I had an excellent question from a dear man on a recent topic that I’d love to answer. Here’s his question from the post “Success or Failure, What are My Options!”:
“This is a thorough indictment of society! Could you give some examples of how we practically live this, in terms of how to learn from worldly failures? Or perhaps this could lead into a post on how do you know if you’re following God’s will?”
These are great questions! Thank you for reading the post so thoroughly. Let me look at the first question backwards if you don’t mind. When I think of what we can learn from discovering worldly failures, what comes to mind is the story of the rich young ruler. At the end of the young man’s conversation with the Lord, he was visibly disturbed by the advice of selling possessions, redistributing wealth and following Jesus. The Lord’s comment to His followers:
Matthew 19: 24 “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
The rich man’s success would not buy him one square inch of real estate in the kingdom or one gram of satisfaction in this life. Sadly, his dissatisfaction with life and his impending future heaven sees as evidence of a colossal failure. He was unable to part with his riches and therefore walked off discontent. However, what I find most interesting are the disciples. They ask:
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
To those listening in on the discussion, the youth’s life was an astonishing success! No doubt, as is the case of most rich, young and powerful, the crowds knew exactly who this young man was. He was a success story that everyone, even the disciples, determined as good! He’d kept the commandments, He’d done many good deeds, and he’d even asked the Savior for the way of eternal life. What could be more perfect? He took all the right steps for a successful person and was therefore applauded by men. When the disciples saw the Lord expose his failure, their rightful quandary was “Who then can be saved?” If not this man with his success story then who? Surely if this man, with all his achievements, cannot find the kingdom who can? Who, who, who?
Now we learn the lessons from worldly failures. Of course, the world will never agree this man has failed. He will be asked to headline and speak at some dinner banquet for individuals aspiring wealth and happiness. But, for those who desire the kingdom of God, the lesson points to our need for a paradigm shift in ethics—which only comes spiritually. For the young man, heaven’s judgment was not success is good. For him, success fell short of the mark. Society applauds him, and those that hold the same value wonder why the Lord points out failure. Society’s judgment is out of whack; tough it’s natural. The Lord points out there is really only one thing He needs to do—the will of God which for him was sell and follow. His call was to accept Jesus’ judgment of what is necessary and do that “will of God.” To those listening in, they learn the possibility of the impossible. I’ve often wondered how the Lord would have helped this rich young man if only he’d chosen to do the will of God as Jesus put it to him.
Practically I catch myself every day judging and valuing people based upon the success or failure of a person. It is very ingrained into my way of thinking—too ingrained. Within my church fellowship I see achievement and allow myself to think as James warns against:
2:2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Oh, I would never do that outwardly (I’m much too good a Pharisee), but inside I catch myself making those judgments all the time. And, especially as a man with a pastoral ministry, I must repent of this every time I see it. I find my first inclination is to drift toward those I’m comfortable with and those I recognize as successful—this is not good! The paradigm shift necessary is to accept the judgments of God and do His will found in His Word. I hope this gets close to answering the question. Well, I gave you an ear (or eye) full on this one. I might just write a post on “how do I know if I’m following God’s will?” That is a great topic and I dare say I find many are interested in.