Webster defines “success” in part as “the attainment of popularity or profit; a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.”
I don’t like that definition. In my humble opinion, “success” should be defined as “fulfilling your God-called purpose in life.”
We should focus on being a success in God’s eyes. Mark 6:14-29 recounts the beheading of John the Baptist. If you are unfamiliar, here is a recap:
John had been in prison because he respectfully told King Herod that it was unlawful for him to sleep with his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herod wanted to kill John, but feared the people because they considered him a prophet. Herod hosted a banquet for his birthday. When Herodias’ daughter danced in front of him, she pleased Herod. The king told the girl that he would grant her anything she desired up to half of his kingdom. The girl responded that she wished for John the Baptist to be beheaded. The king was distressed, but went forward with her wish so that he did not turn back on his word. John was beheaded and his head was brought to the girl and Herodias on a platter, as the girl had asked.
John preached a dangerous message – a message that he knew could get him killed (and did ultimately take his life). But it was a message that he knew would otherwise compromise his beliefs.
“Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:9 (NIV)
Just like John the Baptist, when God calls us to speak or do something, our answer must be ‘yes’ despite what the outcome could be. John was only afraid of one person – GOD. Herod was afraid of everyone BUT God.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)
Because of this run-in with King Herod, John’s ministry only lasted a short year. By worldly standards, one year would not equal success, and I’m sure John would have agreed. Yet Jesus said that John was the “greatest man who ever lived.”
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:11 (NIV)
Others in the Bible had ministries that reached far more people and lasted many years, but Jesus still said that John was the greatest.
God judges our success based on how our actions compare to His plan. He desires for us to live a life sold out for Him, not focused elsewhere.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
In a world where the secular is conflicting more and more with the sacred, it is becoming difficult to be successful in both God’s eyes and the world’s view. Whether it is issues on same-sex marriage, abortion, race, or morality, we will be forced to make decisions that either side with Jesus or side with the world.
Let us not forget that the physical world is brief, but the eternal world is forever.
I’m choosing to side with forever.