I recently watched a film about the life story of Walt Disney. What a roller coaster! He had vision, inspiration and ambition but he just couldn’t seem to get that break. Every time it looked as though he was getting somewhere he went broke, again. Then, finally he had his breakthrough and we all know the rest of the story. Who hasn’t heard of Walt Disney?
Another great success story is Harland David Sanders, otherwise known as Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Before his recipe was accepted and became the hit it is today, he tenaciously plodded around one thousand and nine restaurants!
In the duration, his wife left him and his brother in law had wrote him a letter saying, “She had no business marrying a no-good fellow like you who can’t hold down a job.”
By the time Colonel Sanders died at the age of ninety he was a multimillionaire and his franchise had become one of the largest in the world.
We are all inspired by these kind of rags to riches stories, aren’t we? Stories about ordinary people who have a great dream that they refuse to let go of. Suddenly, one day they turn the handle on the door marked ‘success’ and everything falls into place.
Maybe we secretly imagine ourselves in their shoes.
How do we measure success?
These stories are the exception rather than the norm. Most of us plod along through life without ever making the news headlines or receiving any great awards.
For many people, success is gauged by fame, bank balance, the car they drive, the level they reach on the corporate ladder, or even the leadership position they hold in their church.
For many church leaders, ‘success’ is measured by head count – how many people attend their churches.
But is this how the Bible measures success?
It’s ok to spend your whole life being ‘faithful in the little things’!
Some people spend their entire lives being massively faithful in those ‘small things.’
I have to ask myself the question, and it’s not a question to be taken lightly, “would I truthfully ok with that?”
These people don’t grumble about never being picked for ‘top’ ministry positions in church. They never push themselves forward to try to find a little bit of limelight. They just quietly push on with whatever God has called them to do, however humble or anonymous that may be.
I believe that when we get to Heaven, we are in for a few surprises. Many of the people whom we deemed successful here in earth may find themselves way down the awards list, while headlining the Heavenly awards banquet will be the quiet anonymous, in-the-background, faithful one.
Faithful even to Death
Being a faithful, committed believer is not a guarantee of material prosperity, success in the workplace or even ministry ‘success’ (on our terms). Neither is it an assurance of a problem-free life. God did not promise these.
Paul and Silas were faithful yet they did not have a ‘mega church’. They were itinerant preachers, going wherever the Holy Spirit led them. And they were imprisoned and beaten.
John the Baptist was faithful yet he lived like a hermit in the wilderness, eating locusts and honey. He was beheaded!
Millions of faithful Christians have suffered persecution and martyrdom over centuries as well as in recent days.
Do you wonder if you are achieving anything for the Kingdom? Do you feel you’re just working away in the background, going nowhere, making little or no headway in your Christian life? Are you are facing obstacles or problems at the moment? Do you judge your own ‘success’ by measuring yourself against the seeming success of others?
Remember His promise, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10
I love the way The Message version translates this scripture:
“When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing. Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” James 1:9,12
If you are faithfully walking in what God has called you to, whether that is pastoring a big church or cleaning the toilets of that same church, whether it is going out to the mission field somewhere far afield or just quietly talking to your neighbour over the garden fence about Jesus, the measure of your ‘success’ is in the heart’s attitude towards that calling.
Lord train me in true faithfulness. Teach me how to store up treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21) rather than seeking what is deemed success in people’s eyes.