The Measure of True Success


“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
(1 John 5:12)

What is the measure of a life well lived? If you browse your local library for books on professional success, financial success, marital success, or academic success, you’ll find no shortage of resources and advice. But the Apostle John, writing some 50 years after witnessing the death and resurrection of Christ, summarizes true success in only a few words: “He who has the Son has life.”

I’ve spent a lot of time in the book of 1 John over the last year or so, studying and memorizing this verse and 104 others like it. Not only was I encouraged by profound reminders of God’s love in chapters three and four, but I was struck by such counter-cultural passages as 5:12. According to Scripture, it really doesn’t matter how much money a person makes or how many trophies he wins. At the end of the day, these things notwithstanding, “He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

The world’s definition of a successful life has everything to do with what you possess. Where did you go to school? Where do you live? How many kids do you have? How much money do you make? Answer these questions incorrectly, and you’ll quickly be counted as a failure by some. The Biblical definition of success, on the other hand, is all about Who possesses you! Can it be truly said, “You are Christ’s” (1 Cor. 3:23). If so, you can consider whatever else you may be lacking “loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8).

As we consider true success and what it means to follow Christ, John’s closing appeal in chapter 5 to “keep ourselves from idols” (vs. 21) is particularly relevant. Nothing matters more than your relationship with Christ, and yet we’re tempted every day to compromise that relationship for lesser things. Instead, let us deal swiftly and ruthlessly with any idols that keep us from fully knowing and abiding in Christ. Indeed, “This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

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