A Theology of Success

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A good friend once asked me, “Isn’t it true that the person who lives in accord with the will of God, and patterns his life after the teachings of Scripture, can expect to live a successful life?”

My answer was, “Yes, but I am not sure that the kind of success which will be delivered is exactly what you have in mind.”

Too many people believe that faith in God and adherence to His laws will deliver wealth, power, and status.  They have heard sermons, on radio and television, which suggest that faith in God and obedience to His Word guarantee social success.  They imagine that they will move up the socioeconomic ladder by virtue of their goodness.  They assume that when the Apostle Paul promises that God will “do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20), he means believers will prosper in miraculous ways and lack for nothing in the way of the world’s goods.

Will Herberg, a contemporary Jewish social philosopher, claims that Americans have “faith in faith.”  They  think believing in God assures them of economic prosperity and personal achievement.  He may be right.  But this kind of “faith” makes God a means to our own personal ends and declares that He is there to help us achieve things which society tells us are important. 

The eternal God does not exist to serve our ends.  He is not an instrument for the fulfillment of our wishes.  We exist to serve Him.  We are called to be instruments of His will.

Many sociologists differentiate religion from magic by pointing out that in religion people submit themselves to the will of a higher power; in magic, people try to manipulate a higher power to get things for themselves.  Many people who think thay have true religion transform the Christian faith into a primitive form of magic, treating God as though He were the genie of the magic lamp.  Prayer becomes a litany for manipulating God into delivering what the petitioners want.  Jesus’ name becomes a magical incantation that must be blasphemously uttered at the end of the prayer if God is to deliver the desired results.  For many, prayer reflects the kind of immaturity that my little boy expressed one evening when he came into our living room and said, “Before I go to bed, I’m going to pray.  Does anybody want anything?”

I believe that the Christian lifestyle does deliver success to people, but not the kind of success that is understood by society.  Jesus never promised wealth, power, and prestige to those who would follow Him.  He warned that while foxes had holes and bird had nests, the disciples were following One who would not have a place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20).  He was scorned and rejected by the people of the world.  Then as now, the social establishment would crucify Him.  Jesus warned His followers that what happened to Him would happen to them.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greather than his master.'”  ~John 15:18-20

~Tony Campolo, The Success Fantasy.

How do you measure success?

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27 responses »

  1. “My determined purpose is to know Him” ….

    Good thoughts here, Michelle. I think there are two ditches vying for attention. One is “God wants to give you what you want, just have faith,” and the other is, “God doesn’t like rich people; all wealth is filthy.” Both are ditches, because both are contrary to what the Word teaches. On the one hand, God does want us to prosper. Otherwise, how do you explain the fantastic wealth of some of the greatest men of the Bible: Abraham, Job, David? How do you explain that heaven (where God sits) is paved in gold, and bedecked with every jewel imaginable in sizes never seen here on earth … but He doesn’t want us to have any? Isn’t that an ‘all mine’ mentality not ascribed to our God? “Remember the Lord your God, for it is HE that gives you the power to get wealth that He might establish His covenant with you.” “I will shout for joy and rejoice, for the Lord delights in the prosperity of His servant.” “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” “Give and it shall be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, shall men pour unto your bosom.” These verses of course contain the balance I will point out in a minute.

    The other ditch is thinking (as this piece stated) that faith in God is a means to financial gain. That it is a magic trick that will get you all the things the world wants. Those two statements are almost straight out of Scripture – but with twisted thoughts. “… Men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ” And there you can see what is twisted.

