Success or Christ
Success can be a subtly deceptive motivation for the believer. As Christians we want our ministry to succeed: we want more to come to Christ, more to be rescued from the destruction of sin, more to be transformed by the power of the gospel. These things are good in themselves and we should pray for and work to see them come about. The problem comes in our hearts, when we trade in a God-centered motivation—serving out of love for God, in reverence for God, for God’s glory—for the motivation of seeing particular results take place as the end in themselves divorced from God. When this happens, sought-after-results can become a worthless idol dressed up in religious garb. Success for the sake of success is a false god, but can easily seduce the best of us. It strokes our egos and makes us feel important, but crushes us and leaves us weary when we fail to achieve it.
The Christian is called out of living for success to live for another: the kind and all-powerful Lord Jesus. He is our motivation and delight. He leaves our hearts refreshed and strengthened. He is the one we were meant to serve.
To replace living for success requires repentance: we have to admit that our hearts have to come to care more about our own reputation or results rather than the glory of Jesus. We have to turn away from living for success to live for Christ. As we do this, we are refreshed by the grace of God: Jesus died for our foolish hearts, which so often love success more than God Himself. As we remember God’s grace,we have to walk by faith, even when we do not see the results or success we hope to achieve. We are trust in God, even as we don’t know how God will bring about His kingdom through us. God is good and in control and is better than any results.
The greatest ‘success’ stories of our lives will one day be forgotten, but Christ’s glory endures for eternity. So let us strive for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, remembering that God’s ways are higher than ours (Isa 55:9). What may look like success to us may be actually an abysmal failure, while what looks like failure to us may be glorious in God’s sight. Let us serve others for Christ’s sake and forsake the idol of success. As we do this, our hearts are freed from the fears of achieving accomplishments and empowered to strive for the impossible, knowing that with God all things are possible.