Our Pastor asked us at Bible study – “How has your idea of what matters in life been changed by the Lord?” Good question, right? I used to define ‘success’ in ‘ministry’ as more people in Sunday services, more money to fund church programs, and gaining increased visibility. Even writing those words makes me cringe now. All the articles that were published in national magazines – largely forgotten. The events planned and programmed – dim memories.
But, the conversations with people, the encouragement given, the love shared – those are lasting! To this day, people will thank me for helping them, encouraging them, or providing them with guidance. Most of those moments have faded in my memory, but they remain in theirs. While serving others at the church’s food pantry yesterday, a man stopped in. “Hey Rev, how about one of those prayers?” He wasn’t joking and it was a highlight of my day to pray for him at that moment. That is what makes life rich for me these days.
So, what matters in life? People!
When I was 40 years of age, I attended a conference in Boston, MA led by a man named Bob Buford who had enjoyed the kind of success that is measured by dollars and a big office. He lost his son in a tragic accident and that crisis provoked Bob to take time out for a deep self-evaluation. His entire life shifted in to new priorities. I was captivated by his description of changing his life aim from “success to significance.” His book, Halftime, explained how to change from chasing titles and money to becoming a person of character who seeks the purpose for which he was created by God.
The Bible makes an arresting statement that supersedes all the success literature as our guide to the best life! “The Lord is your life… Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long … “ (Deuteronomy 30:20, 32:46-47, NIV)
The Lord is your life! What a phrase. The Hebrew word translated as “life,” is one that bursts with energy. It is translated in other places in the Bible as “green” (think lush vegetation), as “running or flowing” ( think a sparkling stream of water), and as “renewal” (think springtime). In our relationship with our God, we find that kind of active life-force. He renews us, refreshes us, makes us fruitful. Paul, preaching in Athens, declared that “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28, NIV) In other words, God, the Spirit, is our LIFE.
Whether we live in a palace or a cabin, drive a new car or a clunker, wear the latest fashion or blue jeans from the thrift store, have a 401(k) for retirement or just a hope that our kids will give us a room – we will be a success IF we have shaped our lives around the will and Word of the One who is our Life. Is that hard? Yes, it is because the sinful nature repeats the lie of Eden to us attempting to cause us to doubt the goodness of God. Each day two paths diverge before us. Jesus described them as the “broad way that leads to destruction,” and “the narrow way that leads to life eternal.” One offers immediate gratification of our sensual desires; the other the long-term reward that comes from faithful love, service to others, and obedience.
Christian, have you been tricked into believing that Jesus came just to make you richer, smarter, and more comfortable in this world? Are your prayers mostly just ‘bless me and my kids?’ Even so-called “Christian” success literature claiming to be “godly truth” is really just the American dream re-packaged. God’s success formula is equally true in Bangladesh and New York City! It works for the bright and beautiful and the those who are not so fortunate. “The Lord is your life,” is accessible to us all – if we will accept it by faith and pursue loving and serving Him whole-heartedly. Which kind of success are you chasing, friend? From which fountain are you trying to draw life’s sustenance? May the Spirit guide you to the life that is truly life, to success that survives the end of your journey on this globe.
Here’s a word from the Word to ponder today. Paul penned these words from a dungeon facing execution. To outward appearances his life seemed wasted, a failure. He saw it differently because he knew that the game wasn’t over when his eyes closed in death. How I pray that his words describe what I hope for and live for.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—
the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge,
will give me on the day of his return.
And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly
look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NLT)
Now, that is real success, isn’t it?
(Video of this blog at this link)
Worthy of ev’ry song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Jesus the name above ev’ry other name
Jesus the only one who could ever save
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You We live for You
Holy there is no one like You
There is none besides You
Open up my eyes in wonder and show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me
I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken
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