Lasting Success – Is Achieved Little by Little
On Bonfire Night many years ago I discovered mini rockets. These small fireworks shot up at terrific speed but alas came down equally fast. Many have shot to fame and fortune only for it to go just as quickly. The book of Proverbs teaches us that the way success comes is more critical than its rewards.
An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning won’t be blessed in the end. Wealth gained dishonestly dwindles away, but he who gathers by hand makes it grow.(Proverbs 20:21, (Proverbs 13:11)
We may know this principle but can be tempted by getting rich quick schemes and plans that take shortcuts. Many who have won the Lottery have found holding on to the jackpot and dealing with all the problems that come with it very distressing.
Nor is it only in the sphere of money that quick-fix solutions can be tempting. Many people have had new patios and driveways only for them to deteriorate quickly. The need for considerable preparation of the foundation was overlooked by builders who were trying to keep the cost down but boost the profits.
Churches and Christians can also look for quick fixes. Ongoing church growth or personal development does not come instantly but little by little. Even God takes His time and works bit by bit in developing the church and the lives of people.
Jesus ministered day by day for three years. On the surface, there seemed to be multitudes responding to what He did and taught. The pinnacle of His ministry in Galilee was the so-called feeding of the five thousand. In reality, this was most likely to have been the feeding of the twenty-five thousand since the number did not include women and children.
At this point, the crowds forcibly wanted to make Jesus King. We might think that this was a great success. However, on the very next day, the public turned against Jesus, and many of His disciples rejected Him. The real success of Jesus ministry produced a hundred and twenty on the Day of Pentecost and perhaps up to five hundred in Galilee. From a worldly point of view, this is not too impressive. This building little by little, however, laid the foundations for the church and the millions who now are Christians.
The story of the church followed a similar pattern. The great apparent success in Jerusalem produced thousands of converts initially. Over the next two centuries, the Jerusalem church was not able to throw off Judaism. Paul was viewed as a false teacher, and this Jewish church splintered into several groups. The church finally disappeared from history. However, a seed had been sown that brought the truth to the nations.
The Gentile church did not fare so well either. Paul spent much of His life working at a high personal cost in Asia Minor. After a lifetime of work, he concluded that all those in Asia turned away from him (2 Timothy 1:15). Despite this, the church grew. Another major setback was the successful takeover of the church by the Roman Empire. This takeover led eventually to the Dark Ages. Yet still, the church has grown.
God develops us personally over a lifetime. He does this day by day, little by little to produce something real and lasting. Jesus is not only the author of our faith but the finisher as well (Hebrews 12:2). From our point of view, the process can feel endless. Day after day, we cope with the mundane only to see plans fail and dreams not come to pass. God tells us that we inherit the promises through faith and patience. Patience means endurance or not giving up. God has a perspective that involves the panorama of our whole life and beyond.
Jacob was a man who tried to inherit quickly. He impersonated his brother to trick his father into blessing him. This dishonesty resulted in him having to flee the family and live with his uncle. This uncle was an even bigger con man than Jacob. For twenty years, Jacob had to live with the injustice of his uncle. However, during this time, God was changing and shaping Jacob until God could bless him. Eventually, Jacob became Israel and was indeed blessed of God (Genesis 32:22-28).
We may struggle with many things in our lives. We have our fair share of triumphs but also disappointments and tragedies. Nothing ever seems to move as quickly as we would like. Like many before us we say, “How Long?” (Psalm 4:2, 6:3, 13:1, 2, 35:17, 62:3, 74:9, 10, 79:5, 80:4, 82:2, 90:13, 94:3, 94:4). God is not interested in a quick fix but is doing something that will bless us and last forever (1 John 3:1-3).
God does not want you to go up like a rocket but come down like a stick.
- What are the things you would like to see changed in your life?
- How realistic are you in the timing of these changes?
- Is your view of the church and its growth fact or fantasy?