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We are surrounded by a culture that thirsts for success. In both ability and character, it strives to be the best in every ounce of the word. Public icons with famous quotations seek to inspire the ambition it takes for the road to succeed. U.S. Army – “Be all that you can be;” Winston Churchill – “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm;” Ralph Waldo Emerson – “self trust is the first secret of success.” Although there might be some truth in their words, their main source of motivation is either entirely wrong or incomplete. Sadly, even churches have conformed to this way of thinking. The misunderstanding that many have is the contrast between self-righteousness and God’s righteousness.

Success has never been, nor will ever be something to achieve by our own merit. Success is a gift. It is the outcome of being united with the One by whom every good work is from. Genesis 39:2-3, “ The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man… the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” It was only because the Lord was with Joseph that he became successful in all that he did. We are called to be with the Father in this way. He is the one that will cause success to happen. Our only responsibility is where we position our hearts.

Granted, a man may receive the very thing he toils for and become successful in it. However, the Lord gives man over to the lusts of their heart (Romans 1:24). If, therefore, we find ourselves desiring the result of success more than being with the Father, we find ourselves in a dangerous position. The apostle Paul said it best, “indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8). To be with Jesus, to know Him and walk with Him was the single most important thing Paul cared about. This is the intimacy that we were created to have.

But can we say success looks like certificates, metals or applause? Is a church successful by filling the most seats, or is the best ministry one that gains testimonies? Jesus did not receive glory from people, nor seek His own will, but He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5). This is because it is impossible to partake in anything good if it is not first in the intimacy with the Father. Nevertheless, He does not keep these things a secret. He gives us the understanding of what success, righteousness and every good deed looks like.

“For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Our Lord Jesus, desires a friendship where the Father’s will is no secret. Romans 12:2, “…by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The relationship we have with Jesus, as we stay constant in prayer, allows us to know exactly what He desires in every situation. Even now, we may know what success and righteousness look like according to His will.

Success According to God

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘it is finished,’” (John 19:30). Success looks like Jesus dying on a cross and saying it is accomplished. He needed no recognition. Rather, he received flogging, beatings, and the spit of men. The Lord was with Him and He became successful by being made lower than the angels, “so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:7-10). This was an accomplishment to what was predestined according to God’s will. “By His knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:7-12). It was God’s will for love to cover a multitude of sin. Jesus endured the consequences of sin for salvation to be made available for all who believe in His righteousness and not their own. This is the definition of success and it has been made known to us.

“Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15). This is the root to all success. It is to have a love that is willing to be made low and taste death for everyone. Are we to go in ways of giving up our lives that we might validate ourselves as worthy for success? No, for even if we deliver our bodies to be burned, but have not love, we gain nothing (1Corinthians 13:3). The only way to truly love is to first know how much He has loved us. “Because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (1Peter 2:21). In everything He taught and in everything He did, so we are to walk. He came to serve and not to be served, so are we to serve (Matthew 20:28). He came to set the captives free, so we are to free the captives. Above all, He walked by the Spirit, so by the Spirit we walk as well.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). It takes more than our strength, power and understanding to live a truly successful life full of love. If The outcome of being with the Lord looked like prosperity for Joseph, but for Jesus, it was to be crucified, then God can do whatever He wants according to His means of success. Who are we to worry about anything apart from being with Him? He is there like our most valuable friend, possessing all wisdom and ability. These very things He is willing to give us generously and without reproach to all who ask without doubting (James 1:5,6).

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Taber Cheo

Taber is a missionary for Jesus Worldwide, a GM for Hidden House Coffee Roasters, a graduated with a communication studies Bachelor's at Evangel University, and loves to read and write about all things pertaining to truth and is a sucker for Pixar and Marvel films.

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