5th September 2011

“O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success” – Psalm 118:25



Have we somewhere confused the measure of success with power; appearance; possessions; position, and the control that can be exerted over things, or even, God forbid, over others?

We might consider rather for one moment what the scriptures teach about success.

We should agree that only those whom God finds are truly successful irrespective of their circumstances.

They are the blessed of God!

Some Old Testament examples shed some light on what God considers success:

David was successful in all he did because the Lord was with him. But we should add that for the next ten years he was hounded like a dog while Saul’s hatred for him became the anvil that prepared him as leader of Israel, and as its favored king (1 Samuel 18:14).

Joseph was highly favored also and successful in whatever he did in an Egyptian prison, but it says very little of how difficult it was to live in “that pit” for fourteen years while he waited to be released (Genesis 39:23).

In the same fashion, all of God’s emissaries, though most endured much difficulty, walked in the same blessing from God that eventually overcame all the obstacles thrown in their way by either people or circumstance. For instance, those who rejected Jephthah as a bastard eventually begged that he would lead them; those who hounded Moses out of Egypt were confounded by God’s miraculous favor over him 40 years later; those who threw Jeremiah into a pit, ultimately faced the truth of what he prophesied; those who sought to harm the prophet Elisha paid for their foolishness with their lives!

Did Zechariah not prophesy of the day when men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of one who belongs to God, saying, ‘let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’ (8:23)? Did God then not say about his people, “Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that no one shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again march over them” (9:8)?

The scriptures give an outstanding account of how a good man is made into a great man. The forty-two chapters of the book of Job, which contain some of the most painful experiences a family, can bear, including the death of ten siblings, are summated with the pronunciation that he had been doubly blessed (Job 42).

However, few today would stop to inquire why this process was necessary.

Paul defines Christian success in this way: he says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” – 2 Timothy 3:12

Similarly, Jesus introduces God’s measure of success at the Sermon on the Mount as follows:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:3-14)

William Blake in "The marriage of heaven and hell", wrote: Exuberance is Beauty

There is great value when people are humbled, and brought to their knees to question their choices; their lifestyles; and the way in with they have comported themselves before others. As Job did, they too might say, “Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me” (6:13)? Job did not ‘lose’ success, but only what he had thought was ‘successful’!

The time has come for a radical honesty; for radical adjustments, and for those who see the impending troubles of a ‘success driven’ western world, to be strong in their commitments – to walk faithfully in the particular way chosen for them. If they are a ‘Joseph’, they ought not to despair of the ‘jail’ they are in; if they are a ‘David’, they ought not defend themselves; if they are a ‘Job’, they ought not to give up their faith in God; if they are ‘Deborahs’ they should not shrink back from carrying faithfully their mantle of leadership!

A friend who has endured many trials in his belief for what is right, reminded me this morning that no matter what we will have to undergo, to remember that God is Good; faithful and True always.

Keep on. Loys