Far from accomplishing God’s definition of success, I felt like a total loser in college . The semester before my final semester, I failed a required theology class. I was totally embarrassed and terrified that I would not get to graduate with my class.
What happened? See the end of this article for the rest of this story.
Everyone wants to be successful, at least in some way. Mothers usually want to be successful mothers. Employees usually want to be successful employees. Athletes want to be successful athletes. Students (hopefully!) want to be successful students. But what is real success? What’s God’s definition of success?
Is success being “the best?” It is extremely hard to be the best, the richest, the strongest, the smartest, the most talented, the most amazing.
There are 7 billion people on this planet and only a handful become the “best” at anything. The rest of us live with being OK, average, nothing special, an ordinary Joe.
So you and I might not feel like “a success.”
But here’s some wonderful news: we are all successful if we live by God’s definition of success .
What is God’s definition of success? Success is pleasing Jesus.
That’s it: pleasing Jesus.
“So we make it our goal to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9a NIV)
Here are 5 reasons I think God’s definition of success is absolutely wonderful:
01. Everyone can be successful according to God’s definition of success.
Success is pleasing Jesus. Pleasing Jesus begins with receiving God’s gift of salvation. That is possible for anyone.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV)
Whosoever means anyone. It means you!
Here’s how being successful works according to God’s definition of success:
- Success begins with receiving God’s gift of salvation.
- Once you’ve received salvation, you are acceptable before God forever.
- Once you are acceptable, you have eternal life.
- Once you have eternal life, you are eternally successful—you’re wealthy beyond imagination, forever free from sin, a child of the King!
If you haven’t received salvation, God wants you to do so right now. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (ESV)
If you have never been saved, please do so by following the instructions in this link for salvation.
02. Pleasing Jesus is far easier than trying to please people.
People pleasing can be frustratingly impossible to accomplish.
Recently I wrote an article that received about 50 comments on Facebook. Most liked the article and thanked me for it. But a few were unreasonably critical. One demanded an apology and a retraction.
The great thing is that Christians are not responsible to please people. The Bible says “Our purpose is to please God, not people.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4b NLT)
The Apostle Paul went even further and wrote “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 NIV)
That’s a strong statement—our goal can’t be being both a people-pleaser and a God pleaser. We have to choose between the two.
I find that even trying to please myself is quite difficult. So when I remember that my goal is to please God instead of people, including myself, it makes life much easier.
03. How to please Jesus is clearly defined in the Bible.
Some might feel they don’t know how to please Jesus. But God has made it very clear how to please Him in the Bible.
God instructed Joshua to “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8 NIV)
To be prosperous and successful, we must follow God’s Word.
Likewise, when King David was turning over his kingdom to his son Solomon, he gave his son this instruction on success:
“Do what the Lord your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go.” (1 Kings 2:3 CEV)
Sure, not everything in God’s will for you is written in the Bible. Some things you’ll need to discern through prayer. But that also is also a clear process. To learn how to discern God’s will in prayer, read my articles on:
04. It’s not difficult to please Jesus
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 KJV)
People think there are a lot of difficult rules and regulations in the Bible, but there really aren’t.
Sure, there are instructions like the 10 commandments. But the 10 commandments and other Bible regulations are rules we know are good to keep anyway:
- Don’t lie
- Don’t steal
- Don’t be unfaithful to your spouse
People who think it is difficult to keep God’s rules probably don’t understand what they are.
If pleasing Him is our goal, it becomes easy to obey the Bible. His Spirit empowers us and gives us joy in obeying.
To learn how to get help from God’s Spirit, read my articles on:
05. When we fail, there is a success reset button.
Everyone messes up trying to please Jesus. But our mess-ups (sins) can be overcome.
God has told us clearly that when we make mistakes, we can be quickly forgiven:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)
This process is very much like a child disobeying and asking forgiveness from a parent. When a child makes mistakes, the parent doesn’t disown the child. But there is a barrier until an apology is given and received.
So it is with our heavenly Father. He wants us to restore fellowship when we mess up.
And now, the rest of the story: What happened when I failed the required theology course in my senior year of college? Thankfully the guidance counselor found an equivalent class that I could take via correspondence during my last semester. I worked overtime, passed the class, and graduated with my classmates.
But even if I hadn’t had that “do over,” God’s definition of success is NOT:
- Graduating with your classmates from Bible college
- Having more than others
- Doing something others haven’t done
- Being the “world’s best”
- Being the “big boss”
Success is pleasing the Lord Jesus—a goal that’s easy and enjoyable to accomplish.