…what will it profit what man if he gains the whole world? Mark 8:36
Life’s not all about success. Those are fairly heretical words for most of us men—men trying to ascend—men for whom success in careers, success in raising kids, or success in just looking successful have become so important. Planning for success, working for it, worrying about it—they dominate our everyday lives.
When men introduce one another, they usually say something like, “This is Bill, he is the CEO of… I want you to meet Bob, he is the service manager at…” Men have a tendency to identify other men (and themselves) by their occupation or by what they do but it is NOT who they are. And if they are not careful, they will try to find their worth or value by their success.
Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot” Luke 12:15
Life is partially about success—we’ve got to spend our lives for something, and we should do that something as well as we can. We just can’t make it an ultimate thing. When we focus all, or even most, of our lives on achieving success, we fall short of the full life Jesus promises in John 10:10. We miss those parts of life we’re meant to devote to the success of others.
How many of us sacrifice huge portions of the lives we’re meant to live—loving wives; spending time with kids; eating meals with families; hanging out with friends; helping people in need—spending too much time on our own success? How many of us are unavailable to those who need us most?
My definition of success? Knowing and doing God’s will/purpose in our lives.
There is no question that our culture worships at the altar of success. We love rags-to-riches stories. We swallow the world’s lie that the person with the biggest bank account, largest mansion, most expensive car and who is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company is a success.
In the “religious” world, the church with the largest congregation and the most elegant campus is considered a success. Churches compete with each other for recognition. TV evangelists [some, not all] pride themselves with their ratings. Pastors from the small, country churches feel inferior to the “big-city” pastor.
While I don’t believe that churches should compete against one another, I do believe we should do and be our best. We are told to be faithful not successful. Matthew 25:20 Sometimes faithfulness and “success” run on the same track but not always. Missionaries and pastors sometimes labor years without seeing the fruit of their labor.
As Christ-followers, we must remember we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Each of us have our place of service in the Kingdom and it all works together. “The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” I Cor. 3:5-9
“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work…” Isaiah 55:8 (MSG)
As a Christ-follower, I have found many of my thoughts and actions are totally opposite of God’s. I am not talking about sin but just different. For example, when someone hurts you or does something to you, the ‘natural’ man will usually respond in a way that is totally opposite of the way God would have us respond. MT. 5:43-45 The world says if you want to be rich; be stingy. God on the other says giving is the way of receiving. Luke 6:38
Recently I have had a change in my thinking concerning how I view the church. For years, I have viewed the “small” church as inferior to larger churches. Small churches, in my thinking, just hadn’t arrived yet. They weren’t as successful as the large church. Many people look at the small church as an “unwanted, red-headed step-child.”
But does God categorize churches by size? No. How does not see churches as large or small. He just sees THE church. Jesus is the head of the church, so wherever He is worshiped that is church. Mt. 18:20 Churches are not called to be successful (at least as others think) but they are called to be faithful. Mt. 5:21
God must love the small church, He made so many of them.
In an earlier post, Keeping Score, we talked how people keep score. But in the game of life, we need to know how God is keeping ‘score.’ How do we know if we are growing spiritually in our lives? You may think this verse is over simplistic but here is the way God keeps score. “Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son...” [Romans 8:29] God’s ultimate will and goal for all Christ followers is that we become more like Jesus Christ, His Son.
People are obsessed with climbing the ladder of success. Jesus, who was already at the top of the organizational chart of the universe, gave up his rights to become a servant. Philippians 2:5-7. The problem with spending your life climbing up the ladder is that you go right past Jesus, for he’s coming down.
God’s Word often teaches truth that does not make sense to the world. I Cor. 1:27 God wants us to know that the way up is down. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11 I am afraid we often look at people and classify them as failures, while God sees honor. The moment Jesus looked like a failure in the world’s scoring system was His moment of greatest triumph in the eyes of the Father. Therefore God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name; Philippians 2:9
Remember, God’s way up is down.