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  • Writer's pictureFirst Christian Church of Chicago

The Success of Faithfulness

Success! The real American dream!

Bigger, faster, stronger. More powerful. More wealthy. More popular. Americans have had a love affair with success for decades. Just think of some of the most popular TV shows of the 1980s, Dallas and Dynasty. Let's not forget the guilty pleasure Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The success fantasy can even be heard in seemingly innocuous questions like, "When are you going to get a real job?"

The drive for success has even impacted the church. Through the influence of the church growth movement the church saw an explosion of megachurches. Many pastors serving in small churches felt like failures. Questioning "Why can't my church grow like Church X" caused many pastors to leave the market for greener pastures in the insurance business or some other venture.

What if our measure of success is overhyped? What if more and larger crowds doesn't provide a meaningful measure of success for the church? What if faithfulness is a better measure?

That is the lens of success that God forces Isaiah to look through. Success won't be measured in large numbers of converts. Isaiah won't turn the hearts of Judah toward home. He will work tirelessly to ensure that rebellious Judah remains staunchly rebellious until there is utter destruction; abandoned cities, people in exile.

Sometimes the greatest measure of success is faithfulness. In the midst of opposition, remain faithful. In the midst of failure, remain faithful. When blessing seems to be going elsewhere, remain faithful. When it seems you've lost again, remain faithful.

Faithfulness isn't just a church thing. It is a character trait that is applied to our marriage, our family, and our vocation. When your marriage is struggling, remain faithful. When your children are rebelling against faith, remain faithful. When you didn’t get the promotion, remain faithful.

When Jesus’s ministry was reaching the peak of popularity all he needed to do to be successful was keep the buffet open (John 6). However, large crowds weren't how he measured success, so he invited these would be fans to consider the hard-side of discipleship. Many of them left him. Jesus’s crowd shrunk to a handful. Success for him was not going to be found in clamoring crowds, but thoroughly discipling a small group to carry on his mission (and even one of them would betray him).

Have you been jaded by a success fantasy that makes it hard to see faithfulness as real success?

BTW - Over the last few years there has begun to be a revitalization of small churches. As people realized that bigger is not always better, they are rediscovering the essential qualities like compassion and community that can uniquely be experienced in the faithfulness of small churches.


Fri., 2.16 - Read Isaiah 6:9-13

We tend to admire success. What do these verses suggest is more important to God, success or faithfulness?

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 29:2-4; John 6:25-71; Matthew 13:10-17


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