The Illusion of Success Apart From God


The Illusion of Success Apart From God

A Sobering Look At Success And Its Side Effects

Learning to succeed in life is an absolute necessity. From birth, we learn to sit up, crawl, stand, walk, talk, run, potty train, feed ourselves, read, write and communicate. Over the next 20-25 years, we must successfully master social, academic and vocational training. In general, the level of our future successes will be rooted in our past achievements. Our ability to secure adequate employment, purchase a home, provide for our families, live a fairly comfortable life, and save for our retirement years all result from being successful in life. However, at the end of our journey, we will all find ourselves at death’s exit door. The rich, middle-class, poor, successful, unsuccessful, foolish and the wise will all face death. It is against this backdrop that Jesus ask the question:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Mark 8:36-37)

Now before you get the wrong idea, please understand that Jesus is not condemning or criticizing our success or achievements in life as some folks suppose. He did not suggest that learning, growing and striving to become a successful person is a waste of time or a bad thing—it is not. However, what He does contrast and expose is that no measure of personal success in this life will in any way benefit us in the afterlife. In other words, all our wealth, achievements, and success cannot influence or determine where we spend eternity—heaven or hell. Let’s look at the parable of the rich fool.

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)

Consider Jesus words, “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Real life (eternal life) exists only in Christ and through Christ. He is our connection to the next life and the Father.

It is here that Jesus says to the rich fool, “you fool,” tonight you will die and depart from your successful life. How will you enter heaven when you are without a savior? All you can offer is your earthly accomplishments and achievements, but they are of no value now. You have acquired much and gained the world, but made no provision for eternity. If only you had turned to the Savior in true repentance when you had the opportunity.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

The real wake-up call here speaks to our preoccupation with financial and material success at the expense of an authentic born again salvation experience and daily relationship with the Lord. One of the side effects of success is a false sense of confidence clouding our spiritual understanding. The idea of needing a savior to rescue us from our sin seems a little illogical. We are just fine, quite successful, very healthy and enjoying our lives. Our pockets are full, but our hearts are void of God and filled with success. Success is creating the illusion that all is well when it is not. It is easy to become prideful, defensive, and filled with a sense of well being because of our successful lives. We are accomplished, educated, trained, and successfully prospering. What more do we need?

The book of Revelation offers some sobering insight into this condition. Consider what the Lord says to the prosperous believers of Laodicea:

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:17-18)

How many times have you said to someone, “I got caught up in, fill in the blank, and didn’t realize until later what was going on?” So it is with those who are living under the illusion of success and are not truly born again. They do not realize that all their accomplishments, successes, and good deeds will not gain them eternal life in God’s presence.

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Mark 8:36-37)

I am reminded here of the passengers and crew that boarded the Titanic on its maiden voyage to America. The ship was constructed in such a way that it was believed by many to be “unsinkable.” The thrilled crew and travelers journeyed at record breaking speeds across the Atlantic, fully confident that they would arrive safely on the other side. After crashing into the iceberg, it took about two hours and forty minutes for the Titanic to sink. About 1,500 souls were lost due to the lack of lifeboats. Sadly, many perished because of misplaced faith and confidence in a vessel that was designed and constructed by man to keep people safe.

Many today are trusting in some man-made belief, religion, or philosophy while sailing through life on a sea of success. Their minds and hearts are confidently resting in their mistaken understanding that they are safe and all is well. They do not realize their perilous state of existence. What they are trusting in will not help them when their journey on earth ends.

The good news is that God sent His son to rescue us from our sinful lives and give us eternal life. Our confidence must rest in a person, a man, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isn’t it time for Jesus?


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Perhaps at this very moment, you have realized that you need the Lord in your life. Maybe you drifted away or need to be been born again? If so, you can stop right now and begin talking to God. Ask Him to forgive you for being a sinner and the life you have been living outside of His love. Surrender your life to Him, unconditionally. Call Him Lord and make Him Lord of every thought, attitude, and action. You can say, Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins and come into my heart and take full control of my life. I am your child from this day forward. Change my heart and mind to be Christ-like in every way. I confess Jesus is my Lord and Savior forever.

If you prayed that prayer we would love to hear back from you.

You may be interested in this blog:  Are You Really Born Again?

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