My pastor just completed a series of sermons on Biblical success from Psalm 78. Not only was I challenged to be a successful Christan as God spoke through Bro. John, but I was reminded of the increased attention in recent years from preachers and teachers on how God measures success in His people.
The old, “noses, and nickels” as the primary measurement of a successful church is giving way to a greater emphasis on obedience, faithfulness, and sacrifice. A growing understanding that it is ‘only God who gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:7) reminds us that success in His Kingdom is measured differently than success in the eyes of the world. We know that keeping track of the ‘numbers’ helps us gauge our progress as well as reveal possible symptoms of issues which need to be addressed. But we also know that the Bible instructs us to leave the results in God’s capable hands.
Our Sunday School class just finished four weeks of evangelism training. One constant theme was that our responsibility and success in evangelism comes about as we share the gospel regardless of how others respond to the gospel. In other words, when we share the gospel by faith we have been successful.
There is another measurement of success in the Christian life that, at times, we aren’t too crazy about. I’m talking about the world’s reaction to the gospel in general and to us in particular. Jesus told us (John 15:18) that the world would respond to us in the manner and measure in which it responded to Him. The more we live like Jesus the more the world will treat us like Jesus. Some will respond with acceptance. However, many will respond with anger and resentment. Both of these responses are signs of the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction of sin.
If I were to ask you to point to an occasion when Peter was successful in being like Jesus you might well point to the Pentecost sermon in Acts 2 when thousands were saved. That would be a good example. I’d also point to another occasion when Peter’s success in the Kingdom of God was just as evident. In Acts 12, Peter was under arrest for sharing the gospel. It’s that 6th verse which caught my attention helping me to see an affirmation from Heaven that Peter was most certainly doing something right in spreading the gospel. While under arrest in Herod’s custody, Peter was in jail, sleeping between two soldiers, bound by chains, and had two sentries standing guard at his cell door. That Herod went to such lengths to shut Peter up is certainly a sign of a successful ministry as well as a reminder that God’s blessing was on Peter’s life. The world feared this uneducated, unlearned fisherman and the simple words he proclaimed that they treated Him like they treated Jesus.
In our day we see a growing animosity and fear as the world reacts to the deeds and words of faithful Christians. From our own personal experience we know that our ego-centric, sinful reaction to the conviction of the Holy Spirit is one of anger and resentment. We also know this kind of response is a sign that the gospel is opening our eyes to who God is and what God expects of humanity. As believers we know that our resentment when under conviction is a matter of the Spirit reminding us of the eternal truth of the gospel. We know we must confess and repent. When we successfully live the gospel, share the gospel, and leave the results in God’s hands, the world will often respond with all the resistance she can muster. When that happens, we can count ourselves successful in the eyes of God and resolve as did the saints of old to grow in faithful obedience to our Lord’s commission to be witnesses to all the world.
Our call from God is not to look for the fight. Rather we are called to share the gospel in the manner He has prescribed in Scripture. When the fight comes, we respond with love and count ourselves successful in the outcome God ordains.
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