Living in a success driven culture, I need to ask myself if I am a “successful” follower of Jesus. Now you may never have thought about this, but I would bet that it is a part of your life. It is most easily seen in how we act and talk when we are around other followers of Jesus.
There are many ways that a person can measure their “success” as a follower of Jesus. It might be the title or ministry position that you hold. Yet, for others, it could be your ministry, how well you know the Bible, the money you give, your prayer life, or even your “spiritual gifting.” All of these are great practices and do play a part in what makes a person a successful follower of Jesus. All these, however, do not define a “successful” Christian. We need to ask ourselves what does Jesus and the Bible say defines a successful follower of Jesus?
I have recently been pondering a memory verse related to my question. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13) I need you to reread that verse with a focus on the first half. I want you to notice that these “all died in faith!” What examples of individuals that were followers until their last days. Yet, the verse continues to point out that they did not “obtain cultural” success. I view cultural success of reaching the goal. If you go back in the previous verses you will learn about Abel, Enoch, Abraham and Sarah. God had made some lofty promises to them and their descendants. The following verses go on to list many others. The end of the chapter even reminds us that they suffered and some were martyred for their faith. Think about how many follower of Jesus measure success on externals. It we use that standard, only a couple of these great examples would qualify as successful.
So, let’s ask the question. What makes a follower of Jesus successful? Well, the first and last verses remind of God’s definition of success. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,” (Hebrews 11:1, 39) The real mark of success is being faithful. Jesus said it best in the parable of the talents, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21)
So what is the secret to faithfulness? There are several Bible helps in this area, so assuming that you are a “born again” follower of Jesus let me leave you with these insights. Go back and read the last half of Hebrews 11:13. I see three practical helps. The first is to focus on who your are. You are an adopted son/daughter of the Creator through your relationship with Jesus Christ. Second, this world is not our home. The Bible frequently reminds us that we are “sojourners” and “exiles.” Third, I need to embrace and enjoy what the Lord has not only prepared for me but is doing in my life right now.
Are You a successful Christian? Well the only two beings that can answer that is You and the Creator. I am reminded of these words about Jesus’ time here on earth. “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:3)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson