Success (Part 02)

What Jesus’ Life Tells Us About Success

So, we’ve had a look at how we often define success these days. Usually it is be rich and famous, unless you’re a Christian, then it is be rich and famous – for Jesus! The interesting thing about this is that we often think that Jesus was rich and famous because we still worship him 2000 years after he lived. Two things on that:
1. Jesus is God – so he should be the most famous, rich, and influential person who ever lived,
2. When Jesus walked the earth he actually wasn’t that famous. In fact, by our modern standards, I don’t think that many people would say that Jesus was successful. Let’s look at the evidence that we have recorded in the Gospels:

As said earlier, Jesus started his ministry at the age of 30, when he was baptised (a little late don’t you think my Catholic friends! {Luke 3:23}). He was driven out into the wilderness by himself, so started off all alone, then came back into town preaching – one thing to remember is that towns were much smaller back in those days, Bethlehem was about 1000 people and Nazareth about 400 – so even if we are talking about a whole town we are talking less than 1500 people. He had to call his first followers (Mark 1:16-20), and was often rejected by the people that he came to preach the Good News to (John 1:10-11). Jesus did get a bit of a following for a while – about 10,000 people at one point – keep in mind, however that if you have 10,000 subscribers on YouTube you would still not earn enough to make a living doing it full time! In order to make a genuine living from that sort of thing you would need around 175,000 subscribers – far more people than Jesus would have reached in his 3 years of public ministry. So, he had a crowd of 10,000 (5,000 men plus women and children {Mark 6:30-44}) but read John’s Gospel, right after that he is telling them weird things so that heaps of them end up leaving (John 6:60-71), he ran away when they tried to make him king, and remember that there are many times in his ministry that people plotted and even tried to kill him – they picked up stones to stone him, they tried to throw him off a cliff, then in the space of one week he went from being famous to being publicly executed as a criminal – what a fall from public opinion! When he died he had only one of his close friends around, his mum, and a couple of her friends. No money, no power, no celebrity status, no books written, nothing to show that he had even existed. That should have been the end of the story.

Yet here I am 2000 years later writing about his impact in the world, because in spite of all that we use to measure success, and as much as we would consider Jesus unsuccessful, Jesus was successful – he accomplished everything that he set out to do. He had a mission, he had a task, a job, and he was faithful. Jesus knew what he was about – he said many times why he came – because the Father had sent him, because he had some to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. So, let’s think about this for a little bit, if, in Jesus’ life success looks like failure in our lives, then what category can we use to classify something as successful?

Let me suggest a three word definition of what success might look like in the Kingdom of God:

Success is faithfulness.

I think that it boils down to us being prepared to do exactly what God asks us, and often that is not to be rich and famous for Jesus. Often that is to simply live a life that puts him first, that honours him in all that we do, and that strives to witness to Jesus in every area of our lives, 24-7. Now, that’s not as sexy as a rich an famous for Jesus definition, but I think that it is more accurate given the picture that we get of Jesus and the Apostles – all of them, except for John, were executed for the work that they were doing. Yet, they were successful because they followed Jesus, NO MATTER WHAT. It cost them their lives, yet they stayed true. Success is faithfulness, hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy of your master.”

Be faithful.

Question: How would this definition of success change the way that you live each day?

Featured image credit:
Didier Weemaels

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