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What is Success?

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

I wish I had read it long time ago. Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome is one of those books that brings the reader back to Scripture and the smile of God. R. Kent Hughes and his wife Barbara went through a season where they were measuring their lives against the human bar of success and felt they were failing. Discouraged, they looked at what Scripture said abut true success and were filled with joy that God's standards of success are available to anyone, "famous or nameless, prominent or unknown, great or small. God's principles or success remain the same, and success is equally available to all. God has not placed success out of reach. He does not dangle it, tantalizing but impossible, before us. Success is possible for everyone. Anyone can be a success in God's eyes" (p.108)

One of the most helpful parts of the book are the questions of success on p. 109 that I'll share below (bold text is added for emphasis by me):

  1. Are you proving faithfully in the exercise of your ministry? Specifically, are you obedient to God's Word? Or is there, perhaps, some area, in personal or pubic ministry in which you are knowingly disobedient? (This is a telling question because you cannot be a faithful servant and a disobedient servant at the same time.) Also, since there can be no such thing as a faithful but lazy servant, are you truly hardworking?

  2. Are you living your life as a servant, or have you drifted from servanthood into self-service? The question is fundamental to success, for this will move you from success to failure.

  3. The great question for all who want to please God is, Do we love him? After his resurrection, Jesus unforgettably dramatized this question by asking Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Thus, from the lips of Jesus we learn that nothing is of greater importance! There can be no success without loving God.

  4. Do we believe that God's Son is the Creator of everything in the universe, Sustainer of every atom, the Goal of all creation, and the Lover of our souls who died for us? And more, do we believe that as Rewarder he will equitably reward us? We say we believe it. But do we really believe it with all our hearts? Do we believe what we believe? If so, we have the smile of God, and that is true success.

  5. Are we people of prayer? Do we regularly take significant portions of time for an exposure to God, to bare our needs and the needs of our people to God? Is your prayer life moving toward success or failure?

  6. Is your life growing in holiness? Or are you becoming captive to the culture? In respect to holiness, would God classify your life as a success or a failure? There is much to consider here. But this question is so important to the Christian life and ministry; it must be answered.

  7. What is your basic attitude toward your ministry--positive or negative? Some attitudes exclude success, namely negativism and jealousy. Negative people never fully experience success, regardless of their accomplishment. Their negativism taints their work for God and the experience of satisfaction they might have enjoyed. Jealous people envy the good fortune of others and gloat over others' misfortunes. They find it difficult to rejoice with hose who rejoice. Such people please neither God nor themselves.But those with positive, encouraging attitudes are a success in themselves for they serve God with a heart that pleases him--and that is success.

Originally Published 7/2/2015

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