The world measures success in terms of that which is tangible—by what is bigger, faster, and by what draws the most attention. For many people, success is defined solely by numbers and circumstantial outcomes. True success, however, cannot be measured merely by what is perceived by the eyes of men. We measure our success according to economic and sociological standards, which at times is certainly appropriate considering that we are to be good stewards of our time, talents, and finances; however, the problem lies in that we measure our Christian lives according to the same principles—evaluating our success in the Christian life based on what is bigger, faster, and, especially, on what draws the most attention. However, often what is considered “successful” by the world’s standards is entirely unsuccessful according to the standards of God. Though it could be said that the measure of a man in terms of his success is based upon the subjective standards of others, true success is measured objectively by God, whose standard is impartial and immutable.
According to the prophet Micah, God has provided us with His standard of success: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Simply stated, God is not first and foremost concerned with our success; rather, He is concerned with our faithfulness. Herein is the standard of the pilgrim’s progress: As pilgrims of God, we progress not in our successfulness but in our faithfulness to God. Our standard for faithfulness does not come from the world, it does not come from those around us, and it certainly does not come from within us.
Our standard is from God alone and is found in the cross of Christ alone, and it is upon the cross that Christ took the burden from our backs and set us free to live, move, and have our being in Him.
As we learn from Bunyan’s classic, our progress as Christians is not measured on the scale of man’s justice but on the scale of God’s grace. For His burden is easy and His yoke light, and to walk humbly before God is to be lifted up by God (James 4:10), to know weakness is to know the perfection of God’s strength (2 Cor. 12:9), to bear the cross is to wear the crown (Gal. 6:14), and to live for Christ coram Deo, before the face of God, is to die to ourselves (Mark 8:34).