Dealing With Success

Christians are sometimes suspicious of success. We are far better at failure. We can be “spiritual” about our own failures, but we can feel guilty when God blesses us with success.  We can even process it pretty well when someone works hard and nearly succeeds. But when a fellow Christian really succeeds, many Christians start to get a worried expression. Some feel the need to express the warning,  “Be sure this doesn’t go to your head.” Others may assume immediately that the person must have already compromised the faith simply because of the success.

Some Puritans had the view that if you were not being afflicted, God must not love you. Some even prayed for affliction because they felt left out. I know that’s hard to believe! But it seems so spiritual.  So sometimes our natural instinct is to assume success and blessing must be the result of some compromise.

But God takes a different view. As my husband pointed out in a recent sermon (when we were in Virginia) some Christians want to stay on the Cross. They understand sin and that they are the chief of sinners, but they can’t get past that. They wallow in their own sinfulness and failure, and they stay there.

But Jesus saw the exaltation ahead of Him while He endured the Cross. We must realize that we are not just crucified with Him, and buried with Him, but we are also raised with Him and share in His exaltation at the right hand of the Father, where we are seated with Him. He is no longer on the Cross, and neither are we. He has triumphed over the grave, and we are in Him.

Other Christians have a different tendency. They want to skip the Cross all together and go straight to the crown. (Doug calls this “blab it and grab it.”) These believers can look at sickness or failure as the result of sin. So on one hand, we have Christians who are suspicious of success, and on the other hand, Christians who are suspicious of failure. But we must follow Jesus to the Cross before we can follow Him to heaven. Both are necessary.

Christians are often afraid of succeeding. They are not afraid to die, but they are afraid they might succeed and ruin their testimony (!). We can see this in evangelism, where we don’t expect many conversions. We can see this in our callings, where we don’t expect to really prosper, but just get by. And we can see this in our spiritual lives, when we don’t expect to really grow in grace and become strong in the Lord. We don’t expect God to bless us. The prodigal son returned home, hoping for a place among the servants. He was not expecting a ring, a robe, and a party with a band!

God loves His people. He wants to bless us. When some are granted surprising success, we should rejoice with them. We don’t need to feel that it is less spiritual to succeed than to fail. That’s not true. Success has its own set of temptations, just like everything else. We don’t need to get annoyed like the elder brother in the prodigal son’s story. Nor do we need to fear success.

Humility can receive success and rejoice in the deliverance and exaltation, in whatever form it takes. Paul learned to be content in plenty and in want, not just in want. He could do all things through Christ who strengthened Him. So we need grace for our afflictions and failures, and grace for our blessings and successes. But in all, we must remember we have the victory in Christ, who endured the Cross and now reigns at God’s right hand.

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5 thoughts on “Dealing With Success

  1. Yes! This is very good! Thank you so much, Mrs. Wilson. I especially like this:

    Humility can receive success and rejoice in the deliverance and exaltation, in whatever form it takes.

    I see, in your family, much success in so many ways. What blessing God has bestowed upon all of you. I really am amazed at just the fruit of godly parenting and a loving marriage you all have got goin’ on! Truly! I rejoice with you all (even though I don’t know you! I just know Mr. Wilson, Sr.) And, yet, somehow I know that if there was a year where the crops yielded no fruit, you would all simply rejoice in your salvation. And Christians everywhere would rejoice with you in that, as well. :)

  2. To quote that great theologian Bette Midler (wink);
    “The hardest thing about success is finding someone to be happy for you.”
    Sometimes we’re real good at weeping with our sister but not so much rejoicing with her in her success.
    It’s a package command.
    “Yea! You.”

  3. My husband went back to school for an advanced degree and has done very well. I find myself feeling very awkward about our success. I am working on just being thankful and keeping my focus on Christ and his desires for our family. Yet, I do struggle at times, with the backhanded remarks of friends. Sometimes I think it is so hard for us as Christians to be grateful for the good things God gives (whether it is to us or someone else). Thanks for giving light to this.

  4. My husband is fond of saying “Christ died so that we might die, so that we might truly live.” I am very thankful for his wisdom to teach me this.

    Another golden nugget I received form a friends husband once;
    A friend once told me that her husband was encouraging her in her woe over the business of their lives. He is now a well known authore but at the time he was very busy writing books and remondleing their home, and I was surprised by the counsel he gave her. He told her that it can be hard to handle the blessings God gives us. We are so imature in the area of receiving that we get overwelmed and unthankful for the blessings pouring in. Isn’t that a funny truth.

    Well here is to a generation of Christians learning to exercise our spiritual muscles in order to hold all the blessings God is pouring out onto us. May we learn to handle our own successes and the successes of others well.

  5. Thank you for this post! When I pulled it up, I was feeling very blessed, and particularly guilty about being so blessed. This was very encouraging.

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