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Pointers along the way #150

Criteria for success
- Jacob Ninan

The world counts a man successful if he has amassed wealth, gone to the top rungs of his career, made a name for himself, displayed distinctive abilities, etc. But is this how God evaluates our lives? We would instinctively say, "No." At the same time, these things are not wrong in themselves. The problem is that we could miss God's criteria while we are pursuing these goals. Many Christians are pursuing this type of success, even in Christian ministry, as if they are the only criteria for success. Impressive speakers, writers and singers, pastors of large churches, evangelists bringing in thousands, founders of large organisations, etc., are all admired as great successes in the church. They are successes. But are all the rest automatically less than successful? It is the leaders who are seen and heard, and get the acclaim. But what about the followers, who did the hard work, prayed for the leaders or supported them financially? Does God have any sucess criteria that are equally applicable to leaders and followers?

Look at the parable of the talents, where the master gave one man five talents, another two and another one. One point is that is that the master expected output from these men only in proportion to what they were given. The successful 'leaders' are there partly because of their outstanding gifts which they received from a sovereign God (1Co.12:5,11). What about the thousands of ordinary Christians who have been given only one talent each? Should they be counted as failures or as those who couldn't make it? (Mt.25:26). Oh no! So what are the criteria God uses for success? What kind of people are they to whom the Lord will say, "Well done," or "Approved"?

Certainly absolute output is not one of God's criteria. An evangelist who wins a million souls may get the same appreciation from the Lord as a housewife who brought up a few children for Him! It is a matter of ability and opportunity. When Jesus was publicly acclaimed by the Father at the time of His baptism, He had not yet done any great deeds! (Mt.3:17).

Let me suggest two criteria - faith and faithfulness. Great faith can take two forms, in this context - one to trust God for great things, and the other to hold on in faith even in adverse circumstances. The Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman had faith of the first kind (Mt.8:10;15:28). The three friends of Daniel are typical of the second (Da.3:17,18).

Faithfulness means to bring out the best result out of what we have been given. In the parable of the talents both the five talent man and the two talent man received the same appreciation from the master, because of their faithfulness with what they had. When Jesus talked about bringing out thirty, sixty and hundredfold harvest, it talks about grades of faithfulness (Mt.13:8).

Shall we stop comparing ourselves with others and focus on having great faith and being faithful?