What is the definition of success? How do we measure it? Is there a dividing line between success and failure? Is it based on a position you attain, how much money possess, or the power you wield? Or is it based on something more altruistic like how you impacted others or the legacy you leave behind? And who defines your success? Is it based on your own self-assessment or other people’s opinions? What is the magic formula for being successful?
That’s a lot of questions to ask and no doubt you are beginning to form your own opinions about what makes a person successful. I have a pretty good idea though that as I describe this next character, successful will be the last word that comes to your mind.
He was poor.
He was homeless.
His diet was awful and…
…his clothing was even worse.
His ministry lasted only a short time.
Everyone questioned who he was and what he was doing.
His tone of speech would be described as “in your face” at times and…
…his messages were often controversial.
He was accused of being possessed by a demon.
He most likely appealed to the lower class of society because…
…he was rejected by the religious leaders of his day and…
…he challenged the government by speaking out against the sin of the Roman rulers.
He merely served as the setup man – the opening act so to speak – for his cousin’s greater ministry and then…
…voluntarily withdrew himself from the public once his cousin came on the scene.
He was afterward arrested and thrown in prison.
While in prison, he needed some reassurance and sent messengers to ask questions about his cousin’s identity.
His life ended with a beheading.
We wouldn’t think these descriptions characterize someone who put it all together and was really successful. Yet Jesus would say of this man, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11) And listen to John the Baptist’s self-assessment of his ministry as he says, “…the friend of the bridegroom [Jesus], who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” (John 3:29)
So through all his life issues…poverty, questions and accusations, loss of his job and senseless death…John the Baptist obediently followed God’s plan for his life as it was foretold in the Old Testament. He knew what his role was and it pleased him to fulfill it.
Would our contemporary culture say John the Baptist was a success? How do you define success?
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