Success: A Reflection After My Conversation With Charlie Hedges

by | Apr 16, 2024 | 3 Meek

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Recently, Charlie Hedges contacted me after he read my post, “Lord, Teach Us to Pray: Petition as Contemplation.” He said, “Marshall, you and I swim in the same pond.” After learning more about him, I am honored.

Charlie’s website, “The Next Chapter with Charlie,” includes his blog, podcast, and coaching resources. After a varied and interesting career in the business world, Charlie became an executive coach in 1995. More recently, he became a spiritual director and teacher of contemplative life. Now he aims to take the wisdom from this rich experience to a wider public, and one of his methods is interviewing folks like me on his podcast. I have enjoyed getting to know him and being a recent guest (click here to listen).

In the interview, we discussed topics like the spiritual power of listening and the path from love to wisdom. Charlie thought I had some important things to say about success, a topic about which I never considered myself an expert. We had a good conversation about it, and it prompted me to reflect more on success afterward. Some thoughts below:

In a hierarchical world, success means ascending to the top. Similarly, in a competitive world, success means winning, and by implication, someone else loses. In a commercially charged economy, success means having the most and the best. And in a culture of self-promotion, success means being the most and the best.

Meanwhile, Jesus Christ defies all of that, tosses it in the cosmic waste bin. The first will be last and the last, first. The humble will be exalted and the exalted, humbled. Seek your life and you will lose it; lose it, and you will find it. The meek will inherit the earth. Blessed are the poor.

He conquers despair and death by dying, submitting to humiliation, torture, and the most excruciating execution known in human history. As Paul said in Philippians 2:5-11, he could have kept a heavenly, glorious place above it all, but he descends to the lowest place. Moreover, there he suffers with and for us and draws us from our own sin and mortality to a place in glory with him. The pattern of success Christ exemplifies requires descent before ascent, humbling before glory, following him rather than vainly trying to work oneself out of the need for him.

Yet, if we are to follow that pattern of success, we have to do it in a hierarchical, competitive, commercially charged, self-promoting culture. Those games so shape cultural consciousness that we can expect most people we meet to assume that we play along with them. They evaluate us according to how well we seem to perform in those games, and all too often, we measure others by the same standards.

Yet, real success requires honing an eye for the kingdom of God hidden like a mustard seed amid the buildings and highways of the world. It requires developing an eye for the qualities Jesus blessed in ourselves and others (Matthew 5:3-12), 

  • the gratitude of the poor in spirit, 
  • the mourning that comes with care, 
  • the gentle strength of meekness, 
  • the hungering and thirsting of those who yearn for right relationship with God and neighbor, 
  • the mercy of those who know their own need for mercy, 
  • the purity of those willing to give it all up for intimacy with God, 
  • the generosity of those who build bridges for peace, 
  • the courage of those who risk their peace for love.

Those are the signs of success in God’s kingdom. 

Four years ago, I left my job as a college counseling center director after three and a half decades of working in that context. Despite the academy’s reputation as a bubble, anyone who works in higher education can point to plenty of the world there, the hierarchies, competition, and such. After leaving the institutional protections, I went into full time private practice and succeeded as an entrepreneur much more quickly than I ever dreamed. Yet, the games go on. You better believe I watch the bottom line and play the success game well enough to support my loved ones until, I hope, after I die.

But without detachment from that game and eyes to see Christ in the faces of those I serve, without an ear for the qualities Christ blessed in their voices, I am a failure. With God’s help, success in God’s loving reign is possible despite the world’s illusions. 

Thanks for the interview, Charlie. I say things better on paper. But I appreciate your raising the question and drawing it out of me. May God’s Word shine through the imperfect words of our writing and conversation. As long as love is there, we can count on it.

To listen to my interview with Charlie, click here.

Related Posts

Mountaintops and the Art of Freedom

Choosing Goodness With No Reward In Sight

“Lord, Teach Us To Pray”: Petition As Contemplation


  1. Michael Parnell

    Isn’t it sad that many in our world of believers hold to the need of getting the hierarchy right. They deeply believe that it is all about getting things in the right order from top to bottom.

    • J. Marshall Jenkins

      Yes. Whereas, in God’s reign, all are equal.

  2. Sally B. Britt Rich

    Still enjoy reading the thoughtful posts you share and loved the success list in the article.

    • J. Marshall Jenkins

      Great to hear from you, Sally B! Your support means so much!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Free Resources

Subscribe to my blog and I will send you a free digital copy of theintroduction and study guide to my book Blessed at the Broken Places.

Share This