Success.

“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw e given Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

–Luke 10:17-20

I have this problem. It’s pretty lame and entirely poisonous. You see, I’m an idol worshiper. I have this natural inclination to worship creation over Creator. I have this tendency to put things and people on pedestals and at the forefront of my heart’s deepest longings and affections. I have this idol called approval, and sometimes I feel as though I live for a pat on the back or for affirmation from people. I have this HUGE idol called “self”. I’m self-centered, prideful, and desire greatness and success, amongst other things.

The list could go on.

                If you’ve ever been one of those bored people who have skimmed my blog or actually read it, you have probably come to the conclusion that I’m a pretty messed up broad. I have issues flying out the wazoo, and struggles and challenges are no strangers to me. The road of sanctification is not easy, nor always fun. As the lyrics of a great hymn boldly proclaim, “Redeeming love has been my theme and shall be til I die.”

I mean, the blog title says it all. I am ridiculously flawed. BUT GOD, as Ephesians 2 states….but God.

Arguably two of the most beautiful words in the entire Bible.

In case you don’t know it, or don’t have a Bible near you, I’ll let you in on the goods:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:1-7

It just gets better and better.

Anyway, sorry, point of this blog…

I’m reading through the entire Bible again. Different plan. Using the M’Cheyne plan. I love it. If you’ve never read the entire Bible before, I highly highly highly recommend reading it chronologically.  It’ll rock your world. You’ll see and understand the whole story of the Bible so much better, and your mind will be blown by the beauty and awesome-ness of the overall story of redemption. If you have been there done that, the M’Cheyne is great.

The other day, I read Luke 10. My thoughts are from verses 17-20.

Jesus just sent out 72 followers, two by two, on a “trainee mission”. D.A. Carson writes:

“The disciples…marvel that “even the demons submit to us in your name” (10:17). At one level, Jesus encourages them. He assures them that (in some visionary experience?) he has seen Satan fall like lighting from heaven (10:18). Apparently Jesus understands this trainee by disciples as a sign, a waystage, of Satan’s overthrow, accomplished in principle at the cross (cf. Rev. 12:9-12). He tells his disciples that they will witness yet more astonishing things than these (Luke 10:18-19). “However,” he adds, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (10:20).

It is so easy to rejoice in success. Our self-identity may become entangled with the fruitfulness of our ministry. Of course, that is dangerous when the success turns sour—but that is not the problem here. Things could not be going better for Jesus’ disciples. And then the danger, of course, is that it is not God who is being worshiped. Our own wonderful acceptance by God himself no longer moves us, but only our apparent success.”

Success.

The Lord taught/is teaching me a lot about that; the difference between actual success and what I deem as success.

Take my time in India. I knew my time spent there wasn’t about me. I knew that long before I set foot on the plane. However, as previous blogs attest, it took going to discover I really had no idea how much it wasn’t about me…and how badly I wanted it to be.

I wanted tangible success. I wanted to come home with the stories that would have people in awe, leave people in tears, and have people praising me for a job well done. I wanted to come home with something that I could point to as my success during my time in India.

Thankfully, though it was a painful and tearful week, the Lord called me out on it pretty early on (See http://wp.me/pKoZQ-9n ).

As stated in the mentioned blog, my supervisor told me the following:

Through tears, I told my mentor here all of the above. She said she once heard a speaker ask the group if they would still be willing to [go] if they knew no book would ever be written about them, no newsletter or article, they would be long forgotten, nothing would come of their work in their lifetime, no one would know their name…no one would even care…

That is my ideal…but, I can’t honestly say I’m there yet. But, I long to be. Oh, to be at the end of self.

A friend, unknowingly, sent me Hebrews 11:13 that week. The sermon at HC expressed “getting over our painful selves”, and asking “If it wasn’t until you left your work and ministry that incredible things took place…would you be okay with that?”

Do I love God or the stuff I do for God?

Just like the disciples were rejoicing in what God did in them and through them, we often do as well…and, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, it’s tempting to love the success more than the One who gives it. It’s tempting to crave the success more than to crave the One who receives the glory for it.

Is God ultimately at the bottom, at the core of my affections? Or is success/praise/fame/glory?

If we find our identity in our ministry…in what we do, and the success (measured in our terms) of it, what happens when, as Carson writes, it goes “sour”? What happens when we begin to “fail”? Or what happens when, like I found out in India, success doesn’t happen the way you want it to?

Anger. Frustration. Jealousy. Despair. ?

YES, by ALL means, let us REJOICE in all the wonderful and incredible things that the Lord does in us and through us to the praise of His glorious grace, but, let us not confuse the success for the One whom our hearts truly long for and truly need.

For if GOD is at the bottom of our joy, if He is the foundation, no matter what happens in life, no matter what “fails” and what “succeeds”…it won’t matter, because God never changes. He is immutable. He is perfect in all of His ways. Everything He does is good and right and just. He will always remain steadfast. Our worlds and our ministries and our jobs and our “successes” may crumble to pieces, but our Foundation will NEVER crumble. Let us rejoice in THAT. Let us rest in THAT.

The Lord will bless many of us with fruitful ministries. He may send some of us to difficult places and we may die never seeing our work come to fruition…and, every scenario in between. But, Jesus says to his disciples not to rejoice too much in what God has done through them, for an even greater blessing is their eternal salvation.

In Christ, we get GOD.

We don’t come to Jesus to get success. We come to Jesus to get God.

D.A. Carson continues:

This has been the sin of more than a few “successful” pastors, and of no fewer “successful” lay people. While proud of their orthodoxy and while entrusted with a valid mission, they have surreptitiously turned to idolizing something different: success. Few false gods are so deceitful. When faced with such temptations, it is desperately important to rejoice for the best reasons—and there is none better than that our sins are forgiven, and that by God’s own gracious initiative our names have been written in heaven.

And that by God’s own gracious initiative, our names have been written in heaven.

Awesome.

-Shara.

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