wrestling with the definition of success

I came across this definition of success in some lunch time reading Friday … and to me; it seems to be a somewhat biblically grounded definition … not your typical health and wealth definition.  Read, consider and leave your feedback …

“Success is a word that is greatly misunderstood, and we need to grasp what it means biblically to be a success – to love God with all of our heart, our minds, our soul, and our strength; to allow Him to unlock the imprisoned potential in our lives; to set godly goals and not be content to settle for second best when we realize that God gave everything He could give so that we could have the very best of life; and to realize that one of the greatest sins we commit against God is not reaching the potential he has placed in us.”

Be All You Can Be: A Challenge to Stretch Your God-given Potential
(originally published in 1987)
John Maxwell

Reading the above prompted me to seek out Scripture (beyond that of the greatest commandment that the definition begins with) that might support such a definition … for your consideration; here is what I found …

Jesus offered the following words:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10:10 (NASB)

The apostle Peter offered this explanation:

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.  Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;  for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.  2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB)

And finally these words are from Paul …

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:14-21 (NASB)

Considering all these things I find myself repeatedly considering the word potential.  I looked at the definition in Merriam Webster and WordWeb … I really like the definition offered by WordWeb …

potential:  the inherent capacity for coming into being

The wording of Maxwell’s description of success above seems to suggest that the potential for success may be imprisoned or unrealized in me … and in some small way … very small I might add … I can agree with that.

But what I see in the passages of Scripture above does indeed suggest to me that I am indeed struggling with the unrealized full potential of Christ IN me … there are scattered strongholds of the world, flesh and mind still in me that have not been put to death and they are grounded in the power of me NOT the power of Christ … it is like an internal civil war is going on … certain aspects of my life are fully devoted to Christ while other aspects are fully devoted to me.  My protection of these strongholds prevents me from fully realizing the potential of Christ IN me.  As John the Baptist so clearly stated the following must continue to transpire IN me … ‘Jesus must increase, but I must decrease.’

So based simply on the Scriptures above (and I will be the first to admit there is so much more in Scripture to consider), what might the fully realized potential of Christ IN me look like?

  • EVERY aspect of my life would be lived grounded in faith IN Christ Jesus
  • I would be living an abundant life (think love, fruitfulness, etc. not health and wealth)
  • I would be strengthened not by human power but with the divine power of the Holy Spirit working IN and THRU me
  • I would be filled up to all the fullness of God … the full indwelling presence of Christ IN ALL of me … but first I must die to (aka surrender) all of me releasing the capacity for the fullness of God

Paul wrote something above that is really sticking with me … Christ is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.

Potential limited by the human capacity to think/ask and the corresponding human power to act is indeed an unrealized potential.  But what I am imprisoning … limiting or quenching … is the power of Christ that God intended to work in and through me to the glory of God.

I long for the fully realized potential of Christ IN me!

Oh Lord, I pray that You will fully increase IN me that I might fully decrease to self!



About bwebbjr

A grandfather, father, husband, man, and a child of God who is following Christ Jesus and working out his salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work IN me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). I dodged my first bullet with cancer when a cancerous polyp was removed in a sigmoid colectomy surgery in August 2007. Four years later, in the midst of a second colectomy surgery we discovered I had Stage IV metastatic colon cancer. Rather than colectomy surgery I had colostomy surgery, which now means the colostomy bag is a part of my everyday life ... with the emphasis on life. God has given us a peace beyond understanding as my wife and I have traveled this journey. By the grace of God I am blessed to be a 6 plus year cancer survivor aka warrior. In writing, I am often wrestling with my own personal struggles and beliefs and in the midst God leads me to a lesson He wants me to learn ... or sometimes He simply touches me in the revelation of Himself. My hope is that the result you see here might touch your heart and glorify God. And let me be clear ... I am not the only one with something to say. Please join in the conversation sharing your faith, your cancer experiences, etc. I would love to hear from you. Bernie
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5 Responses to wrestling with the definition of success

  1. jimdavenport says:

    Wonderful insight Bernie. Really appreciate this one. Man’s definition of success has little to do with Godliness. Jim D.

    • bwebbjr says:

      Thanks for the encouragement Jim … I’m sure what we both long to hear is “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter in to the joy of your Master!” You’re absolutely correct … man’s defintion of success is quite frequently at odds with God’s defintion of success. And that can be such a challenge for the believer …

      May you and yours be blessed IN Christ Jesus brother!


  2. Sandy B. says:

    Bernie, I’m sitting here trying to decide if I should comment. I understand what you are saying but I have a different perspective in regards to your prayer at the end. I’m questioning the belief that we must “disappear” in order to be Christ-like. Is success when we are no longer ourselves, or when we become in-tune with God’s purpose/design for our lives.

    • bwebbjr says:

      Hi Sandy,

      I am so glad you decided to comment … I think it is critically important for folks who read my thoughts and perspectives on this blog to share their own. Others can learn from both of us.

      I don’t beleive that in my decreasing that Bernie will disappear … I think the object of the decreasing is to reduce my selfishness, my sinfullness, my fears, my worries, etc. and give God greater and greater control of my life … I truly believe I will still be the unique person Bernie … but I will become more complete to the design and plan that God has. With folks like John, Peter and Saul aka Paul, we can see how in their decrease God transformed them … yet they retained their unique personalities … and they were a critical aspect of their work and their testimony.

      Yes, I think godly or biblical success is indeed when we are more in-tune with
      God’s design and purpose.

      I do so appreciate your comment and hope you will continue to provide your input.

      May you and yours be blessed IN the love of Christ Jesus!


      • Sandy B. says:

        Well said. The reason I decided to comment was just for this clarification. Sometimes as a Christian I have wrestled with my fit in God’s plan. I would hope someone thinking about inviting Christ into their life would not be scared of losing who they are but would gain excitement about who they are becoming. Thanks, Bernie, for your heart to share and for responding to my comment so gracefully.

        Grace & Peace,


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