Today, I decided to be an unsuccessful Christian. I was no longer going to try to have a successful quiet time every morning; or to successfully maintain my streak on my Bible app (98 days, by the way); or to be a successful prayer warrior; or to successfully memorise Bible verses. This morning, I decided to start a quiet, personal revolution against success. I am giving up. I’m not going to strive to be a good Christian, or even a good friend or even good at my job.
In our culture, success is important. You need to be successful at school in order to get a successful job which you need to have a successful life. This is true in Christian culture, too. Google the phrase “successful ministry” and see what happens. (Although, interestingly, the search terms “successful Christian” is less fruitful.) But there is an unspoken tick list that we are ask trying to meet (Bible verses learned, meetings attended, converts converted…). However, it dawned on me this morning, the Bible never asks for our success. It never asks us to be decent at anything. We are not called to success.
In fact, any success is a gift from God, not something we create. Psalm 90 is pretty amazing in how it explores God’s awesomeness and his goodness. The NLT version ends with:
And may the Lord our God show us his approval
and make our efforts successful.
Yes, make our efforts successful.
It is God that makes our efforts successful. God grants success as he does life, grace and everything good. Therefore, whether what I do is successful or not is out of my hands. Unless the Lord is in it, it is, as Psalm 127 tells us, in vain. Success is not my prerogative, choice or business.
Now, before you worry that I’ve “back-slidden”, giving up on success does not equal apathy. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to wander around aimlessly and not try anything. In fact, in a strange way it’s released me to try more, because if it doesn’t matter if I am successful or not, there’s no reason to get disheartened. I simply can’t lose.
Furthermore, not everything in life can be approached with a view of success. You can look at loads of studies on what makes a successful marriage. However, I wonder how many of the couples who were studied got married with the aim of a successful marriage. Their vows were probably more about loving and cherishing one another than ticking off different milestones or criteria for perfect matrimony.
So, what if we stopped pursuing success in other areas of life too? Rather, why not just look to love and cherish God and others. After all the greatest commandment is this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second is: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Yes, those things will bring in all the things I’ve decided not to be successful at. And I may accidentally be good at them; then again, I may not. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be successful at meeting those commands, for a start. But I’m not going to worry about that.
Help me to love you. Give me a passion and a heart that pumps for you. Give me an overwhelming desire to know you and serve you.
Also help me to love others.
I need your help to love like you do. I cannot be successful at it without the work of your Holy Spirit in my life.
Be with me,