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What does success look like? -A reflection on Abraham.

When we think of our faith as a life’s journey following Jesus we find one of the biggest questions our society (and indeed the Church) are wrestling with easier to answer.

The big question is “what does success look like”?

For those of who have surrendered our lives to following the call of Christ, the answer is relatively simple (although deeply challenging to put into practice), the answer is “to walk where he leads keeping our eyes fixed on him (Jesus) ‘the author and perfector of our faith’”.

Christ himself described living in pursuit of him as a call to “Picking up our cross and following him -a call to ‘die to self’ walking on a pretty deserted road that is ‘steep and narrow’.

Abram is a good example of a follower of God, who not just heard the call of God but heeded it too.

Not just as a one off action to dine out on for years, but as continuous and habitual obedience, a life lived with the constant response of “yes Lord” with every breath and heart beat.

Abram kept moving, pilgrimaging even, with the frequent call not to settle and be comfortable, but to pioneer to a new place/people. For those of us who have pioneered -often with the scars to prove it- it is so much tougher to pioneer a second, or third time when you know the cost of the journey and the pain of the travelling.

Too often we look for affirmation in other things that the Father’s voice saying “well done good and faithful servant”, such as popularity, fame and numbers.

Abram in Soddam and Gommarah didn’t see much fruit and grow a large Church, indeed God could not find 10 righteous people there and shut the place down. Yet how often do we get our value from the size of the crowd, and how popular we are?

Abram’s greatest step of faith -being prepared to sacrifice Isaac- was done in private but his greatest stumbling failure -sleeping with Hagar and fathering Ishmael- was public knowledge.

Too often many leaders fall because their steps of faith are public and their stumbling is in private resulting in tripping them up and taking them out the game.

When playing sports we ‘mark’ an opposition player seeking to limit their effectiveness and fruitfulness, the same is true spiritually, when we seek to live following Jesus we become marked people and need to tread wisely, carefully and prayerfully as we follow Jesus so as not be led into dead-ends and cul de sacs.

Abram lived “in step with the spirit” not jumping the gun and running ahead or procrastinating lagging behind, not lurching off to the legalistic right or the liberal left but walking with God on his journey of obedience.

Although his life didn’t pull crowds much, his obedience has affected millions.

Although he reached his destination, he was shaped, fashioned and moulded by his journey.

When asked what success looked like a friend said “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness and self control” -in other words looking like Jesus, as we follow Jesus, indeed we become like those whom we spend time with.

Yet, if I am meant to be following Jesus “in all your ways acknowledge him” why does it so often feel in my life and too often within Christ’s Church as though we are going in the opposite direction?

As the film sister act challenges us: “I will follow him wherever he may go” orl
with the line of a hymn I love “O let me see thy footmarks and in them plant my own, my hope is to follow duly in thy strength alone”.

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, what is our next step? Is every step we take going where Christ is leading us?

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