A Successful Life

by Abraham Cremeens

How would you define success? 

In your career you may look for success in your paycheck, recent performance review, completing a major project, or gaining that promotion. Those are all good things to get excited about.

In your home you may look for success in your children’s school accomplishments, paying off a debt, or losing that weight. Those, too, are good things to get excited about.

We aim and look for success in all areas of our life. There isn’t any aspect of our day that we don’t want to be successful. Ambition is a great thing. But how is success truly defined, at least where it matters the most?

We gain a picture of “success” in the life of John the Baptist. At first glance, though, you may be tempted to call it anything but success. The man died young, too young. He was taken advantage of, thrown in prison, and eventually beheaded. It’s not the story you would read to your kids every night at bedtime and say, “Now go do likewise.” Or, would you?

In Mark 6:14-29, we are given a snapshot in a very interesting dichotomy of starkly different lifestyles. In one camp, Herod Antipas and his wife Herodias (whom he stole from his brother after the two of them left their own marriages) live in luxury, fame, power, and prestige. They had gained the best material pleasures this world offers. They looked very “successful” by secular standards. 

This couple, though, is subtly compared with John the Baptist who is described in this way: 

Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:6, ESV)

You might say that John was the opposite of successful by the world’s standards. He literally has nothing to call his own. And how comfortable is camel’s hair on the skin? 

The comparison of these two lives reveals something important, though, especially toward the end of the narrative. Herod, as successful as he looks, is eventually tricked and manipulated, caught in a trap he couldn’t wiggle out from. History tells us that later, he and his wife were banished into exile as well. His deepest values didn’t get him anywhere in the end.

John, on the other hand, finished well with his very short lifespan. In fact, if I had to choose which way to live and end a life, I would side with John any day because John did what God wanted him to do. Was his life too short? Yes. Did he die a victim of injustice? For sure. But his life was truly successful because he was faithful. He finished the race God gave him.

John was given a purpose to speak the truth and point people to the Savior of their souls (Luke 1:76-77). He was faithful to that, even though it cost him his life. 

We cannot qualify success by the number of things we own, the size of our paycheck, or the positions we hold. Success in God’s economy is faithfulness to his call and purpose for our lives. 

Like John, you are approaching a finish line. We all are. You don’t know how many days you have left on this earth, but you don’t have to. You are aware of today, and that is enough. What are you doing today to be faithful to God’s call and purpose for your life at this very moment? How are you growing in your relationship with Jesus and helping others do the same? How are you connecting Jesus into your workplace, friendships, marriage, and family? Essentially, are you being faithful to God’s call and purpose for your life today as if it might be your last?

You only get one life on this earth. Be faithful with those minutes and moments God gives you, because it doesn’t get any better than that.