    The truth of God’s Word is that … everything operates on a system directly upside down of what the world operates on. If you pursue the wealth that God promised – you are upside down in your pursuits. Every single one of these verses tells us that we are to pursue Him and Him alone. What He gives us in response has been promised (therefore we may know the things freely given to us by God), but we are not to pursue the ‘things’. The first verse I quoted (Deuteronomy 8:18) has ‘the power to get wealth’ bookended with “REMEMBER the Lord your God, for it is HE who gives you” … and … “that He might establish His covenant with you.” God is interested in the covenant. He wants the covenant to operate in full. Nothing missing, nothing broken. Deuteronomy 28 gives a beautiful picture of what exactly the covenant includes and does not include. This is His best for our lives. BUT He is interested in us first and foremost, and will not sacrifice His own covenant of good with us to give us the temporary things we think we want, at the expense of the lasting things which will give us His peace (shalom – complete wholeness). He is not a foolish parent – He will not spoil us with ‘stuff’ to the expense of our own good, and a healthy relationship with Himself and others. So it is upside down. We have to pursue Him. Look to Him. Be delighted in Him. And once we understand that there truly is nothing in this world that can compare to the beauty, joy, peace, abundance, blessing, wholeness, fulfillment, contentment of knowing HIM … we may see the ‘stuff’ everyone else wants trailing behind. But when it does … it will mean nothing to us. That is when we know our eyes are fixed on Him. When none of the glitter of this world could possibly drag our eyes away from His glorious brightness.

    David put his finger on the crux of the matter … okay, actually it was Agur son of Jakeh … you learn new things every day, “Give me neither poverty nor riches;
    Feed me with the food that is my portion,
    That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?”
    Or that I not be in want and steal,
    And profane the name of my God.”
    Both ditches (poverty and wealth) will attempt to drag our eyes off of Him … and the point of all of Scripture is that HE alone is worthy of glory and praise, He alone is to be pursued and desired above all things, He alone is to be the object of our love and affection; that all things are through Him and by Him and for Him, and to HIM is all the glory. Learning this … really learning this … may very well take a lifetime. I ‘know’ it in my head, but … my heart is still learning. Too many things still distract. Too many things still clamor for the attention He deserves. It is all about knowing Him.

    “My determined purpose is to know Him” ….

  2. Hey, Annie! As I read through your comment the question came to mind, “Of which covenant do we belong?”

    I see three distinct covenants in scripture (there are others, but these appear to be the major ones):

    The Abrahamic Covenant
    The Mosaic Covenant
    The New Covenant

    I believe we can see in the book of Hebrews that the New Covenant fulfilled the Mosaic Covenant. And it seems Romans tells us we have been grafted into the true vine, the Abrahamic Covenant. Galatians distinctly tells us not to mingle the two covenants, the one which is of the flesh compared to the Spirit.

    Why do I make the distinction? The promises of the Covenants are different. The Abrahamic Covenant is an everlasting covenant God made with Abraham. Abraham had no conditions he had to fulfill for the covenant to be his, other than circumcision. But really, that was not a condition as much as it was a sign of the covenant, since it came many years after the initial cutting of covenant.

    The Mosaic Covenant was made between God and the people of Israel with many conditions attached. Blessings and cursings determined by the stipulations of the Law: moral, civil and ceremonial, were clearly laid out and the people responded, “All you have required of us, we will do.” It is distinctly made with Israel and is a unit. It is not broken up but is to be viewed as a whole.

    This covenant (the Mosaic) was fulfilled in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The debt was paid in full. With the power of His resurrection, we are given, through the Holy Spirit, the means to fulfill the law which is now written on our hearts.

    I don’t see that we can expect to have the promises of the Mosaic covenant if we are not willing to live under its blessings and cursings: its conditions. If we determine to live under the Law, then we must keep ALL of the Law, or none of it is ours. We don’t get to pick and choose.

    So…I think this is a fundamental difference of interpretation that can lead to much heartache. I see in the New Covenant that we are to follow in the steps of Jesus, who did not have a place to lay His head. I’m NOT saying we won’t be blessed materially, but that is the exception, not the rule.

    In all things, whether rich or poor, we are to give thanks to Him. I’m not preaching poverty as a righteous act…not at all…just that, we were not given a promise of material prosperity in Jesus’ teachings.

    That is the way I understand those three Covenants. I could very well be wrong, but I’ve not yet found evidence to say differently. We’re getting awfully close to discussing doctrinal differences. Are you comfortable with that, Sparkle?

