John 6:60-69 (ESV)
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
(This is part 6 of our multipart study on Success in the Bible)
Over the past few days we have taken a look at a few Biblical examples of success. We could easily spend the next month just going through more examples – Abraham, Noah, many of the Judges, many of the Kings of Israel. The prophets often are great examples of success and failure – especially Jeremiah.
The one thing that has been common across our study though, and remains common in these other examples, is success is defined by two things – the measurement and perspective.
Our measurement is what we define success by. For one person success is money, another is fame, another is power. For another it is family, happiness, early retirement or the ‘good life’.
Our perspective is where the measurement is coming from. Are we measuring ourselves, or are we measuring others (and maybe comparing our measurements – for some people success is purely being ‘more successful’ than others). We may be measuring ourselves or others by our standards, our perception of their standards, or Gods standards.
So before we conclude, let’s take a look at one more Biblical example. Jesus.
By the measurement of the world, we could say of Jesus ‘what could have been’. During the first year of his ministry, commonly called ‘the year of popularity’, Jesus was wildly successful. People were being healed of everything. Jesus’ teaching was strong, but not particularly divisive. In reality, people hadn’t yet seen what Jesus stood for – they just saw a guy who obviously was empowered by God to perform miracles, and they liked what they saw.
Looking deeper, there was a concept of the Messiah that he would come with power (which Jesus certainly had done), but then politically free the Jewish nation from the bondage of Roman rule, and setup the kingdom of Israel again. The measure of success of the religious leadership and many of the people influenced by them was their own, and was not set by God. So when Jesus’ teaching started getting ‘difficult’, such as the teaching in John 6, people couldn’t deal with it. When Jesus started showing righteousness and driving all the corrupt sellers out from the temple starting in John 2, the leadership finally saw Jesus as a threat, not as a Messiah, and pronounced Him a failure.
Even by our measurement now in the world, Jesus was a ‘good teacher’, who preached peace to the people and was killed as an example. But ultimately, a failure.
What is our measurement? It is ours, not God’s. What is our perspective? It is our own, not God’s. What have we learned from the other examples as well? That true success is defined from God’s perspective, and from God’s measurement.
So from God’s perspective, the incarnation of the Son of God on this earth was an utter, perfect success. Jesus lived a sinless life. He obeyed all of God’s commands, and in the process, fulfilled the law totally. At the end of His life he died a substitutionary death for all, that anyone who accepts can be freed from bondage to sin, from punishment for sin, and reconciled to the God that created them.
At the very moment that the religious leaders and even the demons rejoiced that Jesus had failed, when He died on the cross, the greatest success in the history of man had just taken place under their noses and they hadn’t even noticed. While they were gloating on their success, in reality, they had the most dismal failure imaginable.
And just to prove it, three days later Jesus rose from the grave, showing success in defeating even death, proving to all who would take the time to look that what was accomplished was an unexpected, yet total success.
So by the measure of many, even by our own measure before we understood God’s plan, Jesus was at best a ‘good teacher’ who was killed before his time, at worse a total failure. And yet, by the measure of the Creator of all things, he was a total success.
What does this mean for me?
Well, two things.
First, stop measuring success the wrong way. We will go into this more in tomorrow’s post.
Second, if you have thought that Jesus failed, and still think that way – it’s time to think again. What Jesus accomplished was not a failure to create a movement, or a failure to live a life of peace. What He did was utterly defeat all of the powers of this age. What He did was fulfil the righteous requirements of Gods law on our behalf, so that we might finally be brought back to the way things should be – you in right relationship with the God who not only created you personally, but also created the whole world, the whole universe. Want success in your life? It’s time to look more into Jesus.
Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.