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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Be careful what yardstick you use to measure success.

Be careful what yardstick you use to measure success. I've been thinking about that in recent days, especially after visiting with a fellow minister and dear friend of mine last week. He serves in an area where some of the ministers are very territorial in their approach to ministry. They measure their success based on largeness of ministry rather than the legitimacy of what they do. In fact, that's a dangerous wave that is sweeping through many areas of church life these days. If it's big and flashy and has large numbers to show, then it must be God. By the same token, if it's growing slowly or tucked away where no one sees, there must be something wrong.

But it's a trap that we can all fall into. We start to measure our successes and failures (along with those of others) by external values and features that may or may not be accurate in their judgment. You remember the story of Moses in Numbers 20 where the people are roaming through the desert and they are complaining (yet again) that they are thirsty? Moses is led by God to a rock in the desert where God says speak to the rock and you will get the water you need. Moses, taking matters into his own hands, strikes the rock. This is an act of disobedience that God would later punish him for by telling him he would never enter the Promised Land. Despite his poor choices, though, the miracle of fresh water still occurred and the people were blessed.

The lessons we learn? God sometimes moves in spite of us, not because of us and not every external sign proves that we have it right on the inside. Right now, I can think of dozens of friends and partners in ministry who serve faithfully in out of the way places and are not "rock stars" on the speaking tour--yet I would defy anyone to challenge the integrity and legitimacy of what they do. I know faithful dads and moms (some in our church) who have done everything they can to raise their kids well, yet they watch as their kids still make poor choices.

Maybe that's why God moved Paul to write in 2 Corinthians "judge no man according to the flesh." Only God knows our hearts and He alone can determine the faithfulness of what we do. So what's the answer? Where do we find our legitimacy? What better place to find it than the same place that the Son of God found it? He said, "My food is to do the will of my Father in Heaven." In other words, the legitimacy of my ministry and who I am is found in Him not the external measures of our culture.

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