What is Real Success?

Pete Scazzero | May 02, 2018

Living for decades in the New York City area, I have met some of the most successful and influential people in the US, even the world! But as a pastor, many of these “success stories” come loaded with regret, broken dreams and shattered lives. In a social media age of carefully curated images, successful people can look great on the outside while everything is falling apart on the inside.

I know I have struggled myself with unhealthy work patterns with the driving desire to be successful at all costs. In fact, often times the drive to succeed feels so overwhelming that we often lose our own center in Jesus, and even our soul! So allow me to offer to you, in a few words, two reminders that may help you see what “real success” looks like:

1. Stay in Loving Union with Jesus.

It is possible to build a church, non-profit or company, relying only on our gifts, talents, and experience. We can serve Christ in our own energy and wisdom. We can expand the corporation without thinking much of Jesus or relying on him in the process. We can claim  truths we don’t live.

I was in my early years as a Christian when I first came to grips with the sad truth that God appeared to use prominent Christian leaders whose relationship with Jesus was either nonexistent or seriously under-developed. It was a discovery that left me confused and disoriented. Yet, after decades in ministry, I am no longer so confused. Why? Because I have experienced to some degree what it’s like to be one of those leaders. I have prepared and preached sermons without thinking about or spending time with Jesus. I know the experience of doing good things that helped a lot of people while being too busy or caught up in my own whirlwind of leadership worries to be intimately connected to Jesus.

    Consider the following quick check-up of how your experience of remaining in loving union with Jesus is going:


You Know You’re Not Experiencing Loving Union When You . . .


Can’t shake the pressure you feel from having too much to do in too little time.

Are always rushing.

Routinely fire off quick opinions and judgments.

Are often fearful about the future.

Are overly concerned with what others think.

Are defensive and easily offended.

Are routinely preoccupied and distracted.

Consistently ignore the stress, anxiety, and tightness of your body.

Feel unenthusiastic or threatened by the success of others.

Routinely spend more time talking than listening.


Jesus faced overwhelming pressures in his life — pressures that far outstrip anything most of us will ever face. Yet he routinely stepped away from those endless leadership demands to spend significant time with the Father. He slowed down to ensure he was in sync with God. In routinely stepping away from his active work, He entrusted the outcome of his circumstances, problems, and ministry to the Father. And as a result, every action Jesus took was rooted in a place of deep rest and centeredness out of his relationship with God.

The question we each must wrestle with regularly is this: In what ways does my current pace of life and leadership enhance or diminish my ability to allow God’s will and presence full scope in my life?  


2. Keep Your Work in Perspective. Jesus has a little work for you to do. Your work is important to Him. But it is small. Consider the complexity of the work God is doing in millions of lives around the world. Consider his innumerable works since the beginning of human history. Imagine yourself looking back at your “to do” list this week after seeing Jesus face to face. Is everything really so important!?

  Jesus is building his church – not you. He said: I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it. He is the exclusive church builder. This work we do belongs entirely to him. And God alone has the power to grant someone a revelation of Jesus (See Matt. 16:17). We sure cannot. This is immensely hopeful and immensely humbling.    

           For the past few weeks, before I go to bed, have been pondering the last paragraph in the final book in C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It has helped me to surrender my “little” earthly work to Him and keep a healthy perspective around my unfinished plans and work. Aslan (representing Jesus) explains to the children what their earthly journey meant: Lewis writes:

He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them... But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

When I remember that my short earthly life is only the “cover and the title page” and “Chapter One” will begin when I see Him, my body relaxes. My cup overflows with thankfulness. And I join with Julian of Norwich in affirming: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Pete Scazzero (the founder of New Life Fellowship Church) now leads Emotionally Healthy Discipleship, a global ministry equipping churches to implement a discipleship that deeply changes lives. Go to www.emotionallyhealthy.org to find out more about The Emotionally Healthy Discipleship Courses Leader’s Kit.

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