The world defines success in terms of money, power, and fame. If you grew up in church like I did, you probably learned that these three were the “big no-no’s” of the Christian life. Not to say that money, power, or fame is intrinsically wrong, but seeking these things before or instead of God is destructive.
Success is nothing to fear. The Bible does not condemn success. In fact, Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (ESV). In other words, you will succeed. Human beings are hard wired to try to succeed in everything we do. A church might define success in terms of how many people get baptized each week. An employee might define success in terms of productivity. A family might define success by how much quality time they spend together.
The problem with defining success is that it always has a flip side. If success means “this,” then anything short of “this” is failure. If our definition of success is too narrow, we will live in fear of failure. Jesus condemns the fear of failure in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25). One of the servants was afraid to lose his talent, so he buried it. His definition of success was “do not lose what you have been given.” By his own definition, he succeeded, at first. But when the master came, he condemned the servant for his wickedness and took the talent away. Because he was afraid to fail, the servant failed to please his master and lost the very thing he was trying to protect.
I believe the wicked servant in this parable had an inadequate definition of success. He should have tried to please his master, instead of just trying to protect the talent. His definition of success was too narrow. I believe our definition of success defines how we live life. There is nothing wrong with wanting people to get baptized, to be productive, or to spend quality time with your family. These are all good things! Just like money, power, and fame, the problem comes when we put our focus on these things instead of on Jesus.
Spend some time this week evaluating your definition of success. Read Matthew 25:14–30. Search the Scriptures to develop your definition of success. Does your life reflect a godly definition of success? Are you afraid to fail? Don’t just give the Sunday school answer, really think about this.
Even after we develop a godly definition of success, there are expectations all around us that pressure us to start looking at success the wrong way. Like the servant in the parable, it does not matter if we say we want to please our Master; how we live life reflects our view of success. If we are afraid of failure, we should probably reevaluate. Remember Proverbs 16:3. If we focus our eyes on Jesus and commit our work to Him, He will establish our plans and give us true success.