Was Jesus Successful?
By Dan Qurollo
At first glance, you may dismiss my question as one that is completely irrelevant; however, if we were to apply the same standards by which we judge success to Jesus, we would be forced to conclude that Jesus was unsuccessful.
Success is often wrongly measured by various factors, most of which are tangible in their nature. A successful businessman is often determined based on the assets he possesses. This may include the financial well-being of the company as well as his own personal finances. Often, a businessman’s success may be seen in the house he lives in, the cars he drives, or the things he possesses. Incidentally, these things are not automatically wrong; however, they are the basis by which success is often gauged.
Religious leaders often define success by the following they have acquired. A pastor who builds a large church is suddenly the expert on church growth; while the pastor of a small, rural church is thought to know little about church growth. Those who build a large church may write a book that is then accepted by many as the standard by which they too can be successful.
Students and teachers are often judged by their grades. A student who makes good grades is sure to make it in life; on the other hand, the student who struggles with less than average grades is tragically overlooked and often regarded as one who will not make it.
Our culture often defines success by tangible standards. These standards include such things as bank accounts, possessions, associations, and a host of other standards. Are these really the standards by which our lives are to be judged?
One would be foolish and wrong to conclude that Jesus was unsuccessful or that He had somehow failed in His mission. However, if we were to judge the life of Jesus by today’s standards of success, He would be unsuccessful. Jesus had no earthly possessions; He said that He did not even have a place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). He was buried in a borrowed tomb and had no descendants to carry on His legacy. The tunic, which was a seamless garment that was individually tailored, was divided into four pieces by the soldiers during His crucifixion. Thus, if we used the standards of possessions to determine His success, Jesus was unsuccessful.
Consider the following Jesus had. While the initial excitement of His ministry was a sight to see, an offensive message turned the multitudes away (John 6:53-66). He chose twelve men to be His apostles, but one of them betrayed Him. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, His following simply decreased. Is it not tragic that Jesus Himself could not write a book on church growth by today’s standards?
My point in this article is not to suggest that Jesus was in any way a failure or unsuccessful; instead, it is to challenge how we define success. The life and example of Jesus define what success truly is: whole-hearted obedience to the will of God. The entire earthly life of Jesus was governed by obedience to the will of the Father (John 4:34). Since Jesus fulfilled this perfectly, He is the ultimate and greatest example of success.
We must not measure ourselves by the world’s standard of success. Those who do so will most likely not be successful in God’s eyes. Our standard of success is evident in our obedience to God’s will. One day, we will be judged by the standard of faithfulness to that very task (1 Corinthians 4:1-3). Let’s determine to measure success by God’s standard.
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