How Do You Measure Success?
ONE dictionary defines success as “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.” Is that a complete definition? Are wealth, favor, or eminence the only measures of success? Before you answer, consider this: Jesus Christ acquired no material wealth during his lifetime. He did not gain the approval of most men; nor was he highly regarded by the trendsetters of his day. Yet, Jesus was a successful man. Why?
While on earth, Jesus was “rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) After his resurrection, God rewarded him by crowning him “with glory and honor.” Jehovah exalted his Son “to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.” (Hebrews 2:9; Philippians 2:9) Jesus’ life course made Jehovah’s heart rejoice. (Proverbs 27:11) His earthly life was successful because it achieved its purpose. Jesus did God’s will and brought honor to His name. In turn, God honored Jesus with wealth, favor, and eminence of a kind that no academic, politician, or sports hero will ever experience. Jesus was truly the most successful man who ever walked the earth.
Christian parents realize that if their young ones follow in Christ’s footsteps, becoming rich toward God in the sense that Jesus was, they will reap rich blessings now and enjoy unimaginable rewards in the coming system of things. There is no better way for a young person to follow in Christ’s footsteps than to do the work that Jesus did—by engaging in the full-time ministry if that is possible.
In some cultures, however, the prevailing custom is for young people not to take up the full-time ministry. When a young man finishes his schooling, he may be expected to obtain full-time employment, get married, and settle down. At times, young people from such backgrounds mistakenly hold back from entering the full-time ministry. (Proverbs 3:27) Why? Because of pressure, they conform to prevailing cultural standards. That is what happened to Robert.*
When Culture and Conscience Clash
Robert was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In his teenage years, his conduct and choice of associates left much to be desired. His mother began to worry about him. Therefore, she asked a pioneer, a full-time minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to encourage him. Robert explains what happened next.
“I really appreciated the interest that the pioneer brother showed in me. His good example made me want to take up pioneering as a career as soon as I finished school. That is when Mum got worried again—but for a different reason. You see, in our culture it is all right for a girl to pioneer straight from school, but a boy is expected to become financially secure first, and then he can think about pioneering.
“I got a trade and started my own business. Soon I was deeply involved in the business and was just going through the routine of attending meetings and preaching. My conscience bothered me—I knew I could serve Jehovah more fully. Nonetheless, it was a real struggle to break free from what others expected of me, but I am happy I did. I am married now, and my wife and I have been pioneers for the past two years. Recently, I was appointed as a ministerial servant in the congregation. I can honestly say that I now feel real contentment serving Jehovah with all my heart, to my full potential.”
This magazine has repeatedly encouraged young ones to learn a trade or develop some useful qualifications—while still in school if possible. To what end? To become wealthy? No. The primary reason is so that they will be able to support themselves properly as adults and serve Jehovah as fully as they can, especially in the full-time ministry. It has often happened, though, that young men and women get so caught up in pursuing a secular career that the ministry diminishes in importance. Some do not give any thought to taking up the full-time service. Why not?
Robert’s comments shed some light on the subject. Once he had learned his trade, Robert started a business. Soon, he was on a figurative treadmill that was leading him nowhere. His goal was to become financially secure. But does anyone inside or outside the Christian congregation ever fully attain that goal? Christians should strive to be financially responsible, diligently looking after their financial obligations; but they should also realize that in these uncertain times, few ever reach a point where they can really consider themselves financially secure. That is why Jesus’ promise recorded at Matthew 6:33 is so comforting to Christians.
Robert is happy that he decided to follow the desires of his heart rather than the dictates of his culture. Today, he is enjoying a career in full-time service. Yes, the full-time ministry is an honorable career. Robert is at peace with himself because he is serving Jehovah, as he says, ‘to his full potential.’
Make the Most of Your Talents
There are many gifted people among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some have outstanding intellectual abilities; others are talented in manual activities. All these gifts come from Jehovah, who gives “to all persons life and breath and all things.” (Acts 17:25) Without life, these gifts would be of no value.
It is only proper, then, that we use our dedicated lives in Jehovah’s service. That is what one talented young man decided to do. He lived in the first century C.E. A member of a prominent family, he spent his youth in the well-known city of Tarsus of Cilicia. Although Jewish by birth, he inherited Roman citizenship from his father. That entitled him to many rights and privileges. When he grew older, he studied the Law with one of the foremost “professors” of the time—Gamaliel. It seemed that before long, ‘wealth, favor, and eminence’ would be his.—Acts 21:39; 22:3, 27, 28.
