Success seems to be on most peoples’ minds these days (and most minds since the dawn of humanity). I know it has been on my mind, at least.
What is the successful life? These days, it is often categorized by most as a life with a successful career, high net worth, an attractive spouse, and a healthy and attractive body. However, while the Bible accepts these kinds of success as possibly important parts of the good life, it boldly defines the most important kind of success as something else than what you might typically find glorified in Fortune Magazine, a Hollywood movie, or a self improvement book.
Why should we care about the Bible? Isn’t it just an ancient book filled with fantastical stories? Many of us may entertain these stories on Sundays (after all, according to Gallup, 77% of the US identifies itself as Christian); but once we head to work, we pride ourselves as being hard-headed professionals who are mainly focused on getting by (or, even better getting ahead.) The size of our bank accounts, shape of our physique, and professional accolades dominate many of our days’ thoughts, with too many thinking that if they could just make it to the million dollar net worth mark, shed excess belly fat, or get a high level position, they will be satisfied.
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However, for those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord (one of the two conditions for being a Christian), the Bible insists that acknowledging Him as Lord means more than just a simple verbal confession (or even frequent confessions.) Instead, it means submitting your whole life to the authority of Christ. ( Pretty scary, huh?) To those who confess Jesus as Lord, they are called to live a life of obedience to God, what the Bible considers the highest and most important form of success. In fact, it would go so far as to make the radical statement that if you aren’t successful in this form of success, all of your other forms of success you have worked for amount to nothing.
Why do these things mean nothing without a life of faith in, and obedience to, God? The Bible simply states that those who truly and humbly accept God’s gift of salvation will end up in heaven- a place of peace and joy filled with God’s presence, whereas those who don’t will wind up in hell, a place of everlasting torment. (Wow, now that’s really uncomfortable- you mean to say that many of my neighbors and even I myself might end up experiencing God’s wrath for all eternity? Yes.)
Christ calls believers to a life of true success defined by accepting His Lordship and then treating Him as Lord of your life. Live a good life as the world describes it. Build a great physique if you want, have a successful career if you want, build a sizeable nest egg if you want, and find an attractive spouse if you want. Just keep in mind that these things will not last, while your choices to believe in and obey God or not will dictate your eternity. Those of us who call ourselves Christians owe it to ourselves to stand by the beliefs we profess. Obey God, and be a light in a dark world.
(Those “Christians” who don’t truly want to obey Christ and His Word owe it to those who do take God seriously to leave the church. You make the church look bad when you profess Christ, but then live a life in disobedience to Him. After all, according to the Biblical book of I John, “The one who says ‘I have come to know him’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (I John 1:4) )
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Those of us who don’t consider ourselves Christians owe to ourselves to seriously and thoroughly investigate the truth claims of the world’s largest religion (2.18 billion Christians.) Don’t just accept CNN sound bites, Hollywood films, or even guys with a Ph.D. after their name as an absolute authority. Read apologetics (Christian defenses of the truths of the faith), talk to sincere and informed Christians about your questions and problems with Christianity, and, of course, read the Bible for yourself. After all, why spend thousands of hours working to build up your retirement fund which lasts twenty or thirty years and not give the Bible’s claims much thought when you could have a whole eternity ahead of you where none of your money matters? If you find you still don’t agree with Christianity after looking into it, at least you will have gained some important cultural knowledge and be able to better articulate your own belief system, whatever it may be. These things won’t save you from the reality of hell, but they will make you a better person here on earth.
Yes, go forth from here and be successful. Get promotions and raises, look after your family, write books, head to the gym, and spend real time on your portfolio. Do not forget, though, the most important piece of the success puzzle. It’s the only one you can’t earn on your own (Ephesians 2:8-9). According to Jesus, it is immeasurably better to have just this one piece and none of the others than to have all of the others and to not have this one piece. This advice is countercultural, but it could make all the difference for you in the world.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.