Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What if God Wants You to Fail?

This is the exact opposite of most messages that you will hear from pulpits today. I often hear pastors preach themes such as “God wants You to Succeed” or “God Wants You to Conquer.” But what if He doesn’t? What if the purpose of your life is not to be healthy, wealthy, and famous? What if you are called to be an utter failure in the eyes of the world?

These questions have been on my mind as of late. As I continue to prepare to move my family across the country to plant a church I think about the possibility of failure. I realize that it is possible that our church plant will fail and we will have to move in a different direction. If this happens does this mean that we were not following God’s plan for our lives? Possibly. But maybe we were following God’s plan and His plan was not for us to succeed as we thought we should.

Maybe it is possible that God calls some of us to failure. There are several examples of this in Scripture. Look at the life of Isaiah. Following his call to ministry in Isaiah 6 Isaiah is told that all of his preaching will fall on deaf ears. He is told that no one will listen and head the call to repentance. Look at the life of Job. He endured horrible suffering and hardship despite having a sound faith in God. Even Jesus experienced failure with His disciples. After pouring three years of His life into the twelve all of them deserted them during his arrest and crucifixion.

There are several present day examples as well. The most noticeable for me is the life of Jim Elliot. As a missionary to a tribal group in Ecuador he seemed to be making progress. But then something happened and the tribe turned on him and his companions. The last thing Jim witnessed before his death was a man stabbing and killing him.

To the world these men seemed to fail. Isaiah’s church never grew. He did not lead the state convention in baptisms. Job obviously was not displaying the faith that the health and wealth preachers call for. Jesus’ disciples bailed on Him in His darkest hour. And Jim Elliot did not have a single convert before dying on the mission field as a martyr.

However, we know the rest of the story. We know that Isaiah’s preaching would be recorded and placed into Scripture as God’s Word. God has used the book of Isaiah to call many to repentance. Job’s faith has served as a source of comfort and encouragement for countless believers experiencing hardship. Following Christ’s resurrection the disciples are empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel throughout the world. And as you probably know a second missionary effort was put together following Jim Elliot’s death which resulted in the conversion of the majority of the tribe. Furthermore, in his death he has impacted the lives of many Christians including myself.

So maybe it is possible that God calls some of us to fail in the eyes of the world. But in truth we are successful in accomplishing His goals. I think it is time we redefine what it means to be successful in ministry. It does not mean having the most baptisms or the largest church budget, or the newest church building. I think success is defined by obedience. The man or woman of God who is obedient to God’s call on their lives is successful no matter how they may appear to the world.

So what does this mean for me? Don’t get me wrong. I am not hoping that my church will fail. I pray that God will bless Connect Church in an incredible way. I pray that He will use this church to start multiple churches who in turn start more churches. The result being that we see the Northwest transformed for the Kingdom of God in my lifetime.

But I cannot measure my success by that standard. I pray that I will have the faith to accept God’s plan if it is not “successful” as I define success. I pray that I will leave my children with an example of success as being obedient to Jesus Christ. In all of this I must remember something that is very counter intuitive. Obedience to God will always bring more joy and satisfaction than anything else this world can offer. Even if that obedience does not result in a “successful life.”