Yesterday, we talked about success as measured by Kingdom standards – and about how all the positive results we want to see must be left in the Hands (and timing) of God.
As an illustration of this we must turn to our Lord Jesus.
Think about His moments on the cross. Not just the suffering. Not just the price being paid for us. Not just carrying our sin.
But think about Him… in that very moment… in regard to success or failure.
He had spent His entire earthly ministry investing in people. Loving people. Giving of Himself. Meeting needs. Doing things that only God can do.
And they were the ones yelling to “Crucify Him!” They were the ones who willingly chose an insurrectionist and a murderer (Luke 23:19) over the One Who had constantly shown them such kindness.
Jesus came to sway the world back to a loving God – and, in that moment on the cross, the whole world was rejecting Him.
But what about His closest followers? Surely the men who were the focus of most of His time and attention would support Him in His darkest hour? Well, one outright betrayed Him – willfully selling Him out (literally!) to His enemies. And after a lot of noble talk, all the rest of the twelve abandoned Him at His trial.
Men who had walked with Him, talked with Him, ate with Him, and personally witnessed things that only God could do and say… elected to run and hide – and save their own skins. When their Master needed them most… they were gone.
By all accounts (humanly speaking), in that moment on that cross, Jesus was a colossal failure. All He had set out to do had come to nothing. He was abandoned. Alone. Abused. Tortured. Dying a pointless (seemingly meaningless) death.
And all hell was celebrating. The Light Who came into the world to bring new life to all humanity was snuffed out. A hapless failure. A senseless waste.
But, in the Kingdom, success or failure can never be measured by the standards of this world… or by the devious workings of hell.
Because the standard of the Kingdom is not as much cause and effect… as it is sowing and reaping.
Jesus’ time on the cross looked like failure. Jesus’ death looked like irreversible defeat.
But in apparent failure and defeat a seed was sown that could not fail or be defeated.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews put it this way: “Jesus… Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” (12:2) That joy was you and me – and all those who would look upon Jesus’ sacrifice and embrace His gift of eternal grace. It was the victory won out of what anyone would see as defeat. It was success out of what anyone would see as failure.