Jesus told us to let our light shine before men and to go bear much fruit (Mt 5:16; Jn 15:1-5). In a sense, he told us to go be successful for his Kingdom.
There's an issue here though. When we succeed, it’s far too easy to become enamored with our success. The expansion and inflation of our cranial vertex lifts us a bit off the ground and leaves us—how should we say—big-headed.
The good news for those of us who crave the spotlight too much is that the gospel of Jesus Christ applies—not only to our failure but also—to our success.
When you set goals and succeed, how do you not only avoid pride but enjoy the success in a God-honoring way?
1) Remember Your Greater Success
Success tempts us toward a skewed identity. This is when our performance shapes our worth.
However, Paul reminds us that we have died and been raised with Jesus (Colossians 3:1-3).
By looking back on the resurrection, we remind ourselves that our identity is not tied to our current success but to the past success of Jesus. The resurrection life—which is now our life—re-prioritizes the way we view our success (Col 3:4).
When success tempts you to focus entirely on what you’ve done, remember what Jesus did. Sure, you did some good work for Jesus, but nothing compares to resurrection from the dead.
2) Look Forward to Your Greater Commendation
When we’ve worked hard and accomplish something, it’s tempting to pay too much attention to who notices. This is the temptation to adopt a skewed goal.
The pleasure and praise of specific people in your small world becomes the goal of your work. We wonder who sees. But here’s the deal—Jesus sees it all, and His opinion matters the most.
When you succeed, look forward to the coming commendation. Remember that our main goal is not to impress people but always to please Jesus. Consume yourself with the ache to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).
Only then will our craving for approval be satisfied and only then will we be free to do good works for Jesus apart from a desire to please people.
3) Acknowledge the Greater Worker
When we succeed, we’re tempted to forget God and think we accomplished the work on our own.
But remember Paul’s words, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” - 1 Corinthians 15:10
Paul elaborates on this same idea for all Christians in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Any success we experience is because God worked successfully through us. Like grace, we didn’t succeed because we earned it or deserve it, but because God willed it to happen.
Success isn’t a dirty word or something unholy people pursue with blood-thirsty ambition. It can be, but doesn’t have to be.
Success is beautiful when attached to ambition for God’s Kingdom. We shouldn’t be afraid to dream, pray and strive to be more successful for Jesus and His fame. Then, we should learn how to enjoy the successes God gives us.
How do we enjoy success without becoming a megalomaniac?
First, we remember success and good works don’t always look the way we think. Jesus didn’t appear too successful gagging for air on a cross, but an empty tomb proved the world wrong.
Second, enjoying success is a lot like enjoying grace—we receive the gift with open hands and full hearts in awe that the Lord would use broken people like us.
Third, we give all glory to God who is the giver of every good gift.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” - Matthew 5:16