Jesus’ Method for Success
Most of us are drawn to success. We want to have a successful career, a successful marriage, a successful life. Even if you’re less ‘driven’, you probably have some kind of definition of ‘success’ you’re pursuing. As a pastor, I’m often thinking about how we can be a successful church. But how we define ‘success’ and how we set out to achieve success are vital for us to consider as followers of Jesus. Both the path and the destination of Christian ‘success’ are radically different to the way most Australians pursue success today. Let me tell you a story to illustrate this.
I heard a man tell a story recently about his father, a well-known pastor. He recalled how his dad spoke to him about an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a conference in Brazil before tens of thousands of people. Yet, his dad was unsure about whether to say ‘yes’, and seemed a little torn by the decision. His son said, “Dad, what’s the problem?! People should hear what you have to say!” And his dad turned to him, looked him in the eyes, and said, “Son, I’m worried about losing my soul.”
You see, this pastor knew himself well, he knew that he was naturally driven and competitive, and he ended up saying ‘no’ to most invitations like this over his lifetime. Why? He was worried that his soul would cling to this worldly idea of ‘success’ more than to Christ. He was worried about being conformed to a society that had a triumphalist, muscular definition of success. You see, both the path and the destination of Christian success are radically different to the way most of us think about it.
Christian success is not about being the most famous, or powerful, or influential person in the world. Christian ‘success’ is quite different. Jesus called his followers to take up their cross, to die to themselves and follow him (Mark 8:34-35)! Jesus’ path to success on earth involved decades of obscurity, years of suffering, and ultimately a humiliating death. Jesus’ path is probably how most Aussies would describe defeat! Let’s take a closer look at it in Philippians 2:6-9, which speaks of Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death —
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name…
Stop and think about what you just read. Jesus, though equal with God(!), made himself nothing and humbled himself. His path to ‘success’ was a life of suffering and humility and submission. You probably won’t hear a graduation speech about living a humble and submissive life these days! We just don’t think like this. Yet, this is how our Lord and Saviour lived. He is the most successful person who has ever lived, and yet he never did a book tour or held a political office. Don’t let the world’s definition of success undermine your discipleship to Jesus. Pursue humility and cultivate a trusting and submissive heart to God’s Word. Because what is success in the end for a follower of Jesus? It is to do God’s will. It is to bring honour to Jesus, who chose suffering and weakness for our sake! Let’s take up our cross and follow him today.
Growing with you,