When I started, I had visions of grandeur. I was soon disappointed.
God called me to preach at a young age, but a rebellious spirit led to a later rather than earlier acquiescence. I imagined I would be a Billy Graham, serve in important denominational positions, write New York Times bestselling books, have people flock to my church, die and leave a legacy recorded in Christian history books.
Like Jeremiah, I had excuses for my reluctance. After all, I was a preacher's kid and had witnessed firsthand how mean some church folk could be.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that everyone's not worshipping the ground I walk on, that my books aren't making it far beyond the local drugstore, or that I'm unknown beyond a few hot spots in my home state.
But I was, until I discovered that my success definition was all twisted. I hope Jeremiah did too. Otherwise what follows would have really confused him:
Jeremiah 38:6 – So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king's son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud. (NIV)
Jeremiah preached to the southern half of a divided nation for forty years, warning them about disobedience and God's impending judgment if they didn't change. They didn't, and it came. An unresponsive audience, prison, poverty, and attempts on his life must have led him to question his success-to-failure ratio, too.
But God's definition of success has nothing to do with being a trendsetter, reaching goals, having wealth, prestige, and power, having groupies who hound you, experiencing world renown, or even being financially and emotionally secure.
It has everything to do with faithfulness and obedience. In spite of opposition and personal cost, Jeremiah faithfully delivered his assigned message, and that's how God measured his success.
Whether we're well-known or little-noticed, popular or unpopular, liked or not, our faithfulness makes us successful in God's work. We are called to learn to succeed through faithful obedience.
Prayer: Merciful God, may our definition of success be identical to Yours. Amen.