  3. Michelle: I think this is an excellent way to begin a new year, when we all are setting goals for the future and looking to be more “successful” this year than last. I have found myself thinking often the words from James; “If the Lord will, we will live and do this or that (4:15).” It is a constant reminder to me that my days are in the hands of my God.

    Thanks.

  4. You’re welcome, Joe!

    I needed the challenge and yesterday’s sermon reminded me of our call to endure in hard times, knowing His purpose for us is contrary to the world’s way of measuring success.

    We’re His to will and work for His good pleasure.
    Nice to see you here! 😉

  5. Re: your question about ‘measuring success”, I read this quote from Henri Nouwen yesterday, and agree with his ‘take’ on what’s really most important (and how to achieve it =):

    “There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.”

    D-

  6. I love this, Dana!!!

    “A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability,
    Community is the fruit born through shared brokenness,
    And intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds.”

    Thank you so much for sharing it. I’ve understood these things…success?…well, it’s fleeting.

    Thanks for stopping by. Hope you’re well. 😉

  7. Comfortable? I dunno. It’s stretching.

    The three covenants. (I think there are two more actually, the covenant with Adam and the covenant with Noah.) I see your distinctions between them, however, I don’t see your application of them. You said, “I don’t see that we can expect to have the promises of the Mosaic covenant if we are not willing to live under its blessings and cursings: its conditions. If we determine to live under the Law, then we must keep ALL of the Law, or none of it is ours. We don’t get to pick and choose.” It seems that you’re saying that none of what is written under the Law applies to us because we are under the New Covenant. Something … I don’t think you believe. So maybe I’m misunderstanding you. Jesus fulfilled all the law. This is true! We are in Jesus. This is true. Since we are in Jesus our covenant through his blood is greater than the covenant under Moses. Greater, but not separate. Jesus’ blood fulfills for us ALL the requirements of the law that we could not do on our own. It is in Him we live and move and have our being. So … saying that we either have the blessings along with the burden of the law, or we don’t have either seems to be a stretch of what is written. Didn’t Jesus do His work so that the requirements of the law could be fulfilled once and for all on our behalf? If so, then why did He do that? Simply to release us from the burden of the law? Or did He do it to also give what the law promised? I believe it was both. What are the alternatives? On one hand we have abundant blessings under the law which no one who is under the law is capable of achieving on their own, and a New covenant which fulfills that law, but then denies those under the fulfillment of the law the blessings promised from the law. Therefore no one can attain to the blessings. Either that, or we have to assume that Jews are entitled to material prosperity but Christians are not. Does this make sense?

    You also said, “we were not given a promise of material prosperity in Jesus’ teachings.” How does this fit in with Matthew 6

    25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
    28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
    31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

    This whole chapter is dealing with our approach to money. The sentences before this famous piece are dealing with exactly what I said earlier – where our focus is. This particular passage is specifically referencing material things. Food, clothing, housing. To me, if Jesus Himself is saying (paraphrased), “when your focus is in the right place, and not on money, and when you don’t worry about being provided for, but rather trust in My care and provision, all the things every one else wants (how could this possibly be interpreted as anything other than something material given the passage and what we know of the world?) will be added to you.” All He said, too. All. This is out of Jesus’ mouth even. Not a teaching ‘about’ Him. Now before it sounds like I’m promoting the material realm, I will point out that that is one phrase in a chapter about focusing the attention of our lives and our love on Him – that whatever we focus on will master us. This is in agreement with what I said earlier. That one little phrase though does conclude His thoughts on money and how we are to handle it and approach it.

    Also, though, I will point out that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and will never change. If He promised one people under covenant with Him a blessing of prosperity, He is not one to change His mind or play favorites. This is still His heart.

