Faithfulness, not success

Faithfulness, not success

We are encouraged to reach our potential, to be what we want to be, to make it in life. Our picture of the perfect life before us often includes comfort, a family situation we’re happy with, a nice place to live and enough money to do what we want to do. Ideally, we want to be respected; we want others to see that we have succeeded in life.

Isaiah the prophet might have thought that his ministry would be more glamorous than it ended up being as well. He saw a great vision of God in chapter 6 and was called personally to be God’s mouthpiece to his people. But when he received his actual commission, he was told that he would speak to the people of Judah, but they would not listen. His ministry would be one marked by a lack of response because this was God’s judgement on them. Isaiah was called to faithfully proclaim God’s coming judgement and hope, knowing in advance that this would not prevent the nation from falling into ruin and the people heading off into exile. That’s a tough commission. That’s probably not what Isaiah would have chosen for himself.

It’s not just Isaiah either. Jesus told his disciples that they would be blessed when people reviled them and persecuted them for their faith (Matthew 5:11), implying that this was going to happen. Their faithful preaching in Acts led to death, imprisonment and all kinds of hardships. When Peter writes to the Christians scattered around the world, he encourages them by telling them that their persecutions and sufferings are the same as those experienced by their brothers throughout the world (1 Peter 5:9). It seems that trusting God doesn’t mean success in the same way the world describes it a lot of the time.

Then we have that description of the people in the Corinthian church by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor. 1:26-29 ESV)

It seems that God is less concerned with success in terms of money and reputation than we are. In fact, those who are less successful in the world’s sight show the grace of God most clearly.

Don’t fall for the trap of seeking success above everything else. It is possible that God will bless you with a good career and money in the bank, or it is possible that you will not have those things. In the end, what is far more important is that you are faithful. This means that we trust God and are obedient whatever happens. We need to be people who are consistent in prayer, striving to glorify God and serve others, people who love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

So when you pray, don’t just pray for comfort. For things like healed sicknesses, job promotions, and financial goals. Pray for faithfulness. Pray for resisting temptation and opportunities to evangelise, a deeper understanding of God’s word, and the strength to live this out consistently.

When we face God, he won’t say, “Well done, rich and successful servant.” He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” With Isaiah, the apostles and the Christians of all ages, let’s seek the kingdom of God first, and all the things we need will be added to us.