“And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him.”
–1 Samuel 18:14, ESV
Plenty of people want to be successful in life. There’s no question about that. In fact, I personally don’t know anybody who actually aims for failure in life and launches a strategic plan to achieve it. And there is no shortage of advice out there on how to achieve the kind of success we’re looking for. But most of the advice out there is missing one key element. I think I’ve discovered the real secret to success. And it’s probably not what you think. The secret? Jesus. He’s the answer to everything, right? But this time around, I’m not kidding. Jesus is the secret to success. But of course, let me explain.
This is what Jesus told His disciples as recorded in the gospel of John: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, ESV). According to this particular piece of Scriptural advice, if we seek to bear much fruit in this lifetime, there’s only one way: by abiding in Christ. That means we are so connected to Christ just like how a branch is connected to a vine. Branches are pretty much useless on their own. But when connected to a vine, they have the ability to bear fruit. The most important thing that we can do in this life is to abide in Jesus—to stay closely connected to the source and giver of life.
Jesus even takes it a step further by informing his disciples that apart from Him, they can do absolutely nothing. Now admittedly, this is a little confusing. There are plenty of things that humankind has done and achieved apart from Christ. You might even go and say that there are plenty of people in this world who appear to be successful in life and yet they neither believe in nor follow Jesus. And so what’s Jesus talking about here when He says that apart from Him, we’re unable to do anything? What Christ is referring to is this: apart from Him, we’re unable to do anything of significant eternal value in God’s Kingdom. Sure, we can make a ton of money without God’s help. And we can achieve fame, awards, and recognition apart from Christ. Human beings are pretty clever people. But at the end of the day, these things have no significant eternal value in God’s Kingdom. These things will surely not last in the end. They will be here today and gone tomorrow.
Remember, God has already set for us our clear purpose in life. Love God with everything. Love others as ourselves. Make disciples. These are the things that are of significant eternal value in God’s Kingdom. They’re the things that greatly matter to God and therefore, should greatly matter to us as well. And these are precisely the very things that we cannot do on our own. In order to achieve this kind of Kingdom success, there’s only way: by abiding in Christ.
And so what’s the real secret to success? First, re-orient your goals to reflect God’s clearly expressed purposes. You probably don’t want to be aiming at the wrong target even if it will bring you a sense of happiness and fulfillment. That's only temporary. It’s not going to last in the end. And secondly, abide in Christ. Only by Christ’s leading and by Christ’s power will we be able to achieve any sort of fruitfulness in this lifetime. Apart from Christ, the truth is there’s not much we can do. So the answer is true; here’s the real secret to success: Jesus.