Real Success

Janet M. Corpus

Television and film star, Michael J. Fox, became a hit as Alex P. Keaton in the television comedy Family Ties and later as Mike Flaherty in Spin City. He starred in the Back to the Future movie trilogy and supplied the voice of the mouse in Stuart Little and Stuart Little 2.

Fox writes in his autobiography, The Lucky Man, that his success was put in perspective when, at the age of thirty, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a disorder of the central nervous system. The symptoms of Parkinson’s include slow movement, rigid muscles, trembling, and physical instability. The disease starts slowly and gets progressively worse.

sb10061547dn-001Fox writes about the sense of liberation he felt when he let people know that he had Parkinson’s disease. He also talks about his new understanding of people who have been stigmatized, the new relationships that his illness has opened to him, his new outlook on life, and his sense of responsibility. Fox has put his success as a television and film star to work, becoming an advocate for Parkinson’s disease research. Now he feels that he is a success as a person and is using his gifts to serve others.

What can we learn from Michael J. Fox’s success? How do you think he would answer these questions: What counts as success? What is success for?

What Would Jesus Say?

We can look at the lives of people like Michael J. Fox and begin to understand the meaning of success. But as Christians, we consider the meaning of success in relation to Christian discipleship. What does Jesus have to say about success?

  • What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? (Luke 9:25, NRSV)
  • Do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Luke 12:29-31, NRSV)
  • For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:34, NRSV)
  • For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 14:11, NRSV)
  • Beware of . . . [those] who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats . . . and places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. (Luke 20:46-47a NRSV)

Consider each scripture passage. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, how would you answer these questions: What counts as success? What is success for?



Take some quiet time to meditate on Jesus’ like, death, and resurrection: Jesus was convicted as a criminal by both religious and civit courts. He was executed, and his disciples scattered. Even his closest followers betrayed him. In what ways was Jesus successful? In your life, in the lives of other people, or in the history of the world, when has success appeared at first to be failure?

PRAY: Dear God, when we are worried about success, help us to remember the life of your son Jesus Christ and your abounding love for us. Amen.

Janet M. Corpus is a writer and pastor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

—from devozine (May/June 2003). Copyright © 2003 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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