Success or Failure, What are My Options!

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Matthew 25:21

Success is good, failure is bad—or so we generally believe. Defining success and failure is fluid. For Jesus in Matthew 25, success was all about using the talents He distributes. His judgment isn’t so much how much was gained as was the talent used. The same commendation of well done, good and a faithful servant was spoken to the successfully wise that accepted what His judgment would bring for inaction. The undiscerning and fearful buried the talent without using it. His error was inaccurately estimating the master’s judgment.

Society has its ideas of success too! Good is whatever was successful and finding out how that good was achieved becomes the topic of discussion. We read articles of success stories. We attend seminars given by successful people. We want the successful to come teach us what they did to achieve their goals so we might emulate the same. Think about it, how many people who fail are we willing to learn from? How many unsuccessful individuals do we desire seminars of? How many poor people do we want to be our financial counselor? Success is good, failure is bad and we know the difference when we see it! The person making tons of money is successful and that is good so we want them to teach us how they accomplished it. To many in Nazi Germany, the success of Adolph Hitler was good and they blindly followed the man in his maniacal, evil plans. The evil success of Hitler was good to too many.

The point being, society is a terrible barometer for judging success or failure. Wealth, numbers of followers, the applause of men; these are all terrible standards of how to conclude success and determining the good. One of the greatest so-called failures in history was of a man whose life’s work concluded in death and crucifixion. To the natural eye the work of Christ is a colossal waste of time if there is no resurrection from the dead. All the good words He spoke and followers He attracted resolved to utter failure as all forsook Him in the end. Even at the end of His own life He asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Did Jesus believe His life’s work was a failure? Hardly! It’s only as we use society’s standard of success and failure that we falsely determine His life’s work was not good but bad. What did Jesus do to get to the point of seeing His end would not be a failure? He prayed to His Father, “Not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus accepted the judgment of the Father. It was enough for Him to know the Father’s will and to do it. Success was not determined by how many followed Him, how much wealth He accumulated, or even by the greatness of His notoriety. Success was doing the Father’s will as the poor, despised, rejected, afflicted and forsaken—all signs of failure and the bad of this world.

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ is a conclusion of success. The judgment was not decided out of wealth contributed or ability, it was determined because the servants accepted the judgment of their master and acted accordingly to his will—just use the talents. If anything I learn, I learn to ask, what is your will Lord and resolve to accept His judgment on all I do. I may end up rich, poor; popular, despised; accepted of many or rejected; received or forsaken—whatever the success or failure, I accept the judgment from His hands—that is my option.

J. Robert Hanson


  1. quite often in the beginning centuries of christianity, when people would get martyred it would ignite passion and zeal in others who would step up and take their place to speak up and be missionaries.

  2. Funny you should write that! I’ve actually been thinking these things from reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics. He was a man many consider a martyr for Christ though executed by the Nazis. And though I don’t agree 100% with him, he still has some insightful ideas.

  3. This is a thorough indictment of society! Could you give some examples of how we practically live this, in terms of how to learn from worldly failures? Or perhaps this could lead into a post on how do you know if you’re following God’s will?

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