I was hurt when my young child was embarrassed about our simple house. I perceived that I was a bit of a failure in his eyes compared to his friends’ dads because they earned more money. They lived in better homes. He expressed something like, “Dad, I wish you had stayed working as a medical doctor in Australia because you would have earned a lot of money, and we could buy a bigger and better house, two storeys, with a swimming pool.”
I tried to explain, “For your mum and me, life is not about the house we live in or the car we drive. It’s about following Jesus and doing what He wants.” He replied, “Dad, you can just say you follow Jesus and do whatever you want . . . people at church do that.”
He was confused because some of his friends who lived in mansions went to church. He thought they were doing whatever they wanted.
Perhaps when it comes to success, many who go to church succumb to worldly success and define it mainly according to possessions, popularity, achievements, appearance and outward symbols.
What if Jesus just said He loved God and us but did whatever He wanted? What would Easter be then?
Confronted by the ordeal He was to endure, Jesus cried in the garden, “not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV)
As He hung on the cross, humiliated and in agony, the religious leaders and the crowd taunted:
. . . save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God! He saved others, but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. (Matthew 27:40-42 NIV)
What if Jesus succumbed to worldly success . . . and took Himself off the cross? We would still be cursed in our sin and separated from God.
Despite the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual torment, Jesus refuted worldly success by depending on God and surrendering to God’s success. God confirmed that Jesus is His Son by raising Him from the dead.
To surrender does not mean passivity and mediocrity. Like Jesus and the Apostle Paul, we are to be ambitious. But not driven by selfish ambition. Being God’s children, let’s be highly motivated and intentionally invest in His Kingdom.
This is far easier in theory than to practise, and we have blind spots. We are also tempted to rationalise and spiritualise our selfish ambitions. When I worked as National Director of Serving in Mission (SIM), a charity in Australia, I felt the pressure to grow the organisation. From my book:
I wasn’t ambitious for wealth, but I was still driven and overly focused on my work. My children were in primary and high school, and on many occasions, I was absent. Even when I was physically present with my family, I was distracted with work. For many years this was a blind spot for me. … Something wholesome, such as serving God and people, can still turn into a harmful definition of success. (Page 17, 18)
That’s why we need a community – for mutual support and accountability. Perhaps you can read Redefining Success according to Jesus with your spouse, friends or Bible study group?
Over Easter, to help get the message out, the Paperback will be reduced to AU$13 (30% discount) and the eBook to AU$5 (24th March to 7th April only).
In May, join me online for a 7-week Challenge to apply Redefining Success according to Jesus.
This Easter, as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, let’s receive His help to refute worldly success and redefine success.
Till next time,