What is ‘Success’ Really About?

Think of an intimidating or threatening situation that scares you! Have you been wondering if you can really overcome that obstacle in your life? Often the loudest voices against success are the realists saying: ‘This problem is going to bury you; forget about success!’ Are you discouraged, loosing heart, feeling like a failure?

Israel, God’s people, during the Prophet Zechariah’s time (Ch 4: 1-14) faced a daunting situation. In 586 BC, the capital Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. In 538, Emperor Cyrus’ decree allowed some of these Jews to return to their homeland. The leaders who bought the people back were Joshua, the High Priest and Zerubabbel the administrative governor. Within a few years on returning, this faithful remnant embarked on rebuilding the temple. However, in 536 BC the work stopped! Why, what was happening?

The people began to complain to their leader Zerubabbel: ‘It’s no use; we can’t do it!’; ‘We are too small for this colossal task!’; ‘we are too poor and don’t have the needed resources!’; ‘We can hardly cope with the way things are and you expect us to do more?’ Zechariah served during this rebuilding time which took about five years. In this fifth of eight visions (4:1-14) God encourages His chosen leader and people with a message that showed them and can today teach us how to be truly successful in God’s sight.

This message unfolds in three parts. There is a vision of the lampstand and olive trees that baffles yet raises Zachariah’s curiosity (4:1-5). Like us all, he had eyes but lacked vision- that indispensable mark of true leadership without which people perish; yet that proper perspective which propels one to go places that others fear to tread. God asks him a key question: ‘What do you see?’ Next, there is an application as he gradually grasps what God actually sees and gets done- mountains are leveled and the capstone is in place, i.e. the temple is finished (4: 6-10). What God sees; God accomplishes. He recognizes that God achieves his own plans ‘not by human might or military power but by His gentle Spirit’s enabling (Isa 42:1-4; Matt 12:15-21). Finally, is an explanation (4:10-14) of the divine Source and moral means and character traits in the people God uses to fulfill His plans. In all this, God while removing obstacles, confounds doubting scorners and vindicates His chosen instruments who in His wisdom and grace He uses.

My thesis is simple: What God’s servants achieve in ministry directly depends on what we envision God wants and is already doing, which in turn determines what our goal is and reveals the means God uses to achieve it. Allow me to substantiate this by presenting 3 essentials for godly success-ful ministers:

1. Seeing God’s Vision: (v.1-5)
The angel asked Zechariah: What do you see? (v.1) As Zerrubabel and God’s people looked around what did they see? – A mountain of rubble, 16 years of wasted time, disgruntled crowds, surrounding hostile nations, meager, pathetic resources, in short – the unfinished task. Yet, what was needed was a change of focus to perceive things and the situation at hand the way God sees it. But first, they had to recognize their need for God’s help. Leaders especially must learn to lean on someOne bigger than themselves. Further it was crucial to understand the ‘true’ significance of what they were called to do and allow God’s vision of reality to shape their life’s purpose. Do you see what God sees?

2. Grasping God’s Mission: (v.6-10a)
We must come to terms with ‘what’ God desires and ‘how’ he gets it done. The vision of the temple completed and lamp stand with 2 olive trees fuelling it, alludes to what happens through God’s empowering Spirit. God wanted his servant to realize that He himself will accomplish His own promised end- ‘top stone placed’. It sure was a relief to note it is God who removes obstacles in the path to obedience- ‘mountains leveled’. True ‘success’ that pleases God comes ‘not by might nor by power but by My  spirit’. God has decided to use meek people with humble means. Have you grasped how God works?

3. Being God’s Person: (v.10b-14)
Who we are before God is much more important than what we do for Him. From this message to Zerubabbel we can deduce the kind of people God is looking for. At least three qualities stand out: First God uses those who are humble. Not the pushy type or those who seek the spot light but are ‘lampstands’ filled with God’s gentle spirit. Second, God can use only those who are available: like these olive trees, people who are ‘there’ and ready to feed and serve others. Finally, God delights to anoint and use people who are reliable, who like Joshua and Zerubabbel stand continuously in the presence by the Lord. Humble, available and reliable. Are you someone God can use?

Here are 4 lessons to learn in spite of what problem we are facing:
1. God’s eyes watch over everything; he does not despise small beginnings
2. God’s leaders must not loose sight of God’s plans and spiritual resources
3. God can make your mountainous problem into a molehill if we trust him
4. God works thru humble, available & reliable people who seek His glory


  1. What a timely message for me today, Dr. Chris. Thank you! “God can indeed make our mountainous problem into a molehill if we trust him.” I am grateful to God.

  2. The truth that “God will not despise the small beginnings” is very encouraging. Thank you for regularly writing these days.

  3. Dr. Chris, you are still my spiritual guru. Thanks for this inspiring message.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s