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How Do You Measure Success?

We live in a world that often measures success quantitatively. In sports, statistics and championships are usually the determination for whether or not a player has had a successful career. Annually, Fortune magazine releases its “Fortune 500” edition, in which American companies are ranked 1 to 500 in a variety of easily measurable categories. While none of these quantitative markers are bad measuring sticks, simply measuring success based upon numbers does not answer – How good of a teammate was the numerically best player on the team? The organization makes a lot of money but is it a good place to work?

Churches are often viewed as being successful based upon markers such as butts (in the seats), budgets, and buildings. Jesus followers often measure themselves and others based upon some easily quantifiable means. You know what they are for you. Again, these are not bad measurements, but today we propose what we think it a better way to answer the question, “Am I a Successful Disciple?”

Let’s look at a story found in the fifth chapter of Luke. Beginning in verse 1, the story begins by telling that Jesus is preaching to the crowd gathered at a lake. The text seems to imply that Jesus felt hemmed in by the crowd so he decided to teach from a boat. Or maybe it was because this particular lake is some 700 feet below sea level so the rising land surrounding the water made it a very acoustically serviceable teaching venue.

This particular boat belongs to Simon (Peter). We also know from this text that Simon and his buddies had been out all night fishing and caught nothing. Zero. Zilch. These guys were professional fishermen; they knew how to fish and fish well. The best time for fishing is at night. They had just spent a long and fruitless night on the lake and in verse 4 along comes this itinerant preacher who says try again, in the daylight. Yea right Jesus, we will do the fishing, you stick to preaching and healing.

But instead of arguing with Jesus, what does Simon say? – “Simon answered, ‘Master we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’”

Verses 6-11 finish the story by telling us that Simon and his fishing buddies, after responding in obedience to Jesus, and in doing it His way, caught so many fish that their nets began to break and their boats began to sink. But I propose that even if they had caught no more fish, Jesus saw Simon as “successful” simply by his obedient response and not based upon the quantity of fish caught.

So here’s the deal. The answer to the question “Am I a Succcessful Disciple?” is very simply, obedience. And obedience is not doing something sacrificial for God. Obedience is doing the will of God. Obedience is saying … But because you say so, I will.

Are you a successful follower of Jesus?

Dave Garrett

New Bern, North Carolina


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