An English visitor to the United States expressed difficulty in understanding the American way of doing things. He was particularly baffled over the way Americans drink tea. He could not understand why we heat it to make it hot and then we turn around and put ice in it to make it cold. To farther complicate matters, we add sugar to make it sweet and then we put lemon in it to make it sour. Certainly, every culture has traditions that seem strange and confusing to visitors.
Confusion does not limit itself to secular things. A visiting Christian from a country where Christians are routinely persecuted might have difficulty understanding some of the things we use to define successful Christians. In our country Christians are often judged to be successful by the size of their bank account, the size of their home, the prestige of their employment, and the number of gadgets they have to play with. What makes all this strange is that the One who is the author and finisher of our faith would not be considered successful if this was the criteria used to determine success.
When one examines the life of Jesus, he/she quickly discovers that Jesus walked away from a respectable trade. He never earned a regular salary. He never saved any money. He never owned a home. He never accumulated a large collection of status symbols. He walked to His destinations. He disappointed His followers because they could not understand what He was all about. Finally, He died a horrible death on a Cross between two criminals. In the eyes of most, He was considered to be a criminal or a political discontent. His only success was that He completed the mission for which He came and He was always obedient to the Heavenly Father who sent Him.
If we are going to continue to worship the Jesus of the New Testament, it would seem to be appropriate for us to change our understanding of success. While there is nothing evil about wealth and fame, they should not be used as the primary ingredients in gauging the success in the life of a Christian. For the Christian success has nothing to do with things such as these. A successful Christian is one who understands and seeks to follow the admonition of Jesus given in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” A successful Christian is one who seeks to be obedient to the call of God on his/her life. A successful Christian is one who understands that all the treasures we accumulate on earth will stay here when we leave. It is the treasures that we store up in heaven that are eternal. The reward for being a successful Christian is not a guarantee of a trial free life but it is the joy, peace and abundance one experiences by being obedient to God.