How Does God Measure Success?


I once made around $80,000 in one year dealing poker for a living.  I made just shy of being able to tell people I made 6 figures!  I thought I was successful, I knew I was successful. 

Webster’s dictionary first definition of success is:  the fact of gaining wealth, respect, or fame. There is no disproving it, I met the requirements. 

 Fact: John Simmons gained wealth, so John Simmons is a success.

Would you think you were a success if you made that much money?  Is that really how we should define success?

I want to finish my success story.  That same year, I was in the middle of a decade long battle with addiction to gambling.  The year I made that $80,000, I also lost more than that gambling.  I get to say I lost more than 6 figures!  

By definition my life that year was a success. But would you consider that year of my life successful?

Is success defined by the action that creates wealth, respect, or fame or is it defined by the act of maintaining those things?

Fact: These people had things that, by definition, made their lives successful. 

Question: Does knowing the rest of their story change our opinion of their success?


  • Abraham Lincoln - 2 Bankruptcies

  • Elton John – Bankrupt

  • Walt Disney - Bankrupt

  • Billy Joel - 3 Bankruptcies

  • Hundreds of Major League Sports Stars in the US – Bankrupt (Mike Tyson, Johnny Unitas, Scottie Pippen)


  • Bill Clinton – Impeached

  • Mel Gibson – Anti-Semitic Rants

  • OJ Simpson – Double Murder Trial

  • Michael Jackson – Child Abuse Trial

  • Celebrities – That become addicted, incarcerated, or accused of crimes (Lindsay Lohan, Robert Downey Jr. , Whitney Houston)


  • Barry Bonds – Holds many all-time MLB records, literally kept out of Hall of FAME!

  • Politicians – That run and doesn’t win (Michael Dukakis, Ralph Nader, Adlai Stevenson)

  • Celebrities – That find themselves homeless (Brett Butler, Margot Kidder, Willie Aames)

  • Child Actors – That have trouble finding roles as adults (Jonathon Brandis, Todd Bridges, Jodie Sweetin)

  • Celebrities - that die tragically (John Lennon, JFK, Heath Ledger)

 Can we still define the lives of all these people as successful?  

Do the moral perceptions of our shortcomings lead to the impression of success our lives give off?

In other words, do the actions people take affect our thoughts about their successes?  I believe they do.  For instance, there are people on this list I believe are still successful regardless of their loss of one of the requirements for success.  However, there are also people on this list I believe absolutely lost their success when they removed the requirement from the present tense of their lives.

Sometimes our success is gauged from perspective.  This list certainly allows for perspective.  If you were once rich, and are now broke, you can be successful if you still have fame, or respect. If that is true, is it possible that anyone can be successful if they have at least one of the three attributes that lead to success? It’s doubtful because success is not often associated with those that lose money and fame, even if they have respect.


The world does not give a title of success to respect, at least not by itself.  Many people earn respect including teachers, ministers, stay at home parents, and civil servants to name a few.  These positions come without fame or riches, however, most of the people on the list are not considered successful?

Consider these options?  Who is/was more successful?

Retired teacher 35 years or Wealthy Movie Star that dies from overdose

Stay at home mom with 4 kids or NFL star with Super Bowl ring that files bankruptcy 

Pastor who grew a church from 40 members to 400 or President that gets impeached

John Simmons, the problem gambler that made $97,000 dealing poker in 2007 or John Simmons, the born again evangelist that made $2500 in 2014

Our perception of what actions create a successful life is way off.  Success cannot be measured by things that are different to everyone who looks at the results.

When I look at my life, I know which John Simmons is more successful, but I’m not sure the world sees the same thing.

How do we measure success?

Is success determined by what we are doing, what we did or some other unit of measurement altogether?

Our goals shouldn’t be set by world standards.  Those standards should not apply because God tells us not to worry about them.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

The behavior of this world is to believe success is measured by wealth, fame, and respect.  Romans 12:2 asks us to change our thinking to know God’s will for our life.  God’s will for our life is how we should measure our success.  God’s will in our lives is measured by the facts listed in the end of this verse.

God’s definition of success: a life that is good, pleasing, and perfect.  That measure of success can only be attained through God’s will!

How do we know if our lives fall into those categories?

Good Life- Romans 12 also gives us a definition for how we accomplish a good life.  

“Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”


 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:20-21

This verse is a clear explanation that doing good things in life include feeding our enemies and giving them anything they need. 

God measures success by how we serve others.  The world believes we gain success by gaining wealth, fame, and respect for ourselves.  God is telling us we gain success, or a good life, when we GIVE wealth, fame, and respect to others!

Pleasing Life – God is pleased through worship.  Our lives should be a sacrifice to Him.

“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” Hebrews 13:15-16

If we are to live our life in God’s will, or even find out what that will is, it starts with worshipping God.  God tells us in this verse that our sacrifice of time, money, and thankfulness are pleasing to Him.  God measures success by our ability to worship Him above ourselves, and our own desires.  This verse also multiples the point that we do good by giving to others!

This verse describes two methods of success, as seen by God.  The world believes that we find success when we serve our own wants and needs first.  God measures our success by our ability to serve Him first through worship and praise.  God is then able to take care of us because we put our faith in Him through worship.

Perfect Life – We cannot be perfect.  Jesus was the only man to live perfectly in the eyes of God. However, the way to live perfectly involves behaving righteously, or acting with high morals.

“If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:47-6:1

gods will.jpg

This passage clarifies for us what it means to be living perfectly in the eyes of God.  We gain our perfect life by not doing things in our life simply for the reward of it.  Our lives were not meant to be self-serving.  Verse 47 goes on to tell us that even if we are nice to our friends it is not enough.  To be good we must serve our enemies. 

The world believes success is measured by how much work the world can see us doing.  That is why people on TV and in movies are often measured as greater success than the teachers and ministers of the world.  God does not measure success that way, He asks us to do our work without the eyes of the world on us.  

God also tells us that a reward awaits us in Heaven if we live a perfect life.  The world believes success is measured by what we have, and God tells us that success is actually measured by what we will have!


I am blessed constantly by the work of the Holy Spirit through me.  I cannot accurately explain how I am unequipped to share the insights of God’s kingdom, yet God continues to ask me to do it.  This article is another in a long line of thoughts I write down, but cannot take credit for because God is the author of my words. 

My success is measured by God’s will in my life, and I have to say I feel pretty successful.   I have no wealth, fame, or respect from the world, but I am successful, and that’s a fact.