Succeeding At What Doesn’t Matter…

juggling chainsaws (6-20-16)

Read a powerful quote this week, spoken by William Carey, a Christian missionary to India who lived on earth from 1761—1834:

“I’m not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”

Oh loved ones, how beautifully and painfully this hits the bulls-eye of many of our hearts.

In the 21st century in the U.S., we have an almost unprecedented ability to get good at things that don’t matter and/or to acquire & soak in knowledge that will eventually be proven false or simply dissolve like sugar in eternity, knowledge that is intellectual “empty-calories”—leaving no positive impact for having been known/eaten/digested. Today we have so many ways to invest our brief earthly lives in things that are either explicitly sinful or things that are implicitly temporary/unwise/unimportant.

  • We try to trap lightning (emotional experiences/adrenaline rushes) in a bottle instead of seeking & knowing Him in Whose hands lightning resides (Job 36-38).
  • We focus on the smoke—what is temporary—instead of fanning into flame the gift of God that is in us through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:6).

When we behold the physical face & gaze & power & beauty & love & Truth of Jesus Christ…will we care or ever think again about what we spent so much time chasing or consuming or conversing about or coveting on earth?

  • How toned/fit/in shape we got our physical bodies?
  • How many video games we defeated?
  • How we religiously watched every episode of our favorite t.v. shows?
  • How many extra hours we worked so that we could have a bigger house/newer car?
  • How “faithfully” we followed (note the religious language!) our favorite sports team?
  • How many hours we spent laughing at crude/sarcastic jokes instead of weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn?
  • How many hours we spent enthusiastically broadcasting our views/opinions instead of the Bible’s Truth?

Loved ones, I’m not saying that it is ALWAYS wrong to exercise, watch t.v., view sports, etc. But we love to view these activities in isolation, by themselves—“what’s the big deal about this or that (by itself)?” But if we look at ALL of these activities combined, we see that the net result of our time investment in these activities IS sinful—it crowds out our ability to know the LORD our Father, Savior & Husband, to seek the LORD in His holy temple, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD. We “run out of time” to read the Bible & pray not because God hasn’t given us enough time but because we have squandered the time He has generously given us. We “run out of hunger” to taste & see that the LORD is good because we have lost our appetite for Jesus through gorging on the candy of this world.

Knowing God the Father & God the Son is the definition of eternal life (John 17:3).

Though we can’t know Him fully or completely while we are on earth, we can know Him more and better and deeper than we currently do. Thus, in a sense, eternal life starts NOW as we grow closer to Jesus. And to the extent that we put knowing Jesus on the back-burner in place of other hobbies/activities, to that extent we PAUSE or DELAY the gift of eternal life freely given to all who, by the grace of God alone, cry out to Jesus alone through faith alone.

And as we succeed at things that don’t really matter, don’t we subtly boast about them?

  • Don’t we wear clothing that is a little bit tighter/more revealing as our physical bodies get into shape?
  • Don’t we sometimes post things on Facebook that have at their core a bit of showing off/bragging/displaying our possessions, intelligence, accomplishments, etc?
  • Like YouTube’s slogan of “Broadcast Yourself,” don’t we often without realizing it use social media to broadcast ourselves, to show others how “fill-in-the-blank” we are (or how “fill-in-the-blank” we aren’t)?

The Holy Spirit through the Bible has helped me realize, grieve and repent over the fact that even when I post something about Jesus, even when I post something about how amazing He is, deep down in my sin-stained heart part of me ALSO wants people to think I’m smart, I’m clever, I’m insightful, I’m special, etc. That often without realizing it when I am humbly pointing to Jesus with one finger I have three arrogant fingers pointing back at myself in self-satisfaction!

And yet God in the Bible does give us permission to boast, to brag, to show off for a very particular reason. God gives us both the Biblical definition of success and the Biblical command to brag about such success to anyone who will listen:

  • Jeremiah 9:23-24: 23 This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

And not in an arrogant sense, “Look at how much I KNOW about God”, for when we do that we are only proving how LITTLE we actually know the One True LORD. But in a humble sense, with gentleness and respect, sharing with others what the Bible reveals about the character of God, how the Holy Spirit is graciously giving sight to our formerly blind eyes, how the Father is softening our stony hearts, how through the Bible the Lord Jesus is revealing Himself as both gentle AND fierce to us who do not deserve to know Him (and who did not use to even WANT to know Him)! Oh may the LORD help us to boast, to anyone who will listen, about His unearnable grace, His undeserved mercy, His unchanging Truth, and His faithful promises through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.

For many of us, our bucket lists reveal people who are succeeding at what doesn’t matter.

How many of us have on our bucket lists:

  1. I want to learn from Jesus how to deny myself, carry my cross & follow Him? (Matthew 16:23-25)
  2. I want to learn how to sacrificially give til it hurts me? (2 Corinthians 8:1-4)
  3. I want to learn how to stick with Jesus to the very end? (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:12-14)
  4. I want to learn how to forgive those who don’t ask my forgiveness? (Matthew 5:44-48)
  5. I want to learn how to worship only the LORD in Spirit and in Truth? (John 4:22-24)
  6. I want to learn how to worship my Savior even when He takes away from me that which I love? (Job 1:18-22)
  7. I want the Holy Spirit to grow in my character His fruit no matter how painful such fruit-production will be for me? (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:1-5)
  8. I want to learn how to be earthly unnoticed if it means that Jesus will be eternally noticed? (John 3:26-31)
  9. I want to learn how to offer to Jesus my body & dreams & plans & time & money & talents as a sacrifice of spiritual worship? (Romans 12:1-2)
  10. I want to learn how to trust in ALL of the Bible and not just parts of it? (John 17:6-8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Oh heavenly Father, please redefine success for us. Help us Your people to desire to succeed at what matters to You, help us to desire that through our simple/humble/forgiven/redeemed lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2) You will do Your will to honor Yourself & draw people to faith in Your Son Jesus. May You broadcast Yourself through us Your satellites as we constantly orbit around You. May You help us rest in Your Son Jesus, Who through the cross and empty tomb took our failures in exchange for His perfect Success. May the grace that is reaching more and more people cause thanksgiving to overflow to Your glory (2 Corinthians 4:15). In the name of Jesus I pray, amen…

John 6:27-29 NIV:

“’27 Do not work for food that spoils,
but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’

28 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

29 Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”

Matthew 6:31-34 NIV:

Jesus said: “31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:19-21 NIV:

Jesus said, 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moths and vermin destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”