by Roland W. Keith
Most of us consider ourselves to be successful, right? However, in grading our lives we may not all be using the same criteria or comparisons. Because of that we may have a distorted view of what real success is in life if we start comparing ourselves to others. Some do compare themselves to the proverbial Joneses. Others to their parents. Still others to whether or not they are on track to achieve the goals they set for themselves. The bottom line is there is no single measure of success. Unless you are a Christian. When the Christian takes stock of his or her life, he or she has a definite yardstick to use for measurement. It is the word of God.
The Christian knows that true success in life comes from submission to God. Jeremiah wrote, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). We know that our understanding in life is limited and turn therefore to God for wisdom and direction, as the Psalmist penned, “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to Your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep Your commandments” (Psalm 119:59-60). The apostle Paul once called upon his readers to examine themselves to ensure their behavior would not bring condemnation down on them (I Corinthians (11:28-29). Each of us should consider our actions and strive to be a role model for others, even as we look to those who are more mature than us as examples for our own lives, yet we should not compare our actions to that of others without striving to know the will of God first and foremost. Consider the words of Paul: “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you” (II Corinthians 10:12-13).
Any example we try to set, and any person we turn to for guidance should rely on a common source of wisdom. For the followers of Christ that source is the Bible. Continuing with the Psalmist, “I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep Your word. I do not turn aside from Your rules, for You have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep Your righteous rules” (Psalm 119:101-106). There is great danger in relying too much on oneself in navigating through life. One may survive, even do quite well, based on the world’s concept of truth and understanding, only to find that their path has led ultimately to failure and absolute destruction on the day of judgment. In the wisdom given him Solomon wrote, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 16:25). In a similar vein Paul once wrote, rather bluntly, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).
The sort of independence engaged in by those who rely on their own desires and opinions to live their lives eventually leads to disaster for themselves and those who follow. Greater wisdom, passed down and tested through the ages should be respected and paid due attention to. And no greater wisdom is there than the word of God, handed down from heaven and made perfect in His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s word, God’s wisdom is perfect and has been delivered to us for our benefit (II Timothy 3:16). All Christians should trust in the veracity of that statement. As Paul once said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'” (Romans 1:16-17). As true as these scriptures are, there are always those, both in the world and in Christendom, who think that they know better. As Jesus once observed, quoting Isaiah, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: "'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'" (Matthew 15:8-9).
For the Christian the blueprint for success will be found in the Bible. But it requires more than an academic understanding. To be what God intends us to be in our lives we must put that knowledge to work. As the brother of Jesus wrote, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). As servants of God we must act! There is no time for hesitation and procrastination. We must go to the work with all diligence, as Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-25). Not only must we go to the work, it is important to go about it in a way that commends our actions to others as a reflection of Jesus in our lives. We must be willing to sacrifice and suffer hardship, doing all with rejoicing, patience, truthfulness, and endurance (II Corinthians 6:1-12). We must also go about our work with a sense of urgency. As Jesus told His disciples, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). The field in which we labor is larger than any one of us, so we must work with ceaseless energy, banding together to reach as many as we can with the truth, never knowing when opportunity will present itself (Acts 16:32-34; 8:26-40; 2:14-41; 10:1-48).
It is important to do our best. As Christians that means submitting our own will to God’s. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught: “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:21-23). As we labor it is good for us to occasionally do a self-assessment of our work by comparing our efforts to what we find in scripture. Are we being faithful to God’s commands, or has self begun to creep in? It often happens that individuals and groups begin to do things out of expediency or a desire to ‘attract’ more people, instead of allowing the living word to work through them. It may be that from time-to-time we need to remind ourselves of John’s words: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I John 5:2-5: John 14:15).
Finally, it is important for us to know that there may be times of doubt or weariness or suffering. In those times it is good to remember that Jesus also suffered— and not just on the cross. It was not an easy burden for Him to witness the suffering of the world, all the while knowing the cross awaited Him. However, according to Paul, “Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). When we do grow weary or suffer it is important to remember what Jesus suffered for us, and take encouragement from Paul, who wrote, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). God will be faithful to all the promises He has made to those who come to Him for salvation, we need only trust Him.
To those who were with Him, Jesus once said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:1-6).
Ultimately, we are successful in life if we find salvation in Jesus. No matter how far we may fall in life, or how high we may soar in the end if we find Christ and submit to Him we will gain everything of real value in eternity. With that said I will end with these words from Paul: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.