The Kingdom of God has been referred to as the “upside-down Kingdom”. The reason it is called that is because it is everything opposite of how the world thinks, and how we as Christ followers can think at times.
But in the “upside-down Kingdom” of God, what is real success? In the Gospels, Jesus continually reframes the idea of greatness and His disciples understanding of success. He tells them the first shall be last and the greatest among them will be the servant.
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.” (Matthew 18:1-5 )
I love how it says, “humbles himself like this child…” We all know children aren't humble. They are selfish and demanding and in general think the whole world should revolve around them until you teach them differently. But there is a sense in which they are humble, and that is they are helpless and very dependent on parents for what they need to live and they don't (at least when they are small) try to deny or escape this dependence. As a rule, they accept it and are glad for mommy's and daddy's provision, and in those earliest years, they are almost carefree because they know mommy and daddy always take care of them. They sleep when everyone else is worried; they laugh when everyone else is complaining; they lie limp in the stroller when everyone else is stressed. And at these times they are the picture for us of the childlike trust we should have in God, our Father. You have to be humble to acknowledge your helplessness before God and accept the status of a child. But the result is fantastic: All God's fatherly love is stirred up for us then and we are free from the cares of this world.
We value children because Jesus valued children. They are the future and they are image bearers of God.
The Gospels describe Jesus overturning the common everyday expectations of His world. The Kingdom of God belongs to the poor and persecuted, not the rich and spoiled; the meek inherit the earth, not the strong and pushy. Those who are crying out for justice will be satisfied; those laughing at others’ expense will soon cry.
Even today, Jesus’ “upside-down Kingdom” still flips our way of thinking.
Success in this “upside-down Kingdom” isn’t always tangible. You can’t measure a changed heart. Success in the kingdom is focused more on faithful obedience than it is on outcomes. Success might not always look like an influential platform, worldwide ministry or mega church. When we live in obedience to God, it doesn’t matter how big our platform is. We will be content to change the world one person at a time. When we measure success in relation to position, we open the door to pride in our hearts.
Ultimately, it is the cross that turns the world’s wisdom upside-down. We as Christ followers hold up that ancient form of torture as our most beloved symbol of victory. It was in His excruciating death that Jesus was reconciling the world to God. It was in the suffering and lashes that was put on display The Gospel for the world to see. It is in our weaknesses that God’s strength becomes crystal clear. The mark of Jesus’ follower is the suffering one endures after taking up the cross and following Him.
It is in humility and weakness that God is most strong in us. The Kingdom is more concerned with abiding than it is with achieving.