    And as a side note, I will point out that our covenant is a better covenant than the one with Abraham (or Moses – who was a part of the covenant with Abraham) per Hebrews. We already know that in spiritual matters, the ramifications of our covenant in no way invalidated the old, but only increased it exponentially. The blood of Jesus speaks better than the blood of bulls. They came into a tent made of hands. We come face to face. They spoke with God through an intermediary. We speak to God face to face. Their sins were atoned for temporarily with the blood of animals. Our sins were atoned for once for all time, and that, before we had even committed them. They came to a place to meet with God. God lives inside of us, where we can come to Him any time. How are we to suppose that these spiritual things of the covenant are greater and better, but the material things aren’t? (Understand I am making an argument for the subject, NOT in any way trying to bring the focus off of His great work and onto material prosperity – though I believe I’ve stated my position on the subject.)

    I understand that many Christians believe many things concerning prosperity, and I also understand that this is not the weightiest issue of our covenant. Not by a very long shot. I do think (for another topic maybe) that the ramifications of living in the wealthiest nation on the planet, yet believing and being ‘ok’ with all of that wealth being in the hands of those outside of the covenant and not pursuing God’s agenda in the earth are huge. How are the poor to send missionaries? How are the poor to build churches? How are the poor to print Bibles? How are the poor to feed the hungry? How are the poor to staff the multitude of ministries that reach out Gods hands, set God’s feet to walking, and boldly declare the Truth of His word? The poor cannot. The church is poor. And so we are weak. And that strength is in the hands of Hollywood, football games, and wealth-generating corporate powers, who are more than willing to influence those who we are sent with with what they have to give, and what they have to say. And our country slowly but surely is swayed. But I ramble. Because that is clearly for another time and place.

    I know you are sensitive to words, my dear, and so I’m not a little concerned that I have offended you or been harsh to you in what I’ve said. Please know that’s not my heart, and if you would be so kind as to help me say it better perhaps (by illuminating where I was harsh), I am very open to listening. Love you!

  8. Today was a day of success – I was able to pray with a good friend that was placed in long term nursing care – probably for the rest of his life – he has a severe case of Parkinson’s – I think we can measure success with service as well.

  9. I know you love me, Annie, and I love you, too. I do NOT feel your words are harsh. Not at all. I hear your passion.

    First, I only meant to mention these three Covenants because I understand these to be the ones which most often become amalgamated. The scripture is filled with covenants. It just seems these three are most often confused with one another.

    As in any covenant, the partners need to be distinquished, along with the conditions and promises which apply.

    The Abrahamic Covenant is between God, Abraham and his descendants. It is unconditional. It is based upon the character of God. God did not require anything of Abraham when the covenant was cut.

    The Mosaic Covenant is between God and the children of Israel, the twelve tribes. The conditions of the covenant were specifically stated at the cutting of the covenant. The people were required to keep the covenant. Blessings if they did, cursings if they did not.

    We are Gentiles. We have never been asked to be a part of the Mosaic covenant. We’ve never converted to Judaism. This was Paul’s biggest argument with those who were trying to come into the assembly and require circumcision of the Gentile converts, which, at that time, was only something the descendants of Abraham would have done.

    We’ve always been under grace, never the Law. But it is written on our hearts and we are to follow what Jesus taught and the Apostles wrote down. They won’t contradict because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But the terms of the Mosaic Covenant were never handed down to us.

    We have promises in the New Covenant. He became the Passover Lamb for all. (And catch the timing on that one, the Law had not been given yet. He is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.) And we have been grafted into the Abrahamic Covenant — children of the promise, not of the Law. Jesus taught our needs would be met. That is very different than being materially prosperous.

    I don’t see the church as being poor. In my area it’s amazingly wealthy. I do see we don’t give as we were told, out of our poverty, for the work of Christ. We do not give sacrificially.

    The church was established in persecution and I think it will take persecution once again, for the church to do as it was told. To be willing to die for our faith. I don’t see prosperity as a New Testament teaching.

  10. Amen, Papa!! To be able to pray with one another and KNOW our prayers are heard by the Most High God. That is truly success! To serve, to give of ourselves for the body, for the cause of Christ…it’s what we’ve been called to do. And you do it beautifully from what I’ve heard. Good to see you, Papa! Are you warm in Florida?

