What does success mean to you?
Society measures success by money.
When someone is “successful,” it often means they’re financially successful or successful in business.
For example, Success Magazine is completely devoted to financial and business success.
But what does that really have to do with success?
We both know that, according to the Bible, financial or business success is a tiny part of success.
Webster defines success as simply “favorable or desired outcome,” granted it also goes on to include the attainment of wealth in the definition, but I think it’s evolved into that based on society’s view of success.
The question isn’t “what does success means to the world?”, the question is “what does success mean to you?”
So… what does it mean? Is it important? How important?
Does Success Even Matter?
“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”Albert Einstein
From a Biblical perspective, attaining wealth isn’t the ultimate goal, though it’s not a bad thing.
Some of the greatest people from the Old Testament had great wealth.
But how should Christians really measure success?1
We may consider one Christian more successful than the other if he seems to be better at keeping the commandments of God. Oh I know we would never admit to that, but we do it – subconsciously if nothing else.
I’m guilty of measuring myself up to other Christians.
“How did I perform today?”
“At least I don’t sin as much as that guy!”
These are things that go through my head, and hopefully I take hold of these thoughts, nail them to the cross, and find better things to muse on, but often I don’t. Often, I don’t realize I’m measuring my success in this way until I’ve been doing it for a while.
I have, however, found a way to gauge success as a Christian that seems to be both Biblical and effective. It serves as a great reminder.
How I Measure Success as a Christian
When I think of success, I try to keep one thing in mind:
There is nothing I can do—no way I can perform—that will make God love me any more or less than He does right now at this very moment. I cannot contribute to my salvation since it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Christ.
That being said, we can measure our success by asking a few questions:
- Am I growing in my understanding that Christ did everything for me, and I can’t do anything to save myself?
- Is my character growing every day in a way that aligns with God’s Word and plan for my life?
- Am I acting in a Christ-like way towards others (feeding the hungry, serving the poor, etc.)?
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”Matthew. 25:35
As Albert Einstein said, it’s better to measure our being a person of value than our success.
Value and character go a long way. And both are more important than success. In fact, even the unbelievers will tell you that character is a requirement for true success. True success and happiness can only stem from good character.
That being said, what about all of the business and financial success?
Is it wrong to strive for that?
What the Bible Says About Success
Christianity isn’t about living “your best life now,” or building up material possessions to “show people what God did for you.”
However, God wants to bless us, and this type of success often comes with having a full and fruitful life.
I’m investing for retirement. I have money saved. I like to buy nice things, and I’m sure you do too.
The key point here is to not make this type of success your primary focus in life. I’ve read too many articles about how diligent and focused you have to be on your number one goal to be a success.
I’m sure if I developed a product and focused on nothing else for five or ten years, I could make millions and live in a house like this:
And often as Christians who want to grow and become better versions of ourselves, we want to set goals and crush them. That’s great, we should, but we have to keep Jesus at the center, or it’s all going to be in vain.
Proverbs gives us a great starting place:
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”Proverbs 16:3
And Psalms tells us that God will give us our heart’s desires if we delight in Him.2
This is great news, because it means we don’t have to worry about all of these things. We only have to worry about focusing on God.
God will trust us with the amount of riches, prosperity and success that we can handle…
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?”Luke 16:10-11
And all will work itself out for good when we trust in Him.3
Don’t worry about not being successful enough, or starting late in the game, or having a few less dollar signs than you would like on the end of your retirement account.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:4-7
Again, don’t worry or be anxious about these things. I say this, because I know I have a tendency to worry about such things…
“Am I going to get that job, promotion, raise, etc.?”
If you stay focused on God, His will is going to be done in your life.
“Will I be able to give my family the lifestyle I want for them?” They don’t want the lifestyle as much as they want you. Maybe you’re working too much?
It really comes down to seeking the Kingdom of God first:
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”Matthew 6:31-33
I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s simple. If we seek to please God, He will bless us in the ways He sees fit.
What We Do With What We Have
We can easily measure our success by one standard: what we’ve done with what we’ve been given.
You’re probably familiar with the Parable of the Talents…
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”Matthew 25:14-29
Straight from the mouth of Jesus. It’s apparent that God measures our success by what we’ve done with what we’ve been given. So how does that apply today?
If we have enough money to feed and clothe our family, we should be giving. It’s arguable that we should be giving even if we don’t. If we have a lot of free time, we should be spending a lot of time doing the work of Jesus.
I’m not calling anyone out, just giving a few examples of what I think this means.
Christians Are Different
As Christians, many parts of our life are backwards from the rest of the world.
Happiness is often idolized as the ultimate goal, yet as Christians, we should strive for joy over happiness. Joy in the fact that we are forgiven due to the work of Jesus.
Think about marriage. You may have heard before that marriage isn’t supposed to make you happy, it’s supposed to make you holy. This misunderstanding is why divorce is so common. As soon as someone is unhappy in their marriage, they think something must be wrong. But the truth is, that’s normal, and we aren’t always supposed to be happy every minute of every day.
However, we can be joyful. Even in prison we can be joyful…
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”Philippians 1:3-11
We are always to be growing in our faith and relationship with Christ, and that’s where true joy sparks from.
Along those same lines, we measure success differently from the rest of the world. And that’s ok… it’s actually great, because success measured by material wealth never leads to happiness or joy.
It’s ok to be different. As Christians, we should get used to it.
While there’s nothing wrong with obtaining financial and business success, this shouldn’t be the first category that comes in our head when we picture success.4
Further Bible Study
Further Book Reading
Last Updated: May 30, 2020
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- How to Teach Kids the Dangers of Debt (And My Debt-Freedom Story)
- See more: How Should a Christian View Success? (Christianity Today)
- “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
- See More: 8 Lies Christians Believe About Success (Gospel Coalition)