If you asked someone in the street what they think success is, the chances are
that you would hear statements like ‘getting rich’, ‘making
the big time’, ‘being in demand’, ‘achieving something
great’, ‘winning’, ‘having everything go right for
you’, ‘enjoying a lucky streak’, or any number of answers
It seems taken for granted that a successful person will have plenty of money,
with fame and happiness always at their fingertips. It seems almost a law that
if you haven’t experienced any of this, then you have failed. Therefore,
you must keep trying.
If we agree with this description of success, perhaps we have unquestioningly
swallowed a popular fallacy.
Using a better measure
I consider my mother a success. She raised a decent family and set them in the
right direction. She worked hard and carried all her responsibilities with
dedication and good spirits. She never made enemies but showed friendliness
and helpfulness to everyone. She kept house for her husband until old
But she never had her picture in the paper, never had much money, never made a
mark in the corporate world or feasted on pleasure. But if you use the measure
that says character and virtue make for success, then she was a success. And
there have been millions like her.
How you think is important
Simply reaching your goals doesn’t make you successful. Obviously, the
goals themselves must come into the equation. A thief can be successful. A
murderer can be successful. A warlord can be successful. We may have goals
that don’t look evil, but we need to ask how good they are and not just
assume that they are fine. What do we want to achieve? Why? For whose sake are
they done, and by what means? All must be answered.
A man called Pilate looked successful. He ruled with strength under the Roman
Emperor. The leaders of the Jews looked successful. So religious, so respected
and feared, having such a long, dignified pedigree. The man who stood before
them on trial looked like a success story a little time ago, but now like a
positive disaster. The power of Jewish hatred and Roman legal strength was
about to crush him and all his aspirations.
Those who saw him being ridiculed, spat upon and beaten with open hands and
clenched fists must have felt that they were looking at a most unfortunate
individual. If they followed him outside the city, carrying the cross he was
to die upon, even strangers to the case would have felt some pity for him.
Then, should they have stood nearby watching him shed his blood and writhe in
agony, it would have seemed cruel beyond words. His death, to the passer-by
was pathetic, shameful, and repulsive.
Ah, but the truth
Jesus made clear what his mission was. He came into the world with it all laid
out. He pursued his goals: teaching eternal truths, announcing the purposes of
God, and showing the character of God. Then, going to His death to achieve the
saving of others, He paid the price for our sin, and giving away his life so
that we may have life. Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a
public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross
That he was successful is overwhelmingly proven. The Father raised him from
death because he had done all that was required of him. As Saviour, he has
lifted countless people out of their failure and into life that never ends.
This is what we remember each year at Easter.
Without doubt, he is the most successful achiever in history.