his associate, David Odom.)

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