“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” That quote from author Francis Chan points out the false view we can possess as we consider what success is all about. Is it found in what we own, what we’ve accomplished, or in our status? Is that really how we know that we’re winning in life? What if we’re playing the wrong game?
How do you discover God’s will in disputable matters? One believer in Jesus orders a glass of wine in a restaurant, while another believes drinking alcohol is wrong. One invites you to see a movie that someone else will not view due to its violence and profanity. So how do you make a decision on whether or not to do something when even mature Christians disagree over it?
I carefully crafted a Scripture lesson for my church youth group. After I presented it, a young man in the group said, “I believe you could have done a better job.” I was hurt. But then I recalled a phrase once spoken by a longtime worker in the church: “We call ourselves servants of God, but when we’re treated like one we get upset.”
By God’s grace, my family has few financial worries. We have everything we need, and most everything we want. This frightens me, because it sounds exactly like the church in Laodicea. They said, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!” But Jesus replied, “And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
Some poll results from a few years back reveal the big goals on the minds of Generation Y. The Pew Research Center asked 18- to 25-year-olds what they felt was their generation’s most important goals in life. Eighty-one percent said that getting rich was the most important or second-most important life goal for the group. And 51 percent lifted up becoming famous as the most important thing to achieve for a Millennial.
Those quirky Internet tests can be fun to take. Answer a few questions, and you learn which superhero or character from a popular movie you best resemble, or which country best fits your personality. People take these tests and then post on social media: “I got Batman!” “I’m Napoleon!” “I should live in Shangri-La!”
In Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright points out the imbalance of spending 40 days observing Lent while spending one day celebrating Easter. He suggests, “If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up.”
In discussing the premise of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man, director Marc Webb writes, “This is the stuff of classic tragedy. It’s about trying to do good, and by virtue of trying to do good, bad things happen. It’s what [the mythical Greek king] Oedipus does—he goes out and tries to save the city, and he ends up sleeping with his mother.” Webb laughs. “His efforts are noble! But the irony of it is that he causes damage by trying to do good. That is, to me, the most resonant thing of tragedy. Spider-Man is saving people and the world, but it’s at his own expense.”
After I moved to Africa, a couple living in the US contacted me and said, “We’d like to make a financial contribution to help you with your ministry in Uganda.” Because my job at the time didn’t require that I raise funds, I thanked them but declined their generous offer.
A member of my small congregation is now in his 9th decade. His zeal for God and for serving His purposes hasn’t diminished for more than 60 years. His body, however, is finally starting to slow down. This frustrates him, for he wants to be speaking to anyone and everyone about the love of Jesus. He wants to take part in evangelistic efforts, but he can rarely leave his house these days.
Edward Kimball was a Sunday school teacher determined to win his class to Christ. A young Dwight Moody would fall asleep during his lessons, but Kimball remained resolute and even met Moody at the shoe store where he worked and urged him to give his life to Christ. Kimball left the store thinking he’d failed miserably, but because of that encounter, Dwight Lyman Moody did commit his life to Christ, and he became one of the most prolific preachers of his time. Moody’s conversion and ministry places him in a select group of influential evangelists who were used by God to bring millions to Christ: Frederick Brotherton Meyer, J. Wilbur Chapman, Billy Sunday, Mordecai Ham, and Billy Graham.
For the past 2 years, I’ve served in a church in the urban heart of a large city. It’s a difficult ministry that calls one to have deep compassion and an open heart for others—things that don’t come naturally to me. I often feel woefully unqualified and wonder how I can be the person of grace and compassion that I need to be.