Church On The Edge
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Church On The Edge

God’s Idea of Success

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Count your blessings. I wonder, though, if we forget what our blessings really are, and how to recognize a blessed or, if you will, successful life.

In my previous post entitled, Successfully Miserable, I described how lost our world seems to be when it comes to understanding and experiencing the true nature of success. So often, even those we think so highly of offer advice and worldly wisdom that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

And so, we began looking at Psalm One. Six simple verses that teach us what to avoid and what to embrace to experience a blessed or successful life.

I’ll not repeat those things we are to avoid to experience success God’s way. They can be found in the post listed above.

I would, however, like to begin with verse two which describes what the successful person embraces as they seek to experience the life of the ages that Jesus describes. (See John 10:10)

The successful man or woman’s “delight is in the law of the Lord.” (Psalm 1:2, ESV) The psalmist goes on to say that the successful person meditates on the “law of the Lord” constantly; that is, day and night.

There are two things here that I know turn a lot of people off. The first is the word, “law,” and the second is the idea of ongoing, constant, day and night meditation on that law. Let’s see if we can understand what is being said here by seeing these two things using Jesus and his teaching as a guide.

Jesus told the religious leaders in his day that the reason they were missing the eternal kind of life he promised was because they sought that eternal life in the Scriptures, rather than in the one to whom the scriptures pointed, him.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life,” are Jesus words to these misguided men in John’s gospel. (John 5:39–40, ESV)

John’s gospel also teaches that Jesus is God’s Word in human form: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14, ESV)

Think about what that means: Jesus embodies what the Bible refers to as the “law,” the “Word,” or the “Scriptures.”

What that means is that the life and teachings of Jesus provide the lens that allow us to understand the story of the Bible and the ultimate meaning of what’s found in it. You might could say that Jesus is the Rosetta Stone that allows us to unlock the meaning of the Bible.

With that in mind, let’s return to “the law,” and “meditating day and night upon it.”

Remember what John’s gospel teaches us. The Scriptures point us to Jesus, who is the “Word of God” in human form, and eternal life is not found in the Scriptures; eternal life (which refers to both quality as well as quantity of life) is found in Jesus.

Understood in this way, to meditate day and night upon the law is to follow Jesus: his life, his teaching. “Everyone,” says Jesus, “who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24, ESV)

Look at Jesus, listen to Jesus, follow Jesus, and you will discover the fullness of life promised in Psalm One.

That was our vision, by the way, when I served as pastor of Seoul International Baptist Church in South Korea: “It’s All About Jesus.” Simple. Easy to remember. Life-changing.

But back to Psalm One.

As we follow Jesus we become “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that we do, we prosper. (Psalm 1:3, ESV, Italics mine, replacing “he” with “we.”)

Now, in the words of my African-American pastor, “Let me see if I can bring this thing in for a landing.”

There is so much I could say about what it means to follow Jesus. But the fact is we need look no further than the introduction to the most famous sermon he ever preached to recognize that “success” or “blessing” according to Jesus is not the same as it is from the perspective of our world.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3, NIV)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, NIV)

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NIV)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6, NIV)

Note: “Righteousness” refers to those things that are “right,” “just,” and “fair” for all people. A world that treats all people with dignity and respect.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7, NIV)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NIV)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9, NIV)

Do these things sound like the world’s way of success to you? Not in this “dog eat dog,” “you only go around once in life so you’ve got to grab all the gusto,” “looking out for number one,” “he who dies with the most toys wins,” world I live in, they don’t

And so, we come full circle, back to where we began in my first post. Anne Hathaway walked away from a successful career in the movie; The Devil Wears Prada. She chose the road less traveled and turned her back on the so-called success the world promised. And she was blessed by her decision.

God’s idea of success isn’t so crazy after all.

If only we would follow it, we could experience greater blessings in our lives and in our world.

One more thing: What about, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10, NIV) Did you notice I left that one out?

Don’t worry, we will come back to it in my next post.

Thanks for reading and if you liked what you read, give me clap. A little affirmation never hurt anybody.

My book, Prophets or Patriots: How Evangelicals Are Giving to Caesar What Belongs to God, is scheduled for release September 15. Also, check out my website, Church on the Edge, as well as my Facebook page.

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Dan Armistead

Dan Armistead

Dan is the former pastor of Seoul International Baptist Church and Adjunct Professor at Torch Trinity Graduate University in Seoul, Korea.