People in their forties and fifties tend to evaluate life. There are often big career changes. Some people switch from a high earning job without fulfillment to a lower earning job with a sense of purpose. So how do we evaluate personal success? It is evaluated by what our lives are about. If our life’s goal is to invest in our family, but our daily routine takes us away from them, our life is not successful. If our goal is to amass a fortune and we live in poverty, our life is not a success. In these instances our life is not a success by our own standards, but how do we know we are living by worthy standards? The psychopath who values chaos and disorder might consider a killing spree or a series of bank robberies as a personal success. Most of us, however, would want some way of preventing such destructive behavior.
The apostle Paul valued the gospel of God very highly. By ‘gospel’ he meant the good news of what Jesus accomplished through death and life. The God-centered, virtuous life was out of reach for most of us. Sin and evil pushes societies and individuals into patterns and habits that enslave and destroy. We know the good we should be doing but lack the power to do it. We fall short of true success but we settle for a new, mediocre standard. God calls us to a life of significance and in Jesus he equips us to do it. God calls us to a life of worship and he reveals himself as worthy of becoming our life goal.
In the passage below Paul evaluates his suffering and the way others are using his misfortune. He considers both his imprisonment and the spiteful actions of others to be success because they advance the gospel. How would you evaluate similar circumstances?
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.