What is your measure of success? What is your measure of a successful Christian? A man or woman with many followers perhaps? A brilliant vocalist or musician? A Sunday School teacher whose kids adore him or her? Perhaps it is the person who memorises the most scripture, knows the most about the bible, speaks what sounds to be the most profound biblical truth. Or maybe for the more contemporary, Charismatic Christian denominations, it is the person who lifts up hands more during services. It is who sings louder, or displays more emotion or expressions when worshipping God. Perhaps it is he or she who kneels down the most in service.
I’m just thinking again. How shallow so many of us, myself included are, in forming an impression of people. We look to dress and appearance. We look to outer beauty and confidence. Poise and swagger. We look to influence. How many people listen to a certain somebody. We look to numbers in the ministry. Whose ministry is having the biggest growth in numbers. Who holds sway on decisions.
1 Samuel 16:7 says that the Lord did not consider Jesse’s sons for their appearance or their height. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
God was not admonishing none other than Samuel. In modern times, we’d have called him a kingmaker. He anointed two kings. Both which were used in their own ways to forward Israel’s national interests greatly.
What admonishment does God hold for me today? What admonishment does God hold for us? Are we looking at the correct things, really? Or can the correct things to look at be seen through human eyes? Have we looked at people through human eyes just as Samuel did? Or perhaps (I wonder which is more severe in repercussions) we've looked at ourselves through human eyes.
I was thinking in the past few weeks how I’ve begun to grow tired of Christianity. Then I began to think that I’ve not really grown tired of it... I don’t quite like many aspects of it at all! The artificiality of so many things and the pointless struggles. And then, it’s come to this point... where I’m beginning to understand that perhaps those understandings of Christianity aren’t too right at all in the first place. I’ve had much head knowledge. Known much stuff. But I guess that I still have a long way to go in understanding many of the most simple biblical truths. And perhaps I need to get back into that stuff.
Stuff like for example, how to love God. Or how to love thy neighbour. Or how to slow down and wait up on God like Mary did. Or how to tell others about God.
I guess one of the things that is lacking is this understanding... and much more, this life’s demonstration of what it means to be truly successful in the eyes of God.
I once heard someone teaching. And that person was saying something like, “You know, words like sanctification, pre-tribulation, the eternity of salvation. These are words that you’ll learn to pick up as you grow more spiritually mature.”
I was thinking then. How totally, completely untrue. Saying things like that does not make us spiritually mature. James 3:13. “Who is wise and understanding amongst you? Let him show it by his good life. By deeds done in the humility that come from wisdom.”
And that’s it. Wisdom and understanding shown from humility. A standard that I’ve yet to fully live up to.
Wisdom and understanding shown in humility. And where is success shown?
I look to Christ. Stand with me and look. Just look at Jesus Christ Himself.
“Now while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.”- John 2:23-25
“After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself” –John 6:14-15
“On hearing it, many of His disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? ...” From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” John 6:60, 61, 66
There we have it. Jesus did not entrust Himself to man. More specifically, He did not entrust Himself to the favour of men. He knew what was in a man. He knew that man looked at outward signs of success. They looked at his ministry. They saw the signs, they saw the results and the numbers. That was not what He was about. That was not what His success was about.
Some wanted Him as king. Probably to overthrow the Roman empire. But He was already king. He didn’t need them to make Him king. He didn’t want them to make Him king. That was not what being the Messiah was about.
Can you imagine the lure? The power? If I was in His shoes I might have convinced myself to think that I should become king of the people so I could reach out to more of them. But that was not on the mind of Christ.
He had godly success in mind.
So much so that He still taught hard teachings and had people leave Him in flocks.
The success of Christ’s earthly mission was not on a throne with countless adoring crowds and professing individuals declaring His praise. It was not in the partitioned middle of a crowd shouting hosanna and laying down palm branches. It was on a cross. Naked, despised, afflicted.
Godly success does not equate to human approval. It does not equate to the things we often want or desire. Chasing an earthly definition of success, even within the confines of a church or ministry will cause our Christian walk to stumble, lose grip and fall off. It does not make much of a difference even if we baptise such success with hearty doses of “how God has blessed” or “we trust God for” or “this success is from God”.
That I would do well to remember. And practice.