The world defines success as power, wealth, and fame – doing one’s best with natural talents and skills. This standard is too high for some people, but it’s too low for God. He demands perfection in body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Fulfilling this demand is impossible without the Holy Spirit, but it’s where God gets all the glory (2 Corinthians 4:7). He saves us in order to make us trophies of his grace (Ephesians 2:7). Suddenly we love Jesus, believe him, obey him, and work alongside him in the harvest. This is the beauty and miracle of conversion.
So why has the church traded God’s glorious definition of success for that of the world? Why are we settling for cheap trinkets when God wants to give us true riches (Luke 16:11)? Why are we wasting our lives for temporary crowns on earth when God wants to give us eternal ones in heaven (2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 3:11)? Why are we seeking earthly power when we will judge angels on heavenly thrones (1 Corinthians 6:3)?
Last year, a Christian writer and producer told me his dream was to make a Christian movie and see it become a success. Other people I have talked with tell me the same thing, albeit not in so many words. It’s just clear from their Internet footprint that they value worldly success. They seek power, wealth, or fame by producing books, songs, and films. These people also focus on natural talents and skills, as though the Spirit can’t help them do the miraculous.
What are we really living for? What is the deepest desire of our hearts? If it’s not to love God and love people, telling them about Jesus, then why are we here? My dream is to see people saved. I want to see the magic of conversion: unbelievers I care about living for Jesus and hearing him say in heaven, “Well done.” I explained this desire in my articles “Heavenly Desires,” “Ancient Wells,” and “Evangelism: A Call to Anguish.” Is anyone else like me, or am I alone?
To the unbelieving world, Jesus Christ was a total failure. He worked as a poor carpenter before becoming a traveling destitute preacher, one who had no place to lay his head at night but relied on the charity of women (Matthew 8:20, Luke 8:2-3). Eventually, Jesus was arrested and tried for blasphemy (Matthew 26:65, John 19:7). Although found innocent, he was executed under Roman law on a cross – a punishment reserved for murderers and thieves. Even Jesus’ disciples thought he had miserably failed.
Heaven tells a different story. Jesus came to earth to pay the ransom for sinners (Matthew 20:28, 1 Timothy 2:6). He said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave (Matthew 28:5-7). He had conquered sin, death, and hell. What the unbelieving world considers a failure, God the Father and the redeemed have called a resounding success.
Are we willing to throw our lives away for the gospel, letting this success-hungry world call us failures (Matthew 10:39)? Are we willing to be “poured out as a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:6), risking everything for an eternal crown and throne in heaven? If not, then why are we here?
If in a simple carpenter
You see the Son of God
If you would choose to lose
When you could win
If you would give your life away
For nothing in return
Then you are where
My kingdom will begin.
– “Upon this Rock,” Kristen Chenoweth (YouTube)