Modern society is success oriented. But toward a success which is measurable, provable, and usually enviable. Successful businesses earn more money. Successful parents turn out children who become professionals, who in turn climb to the top of their profession. And successful writers publish best sellers. 

But what does success mean in God’s upside down kingdom, as it is sometimes called.

The kingdom, which in natural terms, makes no sense at all. Because it takes all that this world has turned upside down and sets it right. And shows us the right way to live.

Just think of some of God’s prominent messengers — the prophets. Rather than leading them along normal paths toward comfortable, normal success, God sometimes called them to do crazy things.

He had Isaiah walk around naked. Ezekiel had to cook over a fire fueled by human excrement. Jeremiah was told to hide his underwear under rocks and to wear an oxen yoke. And John the Baptist lived on locusts while wearing animal skins.

Called to speak out against their evil times, rather than receive accolades and respect, they suffered rejection and persecution. They were exiled, stoned, sawn in two, thrown into pits or lions’ dens, and killed.

But God’s call to ministry in our times is often seen as a call to success.

Yet living by God’s principles — which turn everything around — could instead make us seem as crazy as the prophets!

  • We find by losing (Matthew 10:39).
  • We live by dying (Galatians 2:20).
  • We become exalted by humbling ourselves (Matthew 23:12).
  • We receive by giving (Luke 6:38).
  • By serving we become great (Mark 10:43-44).
  • Our weakness is our strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
  • We labor to find rest (Matthew 11:29).
  • We become great by becoming small (Matthew 18:4).
  • We become rich by giving all (Luke 18:22).

To the natural mind this makes no sense.

Forgiveness seems weak. Giving all seems foolish. Choosing less seems senseless – just as countless other “upside down” choices do.

  • You have a degree — and only work in a factory?
  • You left a great job — just to be a stay-at-home mother or homemaker?
  • You sold your big fancy house — to live in a simple tiny home?
  • Or sold your luxury car — to drive a used economy car?

Questions asked in disbelief, with a hint of disdain. Implying that we’re not quite right in the head.

Society constantly pushes toward the bigger, better, on-top lifestyle. Trying to convince us that not only is it the most desirable, but that we deserve it.

But how does this line up with God’s kingdom?

In Christ’s kingdom success does not necessarily mean bigger churches, larger crowds, or becoming a famous preacher, best-selling author, or popular blogger.

To Christ the great and successful are those who:

  • Are poor in spirit, seeing their need of God.
  • Mourn their own sinful carnal nature, and seek to change.
  • Are meek, and willing to learn from others.
  • Hunger and thirst after righteousness.
  • Have pure hearts.
  • Are peacemakers.
  • And are willing to face persecution for doing right.

Without obedience, our faith is just good theory. But down through the centuries, those who have obeyed the principles of God’s upside down kingdom, have left their mark. And turned the world around them upside down.

  • Mary who embraced the disgrace of being with child, while without a husband.
  • Corrie ten Boom who willingly risked imprisonment to save many lives.
  • C.T. Studd who renounced both wealth and a bright future to reach others for Christ.
  • And William Wilburforce who faced ridicule and ostracism in his fight to banish slavery from 18th century Britain.

Men and women who seemed like failures in the eyes of the world. Who, clinging to the values and truths of Christ’s upside down kingdom, faced maltreatment, insults, poverty, and even death. And were seeming failures in the eyes of many.

But who were great lights for God’s kingdom, turning the world upside down.

That’s true success in God’s kingdom – the success I long to have. How about you?

“Greatness in the kingdom of God is measured in terms of obedience.”

John Stott

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Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Pexels.

25 thoughts on “Success in God’s Upside Down Kingdom

    1. Thanks Nancy! I guess that it’s perhaps because Mario and I, by the usuual standards of “successful ministry” don’t measure up. I’m grateful that God continually reminds us that he used a different ruler! We just want him to “smile on us”. That is enough!!

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  1. Thanks for this post Sheila. I think the Beatitudes are so familiar to us as Christians that the shock of them is lost on us. As for the woes in Luke’s account… Maybe they’re for another post! I always like to say that until God’s kingdom sets us right way up, we’re the ones that are upside down. However we look at it though, it’s a topsy turvy kingdom. Hope you’re well and encouraged in the Lord 🙂

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    1. You’re so right, Robert. The beatitudes do tend to become over-familiar in our minds and we often do miss their impact. And yes, in his world God’s kingdom seems topsy-turvy but it is the one that is right-side-up. And thank you, we are doing well – with God’s encouragement. I pray the same fro you and yours.

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  2. I’ve been working in the Bible study program you suggested, Sheila. LOVING it!! Thank you! I have Matthew Henry’s commentary which is fabulous and he points out two things that are relevant here, I think. Abel’s name meant vanity – which in this context means worthless and futile. This is because, after Eve had Cain, whom she thought was “the seed” of humanity, she could see nothing else. Henry suggests that we should see everything but Jesus as vanity – other than him, we and everything around us are futile and worthless.
    With regards to success and choosing the right path, Henry suggests where success lies:
    “That calling or condition of life is best for us, and to be chosen by us, which is best for our souls, that which least exposes us to sin and gives us most opportunity of serving and enjoying God.” (Matthew Henry’s Commnetary on the Whole Bible. Unabridged.”

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    1. That’s awesome Heather! I just love Matthew Henry. I think he must have lived in the Bible. Such insight and such understanding both of God’s principles and human nature. Never fail to walk away with something vauable when reading him! Worthless vanity – all but Jesus. So true, and may we never lose sight of that! So glad this is working out for you! Hope we’ll see some of your new treasures on your blog!!

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