Who was this young man? His name was Saul. But Saul became a Christian and eventually became the apostle Paul. He set aside his original aspirations and devoted his entire life to Jehovah’s service as a Christian. Paul became known, not as a distinguished lawyer, but as a zealous preacher of the good news. After spending almost 30 years as a missionary, Paul wrote a letter to friends in Philippi. In it he reviewed some of his past accomplishments before he became a Christian, and then he said: “On account of [Jesus Christ] I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8) No, Paul did not regret the way he had used his life!
What about the training Paul received from Gamaliel? Was it ever useful to him? Yes! On several occasions he contributed to “the defending and legally establishing of the good news.” But Paul’s main work was being a preacher of the good news—something his earlier schooling could never have taught him.—Philippians 1:7; Acts 26:24, 25.
Similarly today, some have been able to use their gifts and talents and even their education to further Kingdom interests. Amy, for instance, holds a university degree in commerce and another in law. She once had a lucrative job with a law firm, but today she serves as an unpaid volunteer minister in one of the Watch Tower Society’s branch offices. Here is how Amy describes her life now: “I believe that I have made the best possible choice in life. . . . I have no desire to change places with any of my university peers. I am proud of my chosen course. I have everything I need and want—a contented, happy life and a career that is fulfilling and satisfying.”
Amy chose a course that brought her peace of mind, satisfaction, and Jehovah’s blessing. Surely Christian parents want nothing less for their children!
Success in the Christian Ministry
Of course, it is vital to have the proper view of success in the Christian ministry itself. It is not hard to feel successful when we have spent an enjoyable time in the field ministry, placing Bible literature or engaging householders in stimulating Bible discussions. But if we seldom find a hearing ear, we might be tempted to conclude that we are wasting our time. Remember, though, that one of the definitions of success is ‘the attainment of favor.’ Whose favor do we wish to gain? Jehovah’s, of course. This we can receive whether people listen to our message or not. Jesus taught his disciples a powerful lesson in this regard.
You will recall that Jesus dispatched 70 Kingdom preachers “into every city and place to which he himself was going to come.” (Luke 10:1) They were to preach in the towns and villages unaccompanied by Jesus. This was a new experience for them. Hence, Jesus gave them detailed instructions before sending them out. When they met “a friend of peace,” they were to give him a thorough witness concerning the Kingdom. However, when they were rebuffed, they were to go on their way, unconcerned. Jesus explained that those who refused to listen to them were really rejecting Jehovah himself.—Luke 10:4-7, 16.
When the 70 completed their preaching assignment, they reported back to Jesus “with joy, saying: ‘Lord, even the demons are made subject to us by the use of your name.’” (Luke 10:17) It must have been exciting for those imperfect men to expel powerful spirit creatures! However, Jesus cautioned his enthusiastic disciples: “Do not rejoice over this, that the spirits are made subject to you, but rejoice because your names have been inscribed in the heavens.” (Luke 10:20) The 70 might not always have the power to expel demons, nor would they always experience positive results in the ministry. But if they remained faithful, they would always have Jehovah’s approval.
Do You Appreciate Full-Time Servants?
A young man once told a Christian elder: “When I graduate from high school, I will try to find a job. If I cannot find a job, then I will consider entering some form of full-time service.” That, however, is not the viewpoint of most who have taken up the pioneer ministry. In order to pioneer, some have given up opportunities to pursue lucrative careers. Others have turned down exciting educational opportunities. Like the apostle Paul, they have made sacrifices, but like Paul, Robert, and Amy, they do not regret the choices they made. They appreciate their privilege of using their gifts to praise Jehovah, who is worthy of the best they can offer.
For various reasons, many faithful Witnesses of Jehovah are not in a position to pioneer. Perhaps they have Scriptural obligations to care for. Still, if they are serving God with their whole ‘heart, soul, and mind,’ Jehovah is pleased with them. (Matthew 22:37) Although unable to pioneer themselves, they recognize that those who do pioneer have chosen a fine career.
The apostle Paul wrote: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things.” (Romans 12:2) In harmony with Paul’s counsel, we must not allow the cultural or secular standards of this system to shape our thinking. Whether you can pioneer or not, make Jehovah’s service the focus of your life. You will be successful as long as you have Jehovah’s approval.
Names have been changed.
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Do not get stuck on a figurative treadmill that leads nowhere