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There’s this little side issue woven beneath our kind of Westernized prosperity gospel that tries to suggest that if we just make all the right choices, be obedient, the Lord will bless you with success. Make “bad choices,” disobey, and He will fail you.

We seem to have forgotten that God can see the whole picture, that His definition of “success” is not necessarily the same as ours. A saying I really like is, “figure out what the Father is doing and ask if you can help.” Often it seems like we go about that all backwards, as if to say, “I’ve figured out what I’m going to do, so now God will bless my work.”

It’s kind of important to do our best to discern what God’s will actually is, what work He is already doing. The prayer is actually “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Sometimes it seems as if we get that backwards, too. It is not, my will be done here on earth and impact God in heaven…

It never really occurs to us that God’s will might be for us to “fail,” at least by our own standards, and to “fail” faster, harder, and more often. You over there,  go jump ship and get swallowed by a whale, and you, head for the wilderness to live off of locust and honey. You guys over there, go forth, get yourself scourged in the synagogues and handed over to the authorities…..

Whoa, Lord. Wait a minute, this is so not what I signed up for…

I jest a bit, Jonah is clearly trying to run away from God’s will and avoid participating at all, but my point is that our Westernized eyes often define “success” in a very Westernized way and it often has to do with prosperity, popularity, and comfort.

Some of us can probably go off in the other direction, too. I’ve heard a few Eeyores in my day declaring, Alas, it’s God’s will that I just suffer this endless vale of tears…..Rubbish.

One of the Latin roots from whence we get the word “success,” is successus. It actually means to flow. I like that in terms of,  go with the flow of the Father’s will. It really means to flow the course, as in troops moving upwards on a hill. Or, a river staying within its banks. No money mentioned, no fame, no popularity. Success in those days was more about, if we’re successful we’ll probably just manage to get ourselves killed.

Failure is actually defined as an inadequate flow. You all failed to flow and flood the hill like we asked. Failure had nothing to do with prosperity, popularity, status, or even your own life or death. It was a simple matter of, “success” means you flow like a  river across the hill, failure is evident by the fact that you didn’t flow across the hill at all.

In another thread someone said, “Results are kind of the key to figuring out if something is working or not.” I get that, I am a total pragmatist, or at least I once was, but at some point I began to realize that love is not very pragmatic. Neither is truth, really. Come to think of it, our own perception of “results” is so seldom our heavenly Father’s perception of results, either.

So there I was, forced to choose. I realized I cannot have love, truth, and God’s will, while clinging fiercely to my own pragmatism. Worse yet, my own perception of “results” was always going to be tainted by Western values and my own will.

Success in faith is actually when you begin to flow within the Father’s will, to be obedient within what He is already doing. To rest within His peace and to stop perceiving the world in worldly ways, to let go of our own results based, pragmatic, definitions of success.

My objection to a results based, pragmatic way of being, is actually in the bible. It is not my words speaking here, it is the Lord’s. Matthew 7:22-23 says, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

We can produce what appears to be some pragmatic, results based evidence of our faith, and yet not once have we been obedient to His still quiet voice that is right there directing traffic.

Every time a Christian stands by quietly in the face of injustice and evil, afraid to be disruptive, afraid it’s not pragmatic to speak up, unwilling to risk discomfort, filling out a results based cost effectiveness chart, the truth of those words haunt me, “depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

I know this because I’ve done it. He is not messing around when He says, hear my voice and pay attention.

Not trying to be impolite here, but when people spend all their time “shaking the dust off their feet” and refusing to “cast pearl before swine,” it sure starts to look a whole lot like plain old pride, terrified it might actually get its precious hands dirty. In case anyone has forgotten, we are actually in a war. When you’re fighting a battle, the warriors aren’t looking good, taking selfies, and priding themselves on how clean their hands are.

They are actually out in the trenches, covered in blood, sweat, and grime.