Success. Power. Position. Influence. Money. Status. Boss. Ruler. Judge. CEO. Driving words in our world.
Reading in 1 Chronicles I was struck by the life of Saul, King of Israel. He had it all. All the driving words above applied to him. He was the man you wanted to be seen with. Saul would have been the one to know for business and politics. He is the one people wanted to be like. When you looked up success in the Hebrew dictionary there would be Saul’s picture.
The end of Saul’s life came on Mount Gilboa in a battle with the Philistines. Three of his sons died that day. The army of Israel was being crushed and Saul was at his end so we are told he fell on his sword and died. That was a tragic day.
The death of Saul as described in 1 Chronicles 10 also includes a summary statement in verses 13 and 14 which struck me.
13So Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD. He failed to obey the LORD’s command, and he even consulted a medium 14instead of asking the LORD for guidance. So the LORD killed him and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.
We are told “the LORD killed him.” Well, that is instructive. There is more to the story than the physical details. Just as there is more to the story of our lives than the physical details. The Lord killed Saul. The time had come. The elements lined up. The Lord was at work. But there were the three strikes against Saul which are listed: He was unfaithful to the Lord, He failed to obey the Lord’s command, and he didn’t ask the Lord for guidance. It seems the Lord is serious about His people and His expectations of them.
In human terms Saul had arrived. He would have been the envy of the people of Israel. He was a success story. In God’s evaluation Saul had failed and ultimately God killed him.
What would that look like, I wonder, for the average American Christian? The evaluation of success based on “Power. Position. Influence. Money. Status. Boss. Ruler. Judge. CEO” would still be central. The Lord would continue to use a different standard for success than many Christians. He would look for faithfulness, obedience, and a relationship based on humility.
Even for those who know what really matters it is challenging to stay consistent. There is a difference in the way many Christians treat those they consider “successful.” So, churches and Christian organizations use that as a marketing tool in their brochures, web sites and various conferences. When a pastor or a speaker or an author is introduced the list of how many books written or sold is included, the numbers attending, the many countries ministered in, the accomplishments, titles or degrees are included. Why? Is that to indicate the individual’s faithfulness, obedience and humility or to highlight that person’s success? It seems to me that often it is not just informative, but designed to prove this person’s right as a successful Christian to sell me a book, teach me a lesson, train me in some aspect of Christian living. I have been sold and taught and trained as a result. But I would like to move in a new direction. One in which the Lord’s values are more central. In my limited capacity I would like to be better at affirming those who practice faithfulness to the Lord, obedience to His commands and are routinely asking the Lord for guidance. They may have great success or little success on the world’s stage, but they are living the right things and are exalted in God’s eyes.
I would really like to avoid having my epitaph state that “the Lord killed him.” And I would like to listen to the Lord and not wind up slowly then finally killing myself like King Saul did.
The Lord is gracious, patient and kind. His love is enduring. I want to go His way.
To be faithful, obedient and to listen to His guidance is true success.