Today’s blog, written by Jabez Yeo (who served for a long time at Remnant Church, NYC), was originally posted on October 19, 2014. He was recently married to River. Congratulations.
Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“The Measure of True Success”
“When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.”
For most of my Christian life, I measured success in my service to God either by growth in attendance or the number of people accepting Christ. In one particular year, the Bible study I served in rarely had people attend (besides our leadership team), which made me feel dejected, wondering what exactly I was doing wrong. But the next year, I helped to start a new Bible study, and we had 20-25 people attending weekly with some coming to know the Lord. I would be lying if I said that some pride did not creep into my heart about my “awesome” leadership skills; which was especially ironic since I had spent the same amount of time and energy serving during both years!
As we think about successful service to God, a good case study to consider is the prophet Jeremiah. He received the call to prophesy at an early age (Jer. 1:4-8) and faithfully preached the message of repentance to Judah. Sadly, he did not witness spiritual revival nor repentance; but instead, the wicked prospering (12:1-6), two deportations from Jerusalem (24-25), Jerusalem’s destruction (39), and an ill-advised escape to Egypt (43:1-7). Even more tragically, Jeremiah himself was not exempt from these trials but had to suffer the consequences of his people’s actions (43:6-7).
Was Jeremiah ineffective because of unconfessed sin? This seems unlikely since he interceded for his people and included himself among the guilty (14:19-22). Then, was he not being faithful? This would definitely not be true since he gave 40 years of service and ministered to the last five kings of Judah. Furthermore, he was single by God’s command and did not have any children to carry on his name (16:2). He was beaten, placed in the stocks (20:2), thrown into jail, and into a cistern by his enemies (37-38). In terms of social persecution, he was plotted against (11:18-20; 26:7-15), mocked (20:7) and even the scroll which contained his prophecies was burned by King Jehoiakim, who was unwilling to listen to God (36). All things considered, the case could easily be made that Jeremiah was one of the most faithful men to have ever walked on this earth.
From Jeremiah’s life, it is clear that faithfulness and obedience doesn’t always translate to the results or the “success” that we want. And as we enter into a new season of serving God, this might be a lesson that some of us will experience. While some will be called to fertile ground, to people who will come to know Christ, others will be called, like Jeremiah, to hard soil, to a people who will not listen to us even as we call (7:27). Wherever God leads us to serve, let us remember that He is ultimately the one who brings spiritual growth (1 Cor. 3:5-7). All we can do is obey His commandments and calling in our lives; let us surrender the rest to Him.
Prayer: Lord, thank You that I am already successful in You regardless of whether the world sees me successful or a failure. Please forgive me when my pride gets in the way and I fail to recognize that all good things in my life come from You. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 17