One of the most important questions a follower of Jesus will ever have to answer is “WHAT IS SUCCESS?” For our response to this question will determine the success of our life’s journey when we ultimately stand in the presence of the Lord.

In recent days I have found myself giving serious consideration to this question “WHAT IS SUCCESS?” as I have been reading the life of Jeremiah.
For 40 years Jeremiah served as God’s spokesman to Judah with the confronting message, “Repent and turn to God, or He will punish you.” No one was spared from hearing his message. Unrelentingly, he urged them to act, but to no avail. Nobody would listen to him.
Jeremiah achieved no material success. He was poor and suffered persecution in the process of speaking out the prophecies that the Lord called him to speak. He was thrown into prison, taken to Egypt against his will, rejected by his family, his neighbours, the false prophets and priests, the kings, his friends, and all that he spoke to. Throughout his life, Jeremiah stood alone, declaring God’s message of doom as he wept over his country.

So, was Jeremiah a success? Certainly not in the eyes of the world and certainly not in the eyes of many Christians. In the process of reading Jeremiah, I have been trying to imagine how his annual report would have been received by his lead pastor and what would have been the appraisal he received in response?

But now an even more important question, “Was Jeremiah a success in God’s eyes?” Well, it depends on how God measures success, which is quite different to the way the world measures success. Jesus’ words to His Father near the end of His life give us some insight into how God measures success when He said, “Father, I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do.” John 17:4
Jesus, who died a criminal’s death, owned no worldly possessions and spent much of His 3 years of public ministry training twelve men who deserted Him in His greatest hour of need. But He finished the work His Father had entrusted to Him.

With this in mind, we can say that in God’s eyes, Jeremiah was one of the most successful people that ever lived. For success in God’s eyes is measured by obedience and faithfulness and not necessarily years of service and outstanding achievements. Success is about being a pleaser of God and not being a pleaser of people, realising that we always have a heavenly audience of one watching all we do and say.

Jeremiah raises the question that we should take time to reflect upon more often because we might be trusting God, but can God trust us? I recently came across some confronting words by Leith Anderson as he revealed some of our common misconceptions concerning who it is that God considers a successful person.
“God needs people He can trust when they find themselves in circumstances they would not of themselves choose. He has an abundance of volunteers who are willing to live good and purposeful lives that have prestige and money and fame and an impressive partner and who can take success without being arrogant and self-seeking. But who can He trust to have the poor job, the poor health, is unattractive and largely unknown. There are plenty who want to have children who are academically gifted and present well and have a straight sexual orientation. But who can God trust to have children who have severe disabilities or who have become prodigals. A thousand times you have been asked, ‘Do you trust God?’ but ‘Can God trust you?’

As I reflected on this question, “WHAT IS SUCCESS?”, I remembered that not all the people who rated a mention in the Hebrews 11 Faith Hall of Fame were people who would be considered a success in the world today. Although they were “all commended for their faith” however there were some “who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning, they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. THEY WERE ALL COMMENDED FOR THEIR FAITH, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11: 35-40

One day we too will stand before the Lord to give account for the lives we have lived with a desire to hear the words from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
What a disappointment it would be to realise that all of our lives we had been climbing a ladder of success that had been leaning against the wrong wall.

WHAT IS SUCCESS? It is to live a life of faithful obedience which results in us being able to say at the end of our lives, “Lord, I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do.”