GLENN KAISER is a senior pastor at Chicago's Jesus People USA and founder member of heavy rock band Rez. He kicks off his new, regular series in Cross Rhythms with an examination of Success.

Glenn Kaiser
Glenn Kaiser

First, a word of thanks to those in the Cross Rhythms team who have invited me to do this column each issue. I hope to do more than bore you with endless drivel and Yankee values. To this end, fasten your seat belts please! Let's get at the throat of one of the leading icons in our lives. . . "success".

The dictionary most likely to be quoted from in America (God help us) is Webster's. If you were to look there for the definition of the word "success", you'd find this: "result, degree or measure to succeeding, a favourable termination of a venture, the attainment of wealth favour or eminence, one that succeeds."

Furthermore, the word "succeed" includes the idea of "turning out well, attaining a desired object or end" and the sense of "inheritance".

How this plays out in an individual's life, or the life of a group of people, varies greatly. Some may consider a particular person a success while others would say that same person was generally a failure. This depends on the value judgements of those doing the judging.

In Britain, you have the VAT. I would imagine that there were various thoughts about just how much value certain articles really possessed upon the introduction of the tax! Again, it would depend a lot on how much you really wanted a particular item. Jesus spoke about the value of the Kingdom Of Heaven in several of his parables. Here's one of them.

"Again, the Kingdom Of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:45,46)

Here, in the original Greek of the New Testament, the meaning of "value" is: "extremely valuable, very costly, of great price". But of course, Jesus is the one speaking. He has determined within his thinking - always in accord with the judgement of God the Father -that the worth of the Kingdom Of Heaven is such.

Others may not think God even exists, or even if he does, that he has a "kingdom". They may not believe in Heaven. They may consider the Bible a book of semi-worthwhile moral teachings coupled with fables for the young and the very old who "may NEED that sort of thing". Some go one step further and judge the Church and those who claim Christian faith as fools of the highest order. In which case, we are anything but "successes" in terms of our deepest values and consequent lifestyles.

Neat isn't it? In a paragraph, much of what the majority of the followers of Jesus Christ believe is rendered irrelevant, even useless in the minds of others. So much for success.

But if one considers Jesus the Christ, the promised Messiah... if one believes he is indeed Lord and Saviour, and if one expects the reality of judgement day at the end of this existence... who and what truly defines "success"?

You could think about it in either direction - "who" followed by "what" or the other way round. It is my opinion that for many, those they value as most important in their lives - other people and not principles - govern their sense of choice and value. Certainly, there are people who are more motivated by principle, but I happen to think they are in the minority.

If this is true, the value judgements of the person whom you consider most important to your life (outside of yourself) will probably greatly affect your own judgements with regard to worth and success. So who is your closest friend?

If there is a God, how would they rate next to God as judge? Whose sense of "success" is more important in reality? Finally, whose judgement of value and worth is most important to you?

Numbers (sales, pounds and pence, number of friends, "fans", whatever), fame, amounts of power you wield, all of it begins to take on new meaning. And new responsibility.