  11. I started reading the comments and realized I might not be smart enough to be here! 🙂

    Just kidding. Kind of. Wow you people know a lot.

    I was just thinking, on my little level, how much I agree with this and needed the reminder. My parents are such faithful people and just went through a farm sale that basically didn’t sell, my aunt dying and a pipe bursting in the farm house they are trying to sell and flooding it ($78,000 in damages). All in less than a month. And today their furnace quit working. They are faithful and have not been given riches or easy times… but they are given strength and love and support and fortitude. Successful life, indeed.

  12. Hey, Gitz! I love what you’ve said. The strength, love, support and fortitude are the blessings He gives for us to live successfully in this life, to get through those very hard times.

    Oh, and Annie and I really don’t know that much, we just like to talk a LOT!!! Well, I suppose I should speak for myself. 😳

    No offence, Annie! 😉

  13. No offense taken! Yes, we like to talk … and especially on all things Biblical. 🙂

    Thank you for your explanation, Michelle. I see what you’re talking about more clearly. I think I’m still not seeing the application to this topic, though. It seems as if your application of the Mosaic covenant means that only parts of the Bible are applicable to us as Christians. I don’t believe you think this, so there seems to be some inconsistency. I think if prosperity is in the Bible at all, then it has to be applicable to us. Otherwise … who is the Bible for, and what ‘parts’ are we supposed to apply to our lives? It seems that the extremity of this idea (if it is there and I’m not misunderstanding) is that only the New Testament is meant for us as believers, since all of the Old Testament was intended for ‘other covenants.’ I KNOW you don’t think this. So I’m wondering how to reconcile it.

    That is wonderful about your church. And it brings to mind a question that perhaps we should have clarified to begin with. What is prosperity? Because many facets of Christianity (current and throughout the ages) would define anything but ‘vow of poverty’ to be against what the Bible teaches. Since clearly your church doesn’t believe this, and you are not supporting the idea of prosperity being a part of our covenant, than it means that your definition is different, and possibly either something in between, or we aren’t disagreeing at all, because your definition of ‘normal’ and my definition of ‘prosperous’ actually coincide. 🙂

    And just to point out also that my earlier arguments spoke out of all three covenants, not just one. I believe they all agree at the heart of the matter. Your explanation of the three covenants was enlightening though. So thank you!

  14. If I may…

    I have been taught that wealth or prosperity is anything beyond your daily needs. For example, early in my marriage I was delivering sandwiches for a deli, and my wife was working in a cosmetics shop. To say we didn’t have much money would be an EXTREME understatement. However, when we paid our bills, secured our rent for another month, and had food to put on the table AND had money left over, we were prosperous, we were wealthy.

    We were wealthy because the needs of our life were met and we still had extra. Often, when we found ourselves in a place of “wealth,” we would buy a big turkey breast or a roast, and invite everyone we knew over to our small apartment. They would bring something from their “wealth” and we would all share a meal together. None of us had much, but none of us felt poor either.

    I think we (and by “we” I mean the American church) define prosperity by looking at those that are rich in the US and saying; “If I don’t live like that, then I am not prosperous.”

    Not so.

    Even the people we would call the poorest in this country are wealthier than millions of people all over the world.

    All that to say that Annie has the right idea, the first step is to understand what prosperity really means.

  15. One more thought…

    I think it would make an intresting study to see how the Bible defines prosperity, because that’s what we are really after right? To think Biblically about things.

  16. OK…let me see if I can clarify my thinking any better…

    Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.

    I do believe all scripture is for us. I do not believe all the blessings laid out for the children of Israel are for us. They are a unique people, chosen by God, to fulfill His will.

    We are grafted into Abraham’s covenant, so of course, we are God’s children through the promise, through faith. We have many blessings poured out on us. All good and perfect gifts come down from the Father of lights in whom there is no variance or shifting shadow. All blessings, rich or poor, come from Him.

