Defining Success

Adolf Hitler was a brutal dictator.  As the leader of a humiliated Germany following World War I he wanted to restore Germany to its former greatness.  But not only did he want to restore Germany to its past greatness, he also wanted to emerge as one of the strongest and most successful leaders the world has ever know.  He wanted power and prestige and a greatness reclaimed for his homeland; and he did not care how this task might get accomplished.  So, with Adolf Hitler’s darwinian theology and a desire for evil, he began to rid Germany of the Jews and all those who were not truly German.  He ordered the killings of those with disabilities including new borns.  Mental health patients and those with debilitating diseases were considered less valuable and a drain on society and therefore they must be killed. As Hitler was annihilating German Jews, “disabled Jews”, and those in opposition of his leadership, he was simultaneously marching into Poland and France claiming new land and new victories for Germany.  In fact, Hitler and Nazi Germany literally overturned the humility they had formerly experienced to France in the first World War.  Nazi Germany’s victory over France invigorated the German people.  No longer were they humiliated and scorned, but instead succeeded in their revenge of their not so illustrious past.   In the eyes of many, Germany had succeeded and many people saw this as an excuse to overlook all the atrocities Hitler committed against his own people.  They were willing to overlook the evil because there was a perceived success for the German people.  They looked at Hitler as the “savior” of Germany.  Never mind how he did it as long as the outcome was a good one in the eyes of the deceived German citizens.  The end was justified even if the means to this justified end were unjustified.

We all tend to love progress and see success, but sometimes our amusement with success blinds us from what true success really is.  How do you define success?  More importantly how does God define success.

In responding to Hitler’s Triumph of France, which restored Germany’s pride,  “Bonhoeffer wrote about  the way people worship success.  The topic fascinated him.  He referred to it in his letter from Barcelona many years earlier, in which he observed the fickleness of the crowds at bullfights, how they roared for the toreador one moment and for the bull the next.  It was success they wanted, success more than anything” (Bonhoeffer, p. 363)

In Ethics, Bonhoeffer wrote,

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity.  The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success.  It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds.  Success alone justifies wrongs done …. With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means …. The figure of the Crucified invalidates all those which takes success for its standard.

God is not concerned with perceived success in the eyes of the world..  He is not concerned necessarily with the final outcome, he is concerned with the means that bring the outcome.  He is mostly concerned about our obedience and thoughts that bring about holiness.  True success is obedience.   We see this in Christ who was obedient to the point of death even death of the cross, that we might become the righteousness of him.  As you look at history and you compare Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ, who is more successful?  I am going with Jesus!  Are you striving for obedience and holy living despite the final outcome?  Are you a faithful and obedient Christian?  Are you a faithful and obedient husband and father?  Are you a faithful and obedient church planter?  If so you are truly a success in God’s eyes regardless of the outcome! 

Russ BennettRuss Bennett is the Lead Pastor at Cornerstone Church. His desire in all things is that God be glorified through the passionate, joyful, missional living of the church. Russ is married to the beautiful Miranda Bennett and they have three children, Bailey, Cohen, and Ellie. Russ enjoys family time, reading, playing golf, and watching basically anything that involves a ball.


UncategorizedZach Nelson