Month 4:14, Week 2:6 (Sheshi/Kippur), Year:Day 5936:103 AM|
7 Sabbaths + Omer Count Day #36
Gregorian Calendar: Tuesday 3 July 2012
What Really Matters?
When Success is a Failure
I have known many people in my life whose lives were regarded as a resounding success by those of a worldly mindset. My late father-in-law was a very successful businessman, a millionnaire in fact, who operated an oil shipping firm. He worked very hard, provided amply for his family, but died an unbeliever with numerous unresolved issues and left behind a very divided family. Indeed on one occasion he offered me a small fortune if I would abandon my religion and settle down to an ordinary secular life.
"Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter" (Frańcis Chan).
But we don't have to be successful in a major enterprise such as my nominal Catholic father-in-law was. We may have lots of little successes and come to regard our life with satisfaction as having accomplished many small things as a true born-again, Torah-obedient believer. My greatest fear throughout my life as a Christian/Messianic is that I have been engaged in otherwise lawful things but of no spiritual value because I was not doing my Heavenly Father's will. So it has been a matter of regular struggle in prayer to establish Yahweh's will in my life, being in the right place with the right people doing the right thing. And so many times it was Yahweh's will that I not be doing what I wanted to be doing or living in the country or place I wanted to be.
The trouble it, the way we rate success is not at necessarily how the Creator does. The world establishes a set of criteria by which we can measure success of a lack of it which the vast bulk of society pretty much follows sheepishly without thinking too much about what it's doing - do well at school, get a college education, get a good job, know the right people, seek continual economic and social advancement, get married, raise a family...and teach your children to do exactly the same generation after generation.
As we measure the great men and women of the Bible, who had Yahweh's favour, do we find them conforming to this or other similar worldly models? What things did they have in common? They all worked very hard, none were idle, and if they had families, they took seriously their obligation to provide for them or take care of them. But sometimes they did things that would shock the world. Elijah, for example, not only abandoned his career as a farmer but made sure he could never return to it by burning his ploughshare and slaughtering his oxen - then he went off and served Yahweh as a prophet. Many of Yahweh's people were highly successful in their day, often coming from well-to-do families - Jeremiah, Paul, John the Apostle, John the Baptist, to name a few - and abandoned their station, wealth and success to become servants of Yahweh. Others, like Abraham, a successful businessman, abandoned the metropolis and became a simple herder and nomad for the rest of his life. Each of them did what Yahweh called them to do and surprised their relatives by not following the crowd.
Do your successes really matter? What counts as 'success' in Yahweh's eyes? Jeremiah ended up as a political prisoner for being prophetically outspoken about the emet (truth) and finished his days accompanying a motley band of disobedient believers into exile into Egypt, just as Ezekiel did to Babylon. Success is doing what Yahweh wants, whatever it may be, whether as a person doing the 'ordinary' things of school, higher education, job, and raising a family, or whether as a wild man living out on the desert preaching repentance. The last thing I want to be able to say to Yahweh is that I was successful in the world, or in anything, when none of it was what He planned for my life so that I could serve Him in the way I was created for and in the way that would bring about maximum character development to me, maximum spiritual advantage for my children, and maximum glory to Him.
After a roaring success as a ruler, architect and businessman, Solomon lamented his failure to do what really mattered to be successful in Yahweh's eyes and left this piece of advice for those who might be tempted to follow in his way of folly:
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear Elohim (God) and keep His mitzvot (commandments), for this is man's all. For Elohim (God) will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Eccl.12:13-14, NKJV).