A mom may gauge success more by her kids’ accomplishments, rather than her own–even their behavior, and her effectiveness in influencing them.
The salesperson tends to measure success by the number of sales, the size of commission or bonus, his promotion–or lack of it–and his effectiveness in producing results.
The writer often sees success in the size of her advance, in how many books she writes and the number of readers who buy them, the total number of book sales and its placement on the charts, and in the number of her blog followers and Facebook friends.
The preacher might evaluate success by the size and spiritual growth of his congregation, the number of converts and baptisms each year, and the absence of conflict among his congregation.
Equating Success with Results
Different folks, but same philosophy: equating success with results. It’s the nature of life. Is there anything wrong with that?If productivity and favorable results truly equal success, I wonder how the prophet Jeremiah’s 40-year resume would read? Would YOU take an assignment with a job description that might have read something like this? (Inferred from Jeremiah 1:1-19 and throughout the book of Jeremiah).
Don’t be afraid. You will be my spokesman to the world.
Go where I tell you to go. Say what I want you to say.
Warn leaders of coming destruction–and call for repentance.
Expect to be hated, beaten, and imprisoned–repeatedly. But I am with you, and I will take care of you.
P.S. (Don’t expect results.) The people will not repent, but I will not destroy them completely.
Was Jeremiah’s Life a Success?
At the end of that 40-year job, no one stamped FAILURE on his resume. Of course, Jeremiah’s employer happened to be the God of the universe. But most wouldn’t describe this Old Testament “John the Baptist” as a successful prophet. He is, however, often called the “Weeping Prophet,” perhaps because he grieved with God over the sins of the people and their rejection of God.
He sometimes argued with God. There were times he wanted to quit–yes, even die. (Jer. 20:14-18). But God’s fiery message and compassionate heart so fueled the fire in his bones, that not even his tears could drench the flames. Listen to his words in Jeremiah 20:7-9 NLT):
“O Lord, you persuaded me, and I allowed myself to be persuaded. You are stronger than I am, and you overpowered me. Now I am mocked by everyone in the city. Whenever I speak, the words come out in a violent outburst. ‘Violence and destruction!’ I shout. So these messages from the Lord have made me a household joke. And I can’t stop! If I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am weary of holding it in!”
While others might not consider Jeremiah’s life a success, God apparently did. Day after painful day, Jeremiah simply showed up and obeyed God. He experienced discouragement, suffering, and rejection. Like Rodney Dangerfield, Jeremiah got “no respect.” But he wouldn’t quit. When God’s people refused to listen, it broke Jeremiah’s heart, too (Jeremiah 8:18-9:1).
Life Demands Results
But, you may object, life demands results. Jobs require productivity, or else. Or else, what?
I believe in the midst of all Jeremiah’s gloom and doom messages runs a thread of what success really means. As Jeremiah communicates with God and obeys, he learns more and more of God’s true character. I challenge you to read through the book of Jeremiah and discover all the attributes Jeremiah learned and declared about God. At one point, he sees the unshakeable love of God for His people in this statement: “I would no more reject my people than I would change my laws of night and day, of earth and sky” (Jeremiah 33:25 NLT). God’s holiness and justice brought discipline and destruction to a disobedient nation, but His unconditional love and mercy refused to wipe them out completely.
Jeremiah did what God asked. He delivered every message, word for word. Jeremiah was faithful to obey God. In so doing, he not only showed the people what God was like, but he learned that same truth himself. And He learned that the results of his obedience were God’s doing–and God’s business, not his.
Re-define Success: Remember Jeremiah
The next time you are tempted to define success by productivity and favorable results, remember Jeremiah. Every morning without fail, just show up for duty, whether it’s making a bed or making a sale, teaching a class, or answering the phone. Even if your “assignment” is simply to pray for others, be faithful, and always work with excellence to the best of your ability, no matter what. God will do the rest.
Perhaps success is not about measuring results. It’s about knowing Him–and doing whatever He asks.
What can others discover about God because of me? What kind of character am I allowing God to build in me? What kind of relationship am I building with God and others?