Without doubt, there is a great deal of personal ambition and competition within most Christians. This trait manifests itself persistently and pervasively in Church communities and in particular among the leadership; the larger churches, appearing to suffer most. Philippians 2:3 warns us about this problem saying “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
But we all tend to operate under the power of sentences and statements starting with the two words: “If only.” If only I had a bigger Church: If only I had a better sound system: If only this, If only that, If only the other….. The list is practically endless, and whether we use “If only I” or “If only we,” the effect on us is the same. It is all introspection, looking at self first. When we do this, we have taken our eyes off the Head of the Church and His Will, and onto ourselves and our selfish and fleshy pride, ego and needs. When we do this, we rebel against the Father and his Word, for Matthew 6:8b says: “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Jesus gave reassurance to His disciples in Luke 12:32-34 saying:
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
As born-again Christians, we are all children of God and are purposed to act as such. God gave us a mentor and guide as to how to act as a son; His own Son, Jesus Christ who by His words and actions, is a role model for us. Jesus did nothing in rivalry or conceit and did all in humility, just as Philippians 2:3 requires of us. He also gave due respect to His Father, doing nothing out of the Father’s Will, as John 6:38 attests saying: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” And again in John 8:28 “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”
These are the standards of sonship to the Living God: doing nothing in our own authority. For in John 8:26 Jesus confirmed our duty for us saying “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Security and Success are not the same thing. More security – as in “Oh, if I only have a little more….. money, or time, or people or….”. – only leads to self interest and pride-in-self, and our own accomplishments. Security, measured in and by earthly and fleshy yardsticks, is a false security as Luke 12:32-34 explains and Jesus asks us not to store our treasures here; but in heaven where they will not spoil or be stolen.
Being a child of God, means coming to the Father with the heart and desires of a child, yearning for its Father. For as Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:4 “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And again in Mark 10:15 saying: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” This is what we as adults must do, as the children of God. And this is what success is: Receiving the Kingdom of God.
“Like a child,” means laying aside all pride and prejudice, attending instead with humility and meekness. It means going ahead to Him in open-eyed wonder and awe and amazement, at all that which the Father has done, does, and has prepared for us. And not once! But each and every time we approach him. As a child approaches a favourite toy with enthusiasm and relish each time their eyes see it and hands fall upon it, so too must we as born-again Christians approach God each time, with total enthusiasm, relish and abandonment.
In Matthew 16:19, Jesus gave us the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. As children of God, we not only have the right to use these keys, we have a duty to both receive them and use them. They have been given to us as a free gift by God. Imagine how God feels when we do not accept His gift and simply put it in an unmarked and soon to be forgotten box, without ever either acknowledging the gift, or the giver! Imagine if you gave a gift to your child; who, without a ‘thank you,’ turns and hides it, unopened, never to be used.
Let us instead, take a child-like approach to all the wonderful gifts which God has provided for us and tear the ‘wrapping paper’ off them and use them and enjoy them with heartfelt abandon for the glory and greatness of His Kingdom. The gifts of God never come with a “batteries not included” warning – instead the gifts are always there and ready to use. What is more, the more we use them, the faster they tend to upgrade to the next level and reveal more of the Maker to us in the process.
The fact is this: the more we aim at personal success, the less secure we become. It is a delusion to imagine that personal success will result in greater security. The enemy and our own fallen nature constantly bombards us with words of uncertainty and our inadequacies, that if we don’t have a bigger or better this or that…., then we will fail and the people will go elsewhere. Such insecurities do not come from God; for He is in the business of building up, not casting doubts on His children. Yes, God will reshape us and realign is and Yes, we may go through desert times and periods for training and reequipping, but is it because we are secure in Him, that He will do it. It is also because we have given Him the authority to so, as we have lain down our will, at His feet, for His use, as He thinks fit.
In his inaugural address on 20th January 1961, President John F. Kennedy uttered these words: “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” We can learn a thing of two from that statement when we remember that we are here to serve the Living God; not He, to serve us.
Christian Security versus Christian Success come together when begin to ask the correct questions, with the correct focus, and our eyes on the Father and the Risen Christ. We need to ask ourselves “How may I please the Father?” But most importantly, we next need to as the Father “Dear Lord God, dear Father, how may I please You?” Then patiently await His reply.
When we hear the reply from God, we can be assured that Christian Security equals Christian Success, because they are not being measured by human terms, but by God’s yardstick. Our security is in Him, as Isaiah 33:6 says:
“He will be the security of your times, and strength of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of Jehovah is his treasure.”
Our success is in Him, as Second Chronicles 7:11 says:
“So Solomon finished the house of Jehovah, and the king’s house. And all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the house of Jehovah, and in his own house, he did with success.”
This applies not just to our personal lives, but more importantly, to our Church life too, as Second Chronicles 7:11 attests. As members of the body of Christ and we have a duty to ensure that our Churches succeed; but succeed as measured by God in accordance with His Sovereign Will.
In closing, let us remember that the Word of God tell us to “Be Humble.” As First Peter 5:5b says “Put on humility. For God resists proud ones, but He gives grace to the humble.” Yes, we are asked not just to “feel humble.” God said “be humble,” and for us to “put on humility” and humility, is a simple decision each one of us can make. Jesus gives us a simple working example in Luke 14:7-11 saying:
“Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honour, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honour, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.
But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at table with you.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”