Comparing Success and God’s Blessing
A friend asked me what success was this week. My normal answer is to live a sane, stable, and spiritual life. That is the answer I give in my book “Succeeding At Life”. (You can get a copy of my book at Amazon.)
This reminded me of a talk I listened to Wim Rietkirk from La Abri fellowship. He made an interesting comparison between “Success” and “Blessing”. Now he accepts the normal view of success found in Western culture.
A hunger for success is a universal human attitude. Dr. Rietkirk contrasted “Success” with “Blessing” and it struck me that it could be very important that we keep this distinction also carefully in mind. As you reflect on this list ask the Lord to help you see how it may reflect on your work in the ministry but also more broadly concerning your whole life. What is more important to us? Now what Dr. Rietkirk calls blessing I would call the true meaning of success. Here are some of the key thoughts that he shared.
Quantity or Quality?
Success is normally always determined by more people, more money, and bigger buildings. We know people are successful when the “bottom line” is up and there is a growing quantity of everything that relates to the ministry or business. Big is better. God’s blessing does not oppose numbers (Revelation 7:9). But it does not focus on numbers. Sometimes God reduces our size so that we can see HIS blessing such as in the case of Gideon and the 300 (Judges 7:2-6). Messiah/Christ Jesus will start giving hard sayings to purposely reduce the crowds (John 6).
What is the greatest concern of God is the quality of our lives and ministry.For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done (1Corinthians 3:11-13 ESV).
We might build something very big but if it lacks spiritual quality then we will see the result of our blood, sweat, and tears reduced to a pile of ashes. What matters to God is that our work is done for HIS glory, motivated by love, and is consistent with HIS word. We must always strive to do God’s work in God’s way and for God’s glory. We must strive to do the right thing in the right way, for the right reason, and with the right attitude so that the spiritual and moral quality of our ministry is as God would desire. The quality of our lives and ministries must be more important than the size of our accomplishments.
Do we depend on cause and effect or God’s intervention?
Success focuses on understanding methods and means that we can control so that we can gain outcomes we want. This is a natural process and one that we can use. Such regular patterns in reality are God’s gifts to us. The problem is when we trust in these regular mechanisms instead of the power of God. We begin to believe that we have “succeeded” because we knew the formula of success and applied it. The glory comes to us instead of God. We lose sight of the God who gave the mechanism and only focus on the mechanism.
Blessing is when we know that only God can save us and help us. We see our complete dependence upon HIM and know that without HIS help then nothing of any real value is possible. Without Christ we can do nothing of any worth (John 15:1-8).
Evaluation of only one aspect of reality instead of the whole.
Success is normally evaluated in concrete physical and financial ways. In ministry the normal way this is done is by baptisms, buildings, and budgets. If these are up, growing, and improving then we have “success”. Outside of this we don’t normally ask ourselves harder questions. Our only fear is that these visible measures of success will decline or plateau. So our focus and energy is on making sure that they don’t. This can make it harder to look at deeper issues. Success is when a lot of people show up to a meeting, were excited, and entertained.
Blessing comes when God shows up in our ministry. Lives are really transformed from the inside out. Good works flow out of love. There is a powerful and real experience of God in the meeting, class, or counseling session. Blessing can sometimes be seen in baptisms, buildings, and budgets being up but this is a secondary effect of the blessing and not the focus of the ministry. The focus of the ministry is to seek the presence, power, and peace of God. Every aspect is touched by God not just the physical. The emotional, mental, and spiritual realities are all impacted.
Success is directed by our the values or our culture while blessing is directed towards God’s kingdom
It is very hard to escape living out the values of the culture one lives within. Most of us “add Christ” to the basic beliefs and perspectives of our culture of origin. We assume Christ agrees with our culture. Now our culture may be a “sub-culture” of the main popular culture. But whatever this automatic view of life is in our life it is hard for these basic inner programming to be objectively observed or evaluated. Because of this normally our lives and ministry is normally directed by these core life commandments instead of the values of the kingdom of Christ. Also our “success” may depend on our reflecting back to our culture these accepted values. Any individual or group that failed to reflect back this core perspective on life might well be rejected and abandoned by the surrounding culture leading to failure.
Blessing comes when we have a hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness and rule over everything else. While this godly righteousness and rule can be expressed through any culture they will also challenge aspects of every culture. The experience of having God’s blessing puts new passions, desires, and discernment into our lives. This is what revival, reformation, and renewal means. Only God can give us the gifts of revival, reformation, and renewal. We cannot produce them. Our only part can be to pray for them and seek them while knowing we cannot create them. We never deserve them. We desperately need them. To have them and maintain them is even harder. To not lose them seems impossible. For some of us we have never experienced them. Success focuses on the short term while blessing is linked to the eternal and multigenerational legacy.
Success is focused on the now and not on the forever.
Normally success is limited to a lifetime. Not an idea of being multi-generational. Once the great man or woman dies or retires then the success ends. Success desires to be protected and maintained for this moment. But because of this focus success is normally very tactical and not strategic in its methods and means.
Blessing is when our vision of heaven governs our actions on earth. The blessed person is the person who thinks more about heaven than what they read in the daily news. Blessing desires to see God’s kingdom on earth strengthened for many generations. It connects to God’s work in history from creation up to the present moment. Blessing makes us a part of God’s salvation history.
Success focuses on our ego while blessing is focused on God’s glory and the common good of othersSuccess becomes an extension of my “winning”. I become proud of my success and compare it with others who have not attained what I have attained. I affirm to myself that I am better and brighter than others through my success. I fear failure more than I fear doing wrong. It is easy for success to be the ultimate concern of my life and practically an idol if not carefully watched.
Blessing comes when my heart becomes centered on God receiving glory and my neighbor being helped. It is based on “servant leadership” and having the mind of Christ Jesus who humbled himself and became a servant (Philippians 2:1-10). God’s blessing comes when our love for God and others becomes more important than our personal profit, pleasure, and prosperity.
Success is about my fame while blessing is about bearing true fruit create by the life of Christ and Spirit
Success is focused on my gaining fame by winning. It is about people speaking well about me and admiring me for what I have produced. The concern of success is my image and my glory.God’s blessing is seen because it produces true godly fruit. The life of Christ pours into us and produces a real “Christ likeness” in our character, words, actions, and attitudes. Blessing is upon us when we see Christ exalted and our role is diminished while HIS name grows in recognized glory.
So the question is can we begin to hunger and thirst for God’s blessing and actually value it more than merely having success? Can we begin to pray for God to come into our lives, marriages, families, fellowships, ministries, communities, states, and even countries? Without the blessing of God then whatever we gain will be very limited in its true impact. Only the blessing of God can give us true answers. Everything else will be superficial and false solutions. May God have mercy and bless us. Amen
If you would like to listen to this talk yourself go to LaAbri idea library and check it out