“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11
What is your idea of success? Is it money, power, or fame? A good job? A promotion?
Or is it family? Or let’s say it’s vacations away, boats, and camps?
Well, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things.
But what is God’s idea of success?
Back when I was in my twenties, I attended nursing school. I think I sincerely wanted to be a nurse, to help people, to learn and grow. Again, nothing wrong with being a nurse.
But boy, a sweet side effect was that my father approved.
And that approval meant the world to me! I never really felt that my parents were very impressed with me at all when I was growing up. I admit it, I was very average.
So, you can imagine how exciting it was to discover that I’d finally done something right. Or at least noticeable.
Oh, my mom was pleased. But she and I were pretty good friends at the time. So I always had her approval.
But Dad’s! That was something! That warm smile, the crinkles in the corners of his eyes, the arm around my waist.
The bragging on me to his friends.
Even the seeming awe with which my announcement was received by strangers was wonderful. “Oh, you’re a nurse? Wow!”
All of that was enough to keep me going for a number of years.
The other thing I really liked was the money. As much as you will hear nurses complain – I was thrilled with how much we got paid! And you know what money will do for you. It will buy those things of which you have need – but more importantly, perhaps, of which you have want! You could conceivably have anything you wanted in the world! If you didn’t have enough money, why, the credit card companies loved you!
But maybe that’s the point: they’re the things of the world.
God even talks about these things in 1 John 2:16 of the Bible.
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Now, wanting things, or wanting someone important to feel proud of you, these things in and of themselves were not bad.
But what they meant to me were.
Because they had become idols.
So after a few years, I lost these things. I lost the nursing, and though my dad still loved me, I lost that feeling that he was proud of me.
I soon lost the money, as well. I was devastated.
So what are idols, anyway?
Well, they are things that come between God and me. Along with the nursing, part of my downfall was alcohol. No matter how you feel about it, alcohol is still an idol – something that comes between God and me. The way I chased men – they were an idol as well.
So, these many years later, now that I am saved and supposedly aware, and “better than all that” – Why do I still have idols? Why am I still sinning? Why am I still hanging on to some of the things I was holding to before? Oh sure, things have gotten better, I’ve cleaned my act up some (with God’s help, of course!), but still, I struggle! With money, with pride, and other things.
Even Paul in the Bible says that he continued to sin. In the most confusing passage of the Bible he says:
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do . Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (Romans 7:14-20)
Well, essentially, Paul is saying, I don’t want to sin, but I do. I want to do good, but I don’t.
How could this be? I am saved, born again! How could I still sin? How could Paul, who to me is the most famous and spiritual guy in the whole Bible?
Well, I think that one reason for this is so that I will continue to depend upon God. Now imagine that! Need God? Oh, at one time, I depended upon him for my salvation. But now? Isn’t that is a done deal? He says my salvation is eternal, forever, for good. But oh, rats – my flesh; that is still within me. Not until I reach Heaven will I reach perfection.
So I guess in some convoluted way, this is a good thing. I will always need God to keep me “unspotted from the world.”
And I guess that means that I have no right expecting perfection from anyone else, doesn’t it?
That alone should help me to be content. I can quit fighting with anyone else, but rather for. We’re all in this together, fighting with our own imperfections, and desperately leaning upon Jesus. My love, my Saviour, my redeemer. The One Who loves me, and loves you.
And that, my friends, that, is a done deal.
Or, if you will, that’s success.