Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pursuit of Success

The Bible says that we who follow Christ will prosper (Psalms 1:2,3; Joshua 1:8; 2 Kings 2:3). What does this prosperity look like? (Now it is clear that there is a condition here: meditating on and following God’s Word. But the question remains, what is the prosperity that is promised?) Does this look like our worldly idea of success? Now even if we throw out the extremes here--that success consists mainly in money and material possessions--are we still thinking of success in some seemingly spiritual form? Do we think in terms of large churches or celebrity leadership? How should we define prospering from a Biblical point of view?   

Scripture pictures us as being made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 4:7-11; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). This is exactly the opposite of how we view success. And it is easy to take our view and transplant it, only slightly edited, into the realm of the spiritual. But God sees things from His perspective. God says those who put their faith in Christ are victorious (Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 1 John 5:4), even if it does not always look that way (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 4:17,18; Romans 8:28). It is easy to be bitten by the bug that bit Elijah. Elijah had had initial outward success; God had withheld rain at his request, God had sent fire, then God had sent rain when Elijah asked (1 Kings 17, 18; James 5:17,18). But when the people did not immediately respond to his demonstrations, he became depressed and hid in the desert until God corrected him (1 Kings 19; Romans 11:2-5). But one of the most outwardly successful prophets in the Old Testament was Jonah, who started out running from God and, when Nineveh repented at his preaching, went out and pouted because God did not destroy the city (Jonah1-4). Therefore, we need to avoid confusing outward success, even in a spiritual context, with real success in God’s perspective. True success in God’s sight involves doing what he wants us to do, even if it is not the thing that will produce obvious success. For in the end, only God will judge what was right and what was successful (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 14: 9-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Rather, what He asks of us is faithfulness, to His truth and to the task He has set for us (1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Luke 16:10-13). But whenever we make success our god, whether it is worldly success or spiritual success, it will elude us. But if we meditate on and follow God’s Word, we will prosper in the way God means us to prosper, and so will have real success.

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