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  • Writer's pictureChristian Insights 4 You

True success

Updated: May 13

Description: Fulfilling our full personal potential is seen as important, yet Jesus was only interested in achieving his purpose. What’s the difference?


So much in life is about fulfilling our own personal potential - being successful. We can feel pressured – really pressured. It’s as if there’s a (mostly) unspoken accusation that failure to excel – and keep on excelling – equates to failure as a person.

The pace of life doesn’t help. Communication has to be instant. Results have to be delivered yesterday. We have to look great every day in every way at the drop of a hat. Fast solutions have to be found to iron out complex family/work tensions. The list goes on.

So what about Jesus?

Some might say he set some useful guidelines and said some clever things, yet failed to fulfil his potential. He had the power and knowledge to rule the world - to be supremely successful in human terms. Instead, he ended up crucified.

The New Testament positively pulses with his wisdom. No one can doubt he could have achieved anything he wanted. He could rustle up a parable in the blink of an eye and pierce the heart with the power of his message. He could face down his opponents by using their own arguments against them, and attract people in their thousands to hear what he had to say. Yet reaching his personal potential seemed to mean absolutely nothing to him.

Potential versus purpose

Truth is: Jesus wasn’t at all interested in fulfilling his own potential, only in his God-given purpose. Whereas he could have pursued his own self interests and been fantastically successful, he dedicated his considerable talents to achieving the purpose set by his Father. Next to that, nothing mattered.

An example is when Jesus faced the devil’s temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13). The devil set Jesus’ potential and purpose in direct opposition to each other by tempting him to turn stones into bread. Making the transformation would have instantly showcased Jesus’ potential to satisfy physical hunger, yet he elevated his purpose over potential, and countered the devil by referring to Deuteronomy 8.3. In effect, he was saying that human existence does not thrive solely on food (bread), but on the entirety of divine guidance spoken by the Lord. This is Jesus clearly prioritising spiritual nourishment, and adherence to God's will, over the fulfilment of his personal potential.

A second example is in Matthew 26.36-46, Mark 14.32-42, and Luke 22.39-44. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus grappled with the horrors of his impending crucifixion and prayed to be spared such a cruel death. Yet despite the agony he faced, he stuck by his prime purpose and surrendered to the cross. This supreme moment epitomises Jesus' unwavering commitment to fulfilling his divine purpose, even in the face of monstrous personal suffering. Although he had the potential to avoid the torturous death he endured, he chose obedience – and, of course, his sacrifice became the pathway to humanity’s redemption.

These two examples, among many, show how Jesus consistently elevated purpose over personal potential and personal success. He gave us something to reflect on, and as he himself did, to pray about.

No rush

And he didn’t exactly rush. He took time with people. The fastest transport he ever used was a donkey – and they’re more renowned as beasts of burden than sprinters. This means he spread his message of love at a walking pace, with stops in villages, boats, desert places and mountainsides.

Could this be a subtle hint for us? After all, he is the foundation stone of a religion that embraces about 2.3 billion people – that’s nearly a billion more than the world’s largest country and far more than are served by the biggest global enterprise.

What really counts in the end is not how fast we rush around, how many tasks we can juggle, or our personal success (however measured). It’s whether we use the talents God has given us to achieve the purpose he has set for us.

First step

Pausing long enough to hear what God wants is the first step. Asking for guidance and support comes in the same breath. And God will help because we’ll be doing what he wants. Then, just like Jesus, we’ll be able to complete our individual missions for our Father in Heaven. Isn’t that why we’re here?


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