What is success? The world defines it as something synonymous with achievement. If you succeed, then you have achieved. If you have achieved you have succeeded. It seems pretty straightforward and unambiguous. But as in most things, the way the world defines things is different than the way God does. To understand this difference is significant for those of us who follow Jesus.
When doing ministry, is success just a matter of how many people benefit from that ministry? Is it a matter of how many mouths are fed, how many people show up for a program or worship service? This is not an insignificant issue. If we are going to truly live into Jesus’s promise and to take His yoke upon us, and learn from Him, for He is gentle and lowly in heart, and we will find rest for our souls, then dealing with the true meaning of success is essential.
We cannot control results. The harder we try, the more bogged down we become. God is in charge of results. The Great Commission doesn’t tell us to go and make converts. It says to go and make disciples and teach then to do all that Jesus has commanded. In other words, our task is to take those He sends to us and feed them with God’s Word. But even that is not success.
Success is ministry involves transformation of character. That is what happens when disciples are made. They do not learn a set of doctrines and simply memorize a lot of scripture. Transformed disciples actually love God with all their hearts, with all their soul, with all their minds, with all their strength, and their neighbor as themselves. When that happens, obedience to the teachings of Jesus is automatic. They are the fruit of a transformed life.
That is what success is. When disciples follow Jesus because they do not want to do anything else, true transformation has taken place. As it turns out, following Jesus into transformation is what success is. When we discover that we do find rest for our souls. And success.