What Makes a Successful Year

2020 has come and gone. Possibly it was a good year for you, but many might have thought, “Good riddance to the year of the COVID pandemic, deaths, disruptions, recession, cancelled plans and failures.”

I struggled with feeling like a failure because I didn’t meet some major goals. I was anxious and afraid when our income and savings declined, partly caused by cancelled speaking engagements.

At the start of 2021, there was hope that we turned the corner. Surely it could only get better. Within weeks, we discovered that 2021 might be similar to 2020. Most people are still living under some form of lockdown, and life cannot return to the pre-COVID ‘normal’, even with the vaccine.

Was 2020 a failed year? Will 2021 be a failure too?

Most people suffer from harmful definitions of success, but they might not be aware. Just as we define a successful life, we often measure a successful year according to more possessions, achievements, external gains, and the fulfilment of our dreams and plans. We often expect that each year will bring more money, new purchases, unique experiences, opportunities to climb the ladder of success, and so on.

When so much of 2020 was disrupted and cancelled, we are tempted to consider it a loss and failure. We are anxious and afraid that 2021 may be more of the same.

Would Jesus consider 2020 a loss and a failure?

What if we could see 2020, even with the losses and cancellations, with a different perspective?

What if the pandemic – though tragic and terrible – could contribute to us being a success according to Jesus? Perhaps you grew closer to God as a result of the pandemic?

How might Jesus define a successful year?

In Luke 12:13-34, Jesus shocked the crowd when He contradicted the popular definition of success. Even back then, most people succumbed to worldly success that defines your worth according to your possessions, popularity, power, achievements, appearance and other external signs.

Jesus warned against all kinds of greed – the desire to acquire and wanting more. Measuring ourselves and others according to worldly success will only lead to harm. Read more in Chapter 1 – Worldly Definitions of Success are Harming Us.

But Jesus doesn’t just oppose worldly success; He teaches us how to be a success in His eyes. He mentions three essentials which I invite you to apply:

Essentials to be rich towards GodApplications for a successful year in God’s eyes
1. Being God’s children 

Placing our security and identity in being God’s children more than status, achievements or possessions will lead to peace, contentment and courage.
When disruptions, distress and suffering come, accept the reality that we are not in control and celebrate our dependence upon God.
The paradox is that we are most successful in God’s eyes when we are most dependent on Him as His children.
Connect with the real Jesus and receive His love, help, presence and peace.
Connect with people redefining success according to Jesus for mutual support and accountability.
Whatever the losses, we can respond by faith and dependence on God and grow in being more like Jesus.
2. Being kingdom-focused more than self-absorbedOur losses and cancelled plans remind us that this life is fragile and transient. That is reality.
We are often distracted or deceived to invest so much of ourselves into our little kingdom on earth. Let us refocus on the Kingdom of God that is eternal.
Ask for a clearer vision of Jesus and His Kingdom and invest time, energy, abilities, money – all that we are and have – into His Kingdom.
3. Being generous to the poor more than consuming or hoardingFor many people reading this, it is unlikely that we are in abject poverty despite our losses. The pandemic has set back years of progress for the poorest people globally.
Let us be giving generously.

Whatever comes in 2021 can become an opportunity for us to identify harmful definitions of success and grow in ‘Redefining Success according to Jesus’.

The next article will explore how to manage the tension between acknowledging that most of life is out of our control against being ambitious and planning as His children and stewards.

Journeying together with you,


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