    BUT the New Covenant is not based upon the conditions of the Old Covenant. We have better promises that we may not see this side of heaven. We are not of this world. We are aliens and strangers, awaiting the Kingdom that has not yet fully come in glory. It is in our hearts, but not on this earth until Jesus sets up His rule and reign, when He comes again. It will come, but until then, we’ve been promised persecution, trouble and suffering for Christ. All the way through the New Testament we are told we will suffer for the sake of Christ. If we “prosper” at all, it is for the Kingdom’s sake to give to others in need. Not to store up treasures on earth.

    That’s what I understand as New Covenant teaching on wealth/prosperity.

    We can’t just pick the “good parts” of the Mosaic Covenant and not “do” all the rest. A Covenant is a binding agreement. We are not bound under the Old, but we are bound to the New, which brings liberty.

    Am I making sense yet? 😕

  17. Hey, Joe. Of course you can join in…ANYTIME!!

    To define prosperity would be most beneficial. I understand it to mean anything beyond our needs and that it is an added blessing, not a promise based upon conditions. I haven’t been able to find the word in the New Testament, outside of a word for well-being.

    Does that make sense?

  18. Absolutely, and I agree with you, that’s why I was giving an example from my own life.

  19. I hear you, Joe.

    When we really get a glimpse of the poverty in the world, it’s very hard not to see America as having plenty. Even the poor in America have so much more than most of the world. I do see the poverty here, and it is our job in the church to help those in need. But in relation to the world, I am abundantly prosperous. I might not have as much as those up the road, living in their multi-million dollar “castles.” But I truly am considered rich by the world’s standards…not America’s…but the world’s.

  20. oh wow! lots of stuff here.

    i dont know much, but what i have learned is my definition and idea of success and healing are very, very different from His and His ultimate perfect will for my life.

    that probably has been said already in the comments and i missed it – but, it’s my 1.2 cents 😉

    oh, and i love seeing you and annie talk with each other about God like this. makes my heart smile!

    i love you

  21. I have always debated about the requirements of the members of my church and Angie and my life in the area of commitment. Not everyone has a missionary calling. Because of that not everyone is called to live at the level of sacrifice that Angie and I are called to live. But on the same token everyone is called to be a Christian.

    I agree completely that so many believe that God is here to serve them. Many use God to get what they want of use him to be and way to get to something i.e. a bigger house, more money, happiness or lastly success. All these things are not bad but if not correctly prioritized they can result trying to use God to get something. I believe everyone can fall into this lack of focus every once and a while.

    I think that one’s definition of success comes into play as well. If our definition of success is anything but “success is dong what God wants me to do reguardless of the outcome” we run the risk of error.

    Good post. Made me think.

  22. John 17:3

    Succes for the believer doesn’t have a lot to do with temporal things, but has everything to do with having been granted all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (Eph 1:3). We are no longer citizens of this planet anyway.

    Unfortunately the vast majority of evangelicals these days think that we mortal humans are the center of God’s existence and they are getting it from pulpits and stages. that’s nothing more than humanism.

    God is the center of all things and everything exists to bring Him glory. Therefore, if anything in my life brings Him glory, there is a measure of success, but I cannot claim it as my own.

    He granted me repentance from my sin, the faith to beliieve, grace unto salvation, and the power in my life to bring him glory as I live for Him.

  23. Hey, Tam! Annie and I do LOVE to talk about all things spiritual. But also about art, life, husbands…just to name a few. We’re definitely sisters…or maybe she’s a daughter I never knew I had…she’s SO young!!

    And as she puts it so well, “He has an upside-down view of things.” Just like you’ve said, my dear TammyJo! Love you.

    Hey, DaRonn! “If our definition of success is anything but ‘success is doing what God wants me to do regardless of the outcome’ we run the risk of error.” That reminds me of the Hall of Fame of scripture, Hebrews 11. Each of them was “successful” and many of them died as martyrs. God’s economy is not our own. Thanks for joining in the discussion. I always appreciate your input, DaRonn. 😉

    Hey there, Dan!! Thanks for coming by and commenting.

