To be successful in the eyes of God...obey. Grab that cup of coffee and let's get your day started on the right foot.
Devotion: How to be a successful failure…
As anyone who has ever tried to learn something difficult knows, failure is unavoidable. Failure is part of everyone’s life. What is true for our physical life is also true for our spiritual life. We needn’t be troubled by this. There is a way to be a successful failure.
Former figure skater Scott Hamilton won the National and World Championships in 1981 before winning a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. Hamilton and his wife Tracie have four children, including two children adopted form Haiti. He's also a committed follower of Christ. While he was pursuing his success as a skater, he once said he dropped out of church involvement and started what he jokingly called "The Church of Scott." But through the love of his wife and other Christians, he came to a sincere faith in Christ.
Rooted in his faith, Hamilton had an interesting take on dealing with personal sin and failure. In a 2018 New York Times interview Hamilton said: "I calculated once how many times I fell during my skating career—41,600 times. But here's the funny thing: I got up 41,600 times. That's the muscle you have to build in your psyche—the one that reminds you to just get up.” [Juliet Macur, "Scott Hamilton Was Demoted as an Olympic Broadcaster. Don't Feel Sorry for Him." The New York Times (2-18-18)]
The key to being a successful failure is simple—get back up again. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” The difference between the righteous and the wicked is that when the righteous fall they get back up again.
We all will fail God. Paul tells us in Romans, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and don’t we know it’s true. God knows too, and so He gives us His grace. It’s not a license to sin, but the freedom to learn how to do a difficult thing—to walk like Jesus. And when we fall and when we fail, God promises us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.“ (1 John 1:9)
So, what do we do when we fail? We confess our failure to God who will forgive and who will cleanse us. Then we get back up again. That is how to be a successful failure.
Prayer: Holy Father, we confess to You that we are sinners and have failed you. We thank you for grace which allows us the space to learn how to walk like Jesus. Help us back up again today so that we may continue to follow You. May You receive the glory and praise in Jesus name, amen.
1 Samuel 15:22, "But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams."
Jason Brown was the highest paid center in the NFL, playing for the St. Louis Rams. In late 2011, Jason had two children, and a mansion with two fully-stocked bars, yet he and his wife were "dying inside" and were likely headed toward divorce. As a professed Christian, Jason had to admit that his relationship with Jesus was a ticket to forgiveness and little else—until he released his grip on money and football. Jason said he started releasing his grip on his lavish lifestyle by pouring thousands of dollars of expensive liquor down the drain.
After leaving the Rams and turning down three other teams, the Brown's put their home up for sale and bought a 100-year-old farmhouse with a dairy barn and 1,000 acres of uninterrupted land in North Carolina. Jason would become a farmer and give away what he grows. Jason learned farm basics from YouTube, which resulted in First Fruits Farm, an organization that seeks, through community and service, to boost Bible literacy.
Ten thousand pounds of cucumbers, and one hundred thousand pounds of sweet potatoes later, Jason says, "I literally still know nothing about farming." But Jason can summarize his business plan and his life these days with one word: "Obedience." [Adapted from Andrew Branch, "Farm Team," WORLD (1-24-15)]
The hymn writer sings, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." Jason Brown was a successful football player. He had everything the world associates with success: wealth, fame and power. Yes, he was a successful football player, but under the surface, he was a failed human being. In your life you can be successful in your career, successful on the outside, but a failure as a person. What makes a person successful?
Saul was king of Israel. In fact, he was Israel's first king ever. He had all the trappings of success—money, fame, and power. Saul thought he was being successful. He says in verse 20 (1 Samuel 15), "But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king." Saul had accomplished great things. God was not impressed. It is not accomplishment that leads to success. This is incredible to consider. Saul could have defeated every enemy of God and still been a failure.
Samuel tells Saul that only one thing brings success in the eyes of God. Only one accomplishment matters to him. It is obedience. "To obey is better than sacrifice." You could say it this way too, "To obey is better than accomplishment." When we obey God takes us places we never imagined we go. We do things we never imagined we would do. That's the point. On our own we would never have done these things and never been successful in God's eyes. One way to gauge whether you are being successful in your obedience to God is to ask how the world views you. If the world looks at you and says, "They are so successful," then you are probably not successful. you just may be in trouble. But if the world looks at you and says, "They're crazy!" then you just may be on the right track. To succeed, obey.
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, we are grateful that being successful in your eyes does not depend on our talent, money or ability. We can all be successful when we learn the skill of obedience. You grant us the success we could never achieve on our own. We praise your name! Help us to learn this life-transforming truth. Help us to be successful. In Jesus name, amen.