Hidden Nuggets Series #48 – “Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.” – John 3:29
Such a loaded question and a difficult thing to determine. I would say most measure whether a person has been a success based on a position attained, an amount of wealth accumulated or the level of power they possess. Other views may define success as simply reaching a goal or leaving an impact on others – a legacy that lasts after the person is gone.
Either way, there seems to be a fine dividing line between success and failure in the world’s eyes. To borrow a famous movie line from Trading Places, “One minute you are up half a million in soybeans and the next, boom, your kids don’t go to college and they’ve repossessed your Bentley.” One misstep it would seem can have that big an impact.
Complicating the definition of success even further is that we struggle evaluating ourselves. More often than not it’s the world and other people’s opinions telling us whether we are a success or not. Instead of gauging ourselves and being good with that, we let strangers define our level of success – people who may not have all the facts, who misread our motivation and fail to understand our endgame.
I don’t believe in a magic formula that defines success. There is too much subjectivity involved. For example, as I describe the life of this particular person, would you classify him as a success?
A Success Profile?
This man was poor.
He was homeless.
His diet was awful and…
…his clothing was in even worse shape.
His career lasted only a short time.
Everyone questioned who he was and what he was doing.
Often he spoke with an “in your face” tone and…
…his messages were controversial.
On one occasion, he was accused of being possessed by a demon.
He mostly connected with the lower class of society because…
…he was rejected by most religious leaders of his day and…
…he challenged the government by speaking out against its immorality and corruption.
He also played second fiddle, merely serving as the setup man – the opening act so to speak – for his cousin’s greater ministry.
Then, when his cousin Jesus finally did entered the scene, he voluntarily withdrew himself from the public.
After his “demotion,” he was arrested and thrown in prison.
While secluded there, he began to have doubts about Jesus and sent his own messengers to ask questions to confirm Jesus’ identity.
His life ended with a vicious beheading at the hands of his Roman captors.
Nailing the Definition of Success
Would we define this life as a success? Highly unlikely by today’s standards.
Yet Jesus would say of this man in Matthew 11:11,
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.”
And listen to John the Baptist’s self-assessment of his own ministry as he says, “…the friend [himself] 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. He knew what his role was and, more impressively, it pleased him to fulfill it.
Perhaps this challenges you like it does me to rethink the definition of success, especially as an outside observer who doesn’t always understand the motivations of a person’s heart. I’m content to let people determine it for themselves based on their own self-evaluation. Who am I to judge their success?
Questions: What is your definition of success? Have you known someone who considered themselves successful, even though those on the outside did not? Can you be successful without reaching every goal you have in life?