    “God is the center of all things and everything exists to bring Him glory. Therefore, if anything in my life brings Him glory, there is a measure of success, but I cannot claim it as my own.”

    AMEN!! What does the catechism say? The chief end of man is to bring God glory??? We were put on this earth FOR Him and NO other. We get it so confused when we begin to think it’s all about us. Love you, Dan! 🙂

  24. Wow. I need to think this over. It’s just that I wonder why some people are so blessed then. Average christians who I don’t see as super devoted or anything, just blessed. No real drama, no real pain, things mostly go right, they are generally blessed above and beyond… Then I compare it with my own life and in a way I used take responsibility for it and think, well I made bad decisions, I will reap the consequences, and then God will bless me. Not that I feel entitled or seek God for His blessings, but David often prayed for God’s blessings and favor and kindness on his life. But if it’s not about what we do… Look, God is sovereign and almighty and if He wants me to be broken for the rest of my life then so be it, but my heart says that God is good and He wants good things for us, and He cares about the little things, and He wants to bless us and He wants us to not feel like failures at the end of our lives… Not trying to open another can of worms, just thinking out loud, I know this conversation is over, just wanted to let you know I was here, and thanks for getting me thinking Michelle:)

  25. It’s not a can of worms, at all, Irene. I think it’s what we need to be discussing. I believe there is much confusion and yes, some wrong teaching, concerning blessings from God. Every single blessing is from God:

    Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ~James 1:17

    But as far as blessings guaranteed based upon our goodness, I don’t see that. We suffer because we live in a broken world. And as I said before, some of us suffer because of other people’s choices. Did the child raised in an alcoholic home do something to cause the abuse she may have experienced? Then, of course, there are those who seem to be abundantly blessed who have never given a thought to God or His ways. It really is up to His discretion for whatever reason He determines.

    I am the one who forms light and creates darkness; the one who brings about peace and creates calamity. I am the Lord, who accomplishes all these things. ~Isaiah 45:7

    The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. ~1 Samuel 2:7

    See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. ~Deut. 32:39

    This passage in particular:

    Do not think to yourself after the Lord your God has driven them out before you, “Because of my own righteousness the Lord has brought me here to possess this land.” It is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out ahead of you. It is not because of your righteousness, or even your inner uprightness, that you have come here to possess their land. Instead, because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out ahead of you in order to confirm the promise he made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand, therefore, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is about to give you this good land as a possession, for you are a stubborn people! ~Deut. 9:4-6

    And one more:
    All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No-one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” ~Daniel 4:35

    All of that to say, I think it’s fine to ask for God to bless us. But I think we have a proper perspective when we realize it IS totally up to Him. If we aren’t blessed financially, materially, I don’t believe that’s a sign from God that we aren’t pleasing Him.

    Look at the twelve disciples…look at the early church…Jesus said we would be blessed in our brokenness:

    Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
    Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
    Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
    Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.

    Our greatest blessings can come from our sufferings. “It has been granted to you to suffer for the sake of Christ.” Paul considered it a blessing.

    Did I just give you a barrel of worms? 😉

  26. Hi Michelle, nope, no can of worms there:) Thank you for these scriptures, it really says it so well. And it does give me a better understanding. Sometimes theology really confuses me. I don’t think we will ever understand much of God this side of heaven, but these scriptures confirmed to me His goodness, His Godness, His sovereignity and that is enough for me again today. I can rest in that. He is God and there is no-one beside Him, and His grace is sufficient whatever this world brings my way. Thanks again for the scripture. God bless you, lots of love.

  27. I’m glad I didn’t overwhelm you, Irene. Sometimes when I start talking about the sovereignty of God, I can get carried away. 😳

    You said it best: He is God and there is no-one beside Him, and His grace is sufficient whatever this world brings my way.

    Amen!! Blessings to you, Ripple! Love you, too. 😉

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