How God Defines Success

How God Defines Success
October 22, 2013 Don Cousins

How do you know whether you’re being successful?

That was the question I recently posed to a small group of pastors. The silence that followed indicated that perhaps they didn’t understand what I was asking, so I rephrased it:  “How do you measure the success of your ministry?”

More silence. Either they were afraid to say what they thought, or they had no definitive answer.

We’re wired with a desire to succeed, whether it’s a relationship, the classroom, the marketplace, the athletic field, or ministry. Because success is so important to us, we should have a way to measure it.

I’d like you to consider four questions. They’re biblical questions intended for every believer—not just those in vocational ministry—because God wants us all to pursue success as He defines it.

Question 1:  Are You Being Faithful?

I, like you, long to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Hearing those words would shout success. In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), it’s profound to note that the master commended faithfulness: What did you do with what I gave you? The second servant received the exact same commendations as the first servant, even though he produced less of a return. Jesus is making the point that being a faithful steward of what you’ve been given is what matters most.  Are you being faithful?

Question 2:  Are You Bearing Fruit?

In John 15: 1-11, Jesus taught that it’s God’s will that we bear much fruit. As we do so, God is glorified, and we prove to be Christ’s disciples.  The New Testament speaks of two kinds of fruit:

  1. The fruit of Christ-like character (Gal. 5:22-23). The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes nine characteristics that should fittingly describe those who call themselves Christians.
  2. The fruit of Christ-like influence (Acts 10: 38). We’re called to make a difference in the world in the name of Jesus.

Are you bearing fruit?

Question 3: Are You Fulfilled?

My dictionary defines fulfill as, among other things, “to make full.”  Is your life—is your ministry—making you full…of joy.  Looking again at the parable of the talents, the master told his faithful servants, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21, 23). Joy is one of the primary blessings of faithful and fruitful service.

This is exactly what Jesus indicated as He concluded His remarks in John 15 about fruit-bearing:  “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (15:11). Jesus taught them to bear fruit so they would know His joy, and experience it in the fullest way. Are you fulfilled?

Question 4: Are You Making God Famous?

God wants us to be faithful, to bear fruit, and to experience fulfillment (His joy) in a way that makes Him famous. Peter teaches that the faithful exercise of our gifts is “so that in all things God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4: 10-11). Jesus tells us, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5: 16). Are you making God famous?


Imagine for a moment what your church or ministry would be like if every believer was successful in biblical teams—faithful, fruitful, fulfilled, and engaged in making God famous. While such an objective may not be as quantifiable as other measures, it’s worth pursuing…because it’s God’s measurement of success.




Copyright © 2009 Cook Communications Ministries/David C. Cook. Experiencing LeaderShift by Don Cousins. Used with permission. Permission from the publisher required to reproduce. All rights reserved.


  1. Steve Pickell 10 years ago

    I love this article not just for what it says, but for what it doesn’t say! There’s no mention of the size of your congregation or the size of your annual budget as being an indicator of success. My father pastored the same small country church for over 42 years. He had to work a part-time job to make ends meet. But he was faithful to what God had called him to do and made a great difference in the lives of the people he served and the community that he lived in. In my opinion, he was as great a success as a pastor as anyone else you could name.

    • Bob 10 years ago

      Thanks Steve for your insight. They say we usually define success by the ABCs (Attendance, Buildings, Cash)…so good to hear that’s not the case, especially with your father’s ministry.

  2. Jackye 10 years ago

    Thank you for this. I looked at my leadership differently and will pass this on to my team members. Bless You!!!

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