2 Criteria for Redefining Success for Sanity’s Sake

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Photo by jurvetson.

What is success? Most people define it in one of three ways:

  • How many possessions do you own?
  • How much power do you wield over others?
  • How much prestige do you have among peers?

American Christians tend to blend right in. We even apply these standards to churches and church leaders. Which church has the biggest budget, the nicest building, or the largest weekend attendance? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things – money is good, influence is invaluable, and popularity is something God can use in huge ways. And we certainly need churches to grow exponentially in a world as lost as ours. The problem is, none of those factor into God’s viewpoint on success.

Jesus gathered a handful of followers in His lifetime, didn’t have a place of His own, and was despised and rejected by the social elite of his community. But He was most definitely successful. In fact, He was so successful that He could come to the end of His life and confidently proclaim…

I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

- John 17:4 NKJV

Jesus did two things completely that provide the perfect framework for our understanding of success.

  1. He became all that God wanted Him to become.
  2. He did all that God wanted Him to do.

He glorified God in His life perfectly. He grew from the baby in the manger into the perfect, sinless Jesus who changed the world. He was kind, generous, funny (though we usually miss His humor), loving, and strong. He was everything God wanted Him to be. To keep your sanity, start thinking about WHO God wants you to become instead of what options He wants you to choose. In other words, it’s less about where you go to college or which car you buy and more about whether you take the high road and keep your integrity.

He also finished all the tasks which God had assigned to Him, leading right up to the final moment of His life, which He gave as a ransom for mankind. The second way to redefine success for sanity’s sake is to focus only on what God calls YOU to do and not on all the good things that others might be involved in.

Furthermore, He will give us all the time, talent, treasure, and relationships to accomplish exactly His will for our lives. When we are good stewards of these resources, we never run short. Not having enough time, not being able to please everyone, and not being able to escape pressure is usually a sign that we’re trying to do things God hasn’t called or equipped us to do.

So for sanity’s sake, redefine success. Get to the end of your life and be able to say, “I’ve become the person God wanted me to become, and I’ve finished the ‘to do’ list He gave to me.” That’s it.


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About Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.


  • http://www.matthewlaker.blogspot.ca/ matthew laker

    This is something I (we) have to continue to remind myself/ourselves. Thanks for this, its something I can use for a class I I teaching in a few weeks.

  • Ray Finger

    As a Children’s Pastor for almost sixteen years I have been saying what you just said using the exact same terminology for several years now. Our kids really seem to be able to wrap their mind around what genuine success should look like when it’s presented this way. However, as a former senior pastor I also know that most people in “Big Church” need to hear it presented this way as well. Thanks brother for ringing the success bell so loud and clear… for ALL to hear!

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Ray, great thought there! If kids can grab it, we should probably be grabbing it too. Thanks!

  • http://revtrev.com/ RevTrev

    Another good word Brandon.,, it’s made me consider how I view success. Just imagine the time we can hear “Well done, good and faithful servant…” Wow. Better look over my to-do list today.

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