Modern society is success oriented. But toward a success which is measurable, provable, and usually enviable. Successful businesses earn more money. Successful parents turn out children who become professionals, who in turn climb to the top of their profession. And successful writers publish best sellers.
But what does success mean in God’s kingdom, which to the world is upside down?
The kingdom, which in natural terms, makes no sense at all. Because it takes all that this world has turned upside down and sets it right, showing the right way to live.
Just think of some of God’s prominent messengers — the prophets. Rather than leading them along normal paths toward comfortable, normal success, God sometimes called them to crazy things.
He had Isaiah walk around naked, and Ezekiel cook over a fire fueled by human excrement. Jeremiah was told to hide his underwear under rocks and to wear an oxen yoke. And John the Baptist lived on locusts while wearing animal skins.
Called to speak out against their evil times, rather than receive accolades and respect, they suffered rejection and persecution. They were exiled, stoned, sawn in two, thrown into pits or lions’ dens, and killed.
But God’s call to ministry in our times is often seen as a call to success.
Yet living by God’s principles — which turn everything around — could instead make us seem as crazy as the prophets!
- We find by losing (Matthew 10:39).
- We live by dying (Galatians 2:20).
- We become exalted by humbling ourselves (Matthew 23:12).
- We receive by giving (Luke 6:38).
- By serving we become great (Mark 10:43-44).
- Our weakness is our strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
- We labor to find rest (Matthew 11:29).
- We become great by becoming small (Matthew 18:4).
- We become rich by giving all (Luke 18:22).
To the natural mind this makes no sense.
Forgiveness seems weak. Giving all seems foolish. Choosing less seems senseless – just as countless other “upside down” choices do.
- You have a degree — and only work in a factory?
- You left a great job — just to be a stay-at-home mother or homemaker?
- You sold your big fancy house — to live in a simple tiny home?
- Or sold your luxury car — to drive a used economy car?
Questions asked in disbelief, with a hint of disdain. Implying that we’re not quite right in the head. Because society constantly pushes toward the bigger, better, on-top lifestyle. Trying to convince us that not only is it the most desirable, but that we deserve it.
But how does the worldly success line up with God’s kingdom?
In Christ’s kingdom success does not necessarily mean bigger churches, larger crowds, or becoming a famous preacher, best-selling author, or popular blogger.
To Christ the great and successful are those who:
- Are poor in spirit, seeing their need of God.
- Mourn their own sinful carnal nature, and seek to change.
- Are meek, and willing to learn from others.
- Hunger and thirst after righteousness.
- Have pure hearts.
- Are peacemakers.
- And are willing to face persecution for doing right.
Without obedience our faith is just good theory.
But down through the centuries, those who have obeyed the principles of God’s upside down kingdom, have left their mark. And turned the world around them upside down.
- Mary who embraced the disgrace of being with child, while without a husband.
- Corrie ten Boom who willingly risked imprisonment to save many lives.
- C.T. Studd who renounced wealth and a bright future to reach others for Christ.
- And William Wilburforce who faced ridicule and ostracism in his fight to banish slavery from 18th century Britain.
Men and women who seemed like failures in the eyes of the world. Who, clinging to the values and truths of Christ’s upside down kingdom, faced maltreatment, insults, poverty, and even death. And were seeming failures in the eyes of many.
People who seemed like failures but were great lights for God’s kingdom, turning the world upside down.
That’s true success in God’s kingdom – the success I long to have. How about you?