You Can Be a Success Story

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 10, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

As I think about how God is currently working in my life currently and how he has been working in my life over the past few years, one thing that stands out for me is my decreasing need to please other people or control what they think of me. I’ll stop short of saying that I don’t care what others think of me, because that wouldn’t be true. Like anyone else, I want people to like me and appreciate what I do. I’m not saying that’s a godly attitude, just being honest. But when I look at how I used to put so much thought into trying to impress other people and wanting them to view me as “successful” in the things I am doing, I realize that God has really helped me break that chain.

In thinking about when this change began to happen in my life, I’m reminded of some very wise words that were said to me by one of my pastors. I was 23 years old and had been involved with ministry in the church for quite awhile. I had begun preaching 5 years earlier and had many opportunities to teach God’s Word. The leader of the high school youth group at my church was leaving the state to go to seminary and the volunteer position was going to be vacant. I knew almost immediately that the Holy Spirit was urging me to step into the role, but my heart and focus needed to be corrected. I remember being at a men’s fellowship gathering at my parents’ house when we were sitting in a group and sharing some things that were on our minds. I shared with the group that I believed God was leading me to become the youth leader, but that I wasn’t sure that I could be “successful” doing so. My pastor, a man for whom I have great respect still today, looked right at me and asked, “If God is calling you to do something, what is your definition of ‘success’?”

That conversation with those men forced me to do a couple of things. First, no one could help me understand whether God was really the one urging me. If I said he was or if I said he wasn’t, no one could prove me right or wrong. It was between the Holy Spirit and me. Secondly, “success” is defined differently by the world than it is by the One who created the world. I needed to learn, not only with this ministry role but with all future ministry roles as well, that it’s not about how others view me, how many people show up at events or weekly gatherings, or MY impact on the lives of those to whom I am ministering. It’s about following God in the first place, then continuing to seek his guidance and hand every step of the way. I had to learn to follow God and leave the results up to him.

This idea of success is nothing new for the believer. Think about the life of Jesus. There are many times that others would’ve looked at him and saw him as an utter failure. He started with hundreds of disciples, and lost all but twelve of them. Maybe he should’ve taught what made them feel better rather than the difficult truth. At least, that’s what others likely thought. Then, even his twelve closest friends basically desert him during the most difficult time of his earthly life. Then, he is ridiculed, tortured, and eventually killed. How could he be considered “successful”? Well, God raised that Jesus from the grave. So when everyone thought he lost, he won. Then he appeared to those disciples and others, and God used them to spread the gospel message after he was taken back to heaven. Obedience to the will of the Father was the most important thing, and he took care of the results after that.

But it even goes back a lot further than Jesus. Virtually every one of God’s well-known servants in the Old Testament faced rejection and worse from their own people. Moses worried about whether he would be “successful” and whether Pharaoh or even his own people would listen to him (Exodus 3-4). He would become the hero that would lead his people out of captivity just by obeying God, but even after all the miracles the people would still turn against him when they faced difficult times (Exodus 14 and 16). His own brother and sister mocked him (Numbers 12). Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers. David was laughed at as a choice to be the next king because he didn’t have the physical attributes of the other candidates. Samuel was rejected, Hosea had to marry an unfaithful woman, and Jeremiah was nearly buried alive in a well filled with mud. I could go on, but you get the point. Every single one of these people obeyed God and did not always succeed in the eyes of the world.

Last week, I wrote about Stephen. In Acts 7, he preaches an amazing sermon where he tells the Sanhedrin all about their history and about how they are acting just like their forefathers who persecuted the prophets. It comes off as a little harsh, but was meant to wake these guys up and give them a chance to repent before it was too late. You’d think it would be a huge success and motivate everyone to change their hearts. But instead, they rush at him, drag him away, and stone him to death. What a failure, because he couldn’t change their hearts. At least that’s how some would judge him and how many judge church leaders today. But all you have to do to know how successful Stephen was is look at Acts 7:56. Just before he is murdered, Stephen sees Jesus “standing at the right hand of God”. I can’t think of another place in Scripture where Jesus is standing at the right hand of God. He is almost always depicted as sitting at the right hand of God, but here it is as if he is standing to welcome his successful martyr who was about to finish his race and move on to eternity.

That’s the kind of success I want to have. Fortunately, I’m continuing to grow in this area. The church where I am lead pastor has had some people leave because they didn’t like that I welcomed someone against whom they were holding a grudge. We have an area that we need to obey God that may very well cost us financially, but I know God is calling us to trust him with the results and just focus on being obedient. Maybe you are facing a difficult decision in your life. This is the time of year where some of you have started another school year, possibly at a new place or even away at college. The first few weeks is when a lot of doubts creep into your minds regarding whether you can be successful as a student, or even in life. You may be wondering if you chose the right school, the right major, or the right friends. I urge you to take time to review some of these Bible stories I mentioned above. Your primary responsibility needs to be obeying God. Even if you have failed to do so to this point, you can start making different choices today. If you are confident in your knowledge that God has brought you to where you are, then trust him for the results because it’s impossible to be unsuccessful when he is on your side!