March 19, 2016

Faith and success?

Do most new Christians think that by believing in Christ and trusting God to lead them that they will wind up in a place of success? I did. I thought God would give me awesome challenges and some kind of prominence in His kingdom if I did as He asked. When that didn’t happen, I assumed I did something wrong and became upset with myself. This was a foolish assumption and a self-centered conclusion.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8)

Abraham is called the ‘father of faith’ because he simply believed God. When God asked him to do something, he did it. In this verse, it was separating himself from his country and kin, and without a clue going where God was leading him.

Today, this separation is more mental and moral. That is, God calls me to be separate from the way the world thinks and separate from my old life of sin.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices (Colossians 3:5–9)

This separation might also include people who do not have the same faith relationship with God that I do. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26–27)

While I need to remember that “hate” here is a relative term of hostility describing how faith puts believers at enmity with those who are resisting God, it is also a real separation in many parts of the world. Some new Christians must flee their families because at best they will be considered as ‘dead’ and at worst, their family members will make death a literally truth.

As for being called by God and not knowing where I am going, faith responds because I know who is calling me. Faith isn’t about intellect and reason. It is knowledge of a Person, and trusting that Person to take me the best way, the surest way.

However, Chambers says that one of the biggest snares is the idea that God is going to lead me to “success.” The Bible says that He is working in my life to make me like His Son. This is a great success, yet not the prominence in His kingdom as I first supposed. I could be like Jesus in some way as a leader, or teacher, or in some position of service in the church. But I can also be like Jesus in my home, around the table with my family and other guests, shopping at the mall, or driving on the freeway. In the mind of God, that is success.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
This word appears only once in the Bible. It means to thrive, to be wise, having understanding. There is nothing to suggest it means what most of the modern word thinks it means.

The goal of faith is Christ-like character in all of life. The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting. It is not a question of sanctification; but of something infinitely beyond sanctification. It is faith that has been tried and proved and has stood the test.

Faith is believing God no matter what, and trusting Him to take me wherever He wants me to go, on rocky roads or smooth, into light or into shadows, with friends or alone, with a bit of glory or with no applause at all.

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