Search This Blog

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Failure of Repeating Success

There are two tyrannies: Things change and people will judge you. Yet, many people try to live like these are not true. They are blindsided that people judge them and fail to notice that things change.

Take for example the story of Ai when Joshua is leading the Israeli's into their Promised Land. He has just had an incredible victory at Jericho. Jericho was a royal city with thirty foot thick walls which seemed impenetrable. He listened to God, did what God said and "the walls came tumbling down."

So, his next target is Ai. A small town which would have had  less than 3,000 fighting men. There was no report of the loss of life among the battle for Jericho. After the battle Joshua's fame spread throughout the land. People had judged him as a competent commander.

The city of Ai, therefore, should have posed no trouble. It was not protected as Jericho. It wasn't necessary to send the whole army against such a small group of people. Merely 3,000 men were sent. The problem was that things had changed. These were different people than Jericho. They weren't content to sit in their city and watch the Israelites. They came out of the city, chased and killed thirty-six of the Israelites. Joshua knew what this meant. His reputation was about to take a drastic change for the worse. He would lose stature among his own men as well.

Joshua failed to notice the most drastic change too. He didn't know that they no longer had the Lord's presence. He was fighting on his own with his own strategies in his own strength. In retrospect, defeat was inevitable.

So Joshua goes back to the Lord to gripe at the Lord for the defeat. He didn't see what he had done wrong. He didn't realize that things had changed and could not simply take matters into his own hands to inhabit the Promised Land. The Lord said He would give this land to the Israelites but Joshua was trying to take it for them. The Lord really doesn't want us taking what He wants to give.

Once Joshua adjusted to the change and obeyed the Lord, he was ready to take on the people of Ai. He listened to the Lord in the new situation of Ai and was again victorious.

How long did this last? Not long for the Gibeonites come wanting a treaty with Israel. They deceive the Israelites into thinking they have come from a long distance away and will be no bother to them. The Israelites look at the evidence the Gibeonites present but fail to ask for the Lord's wisdom and make a foolish treaty. They simply failed to learn from Ai. They repeated a failure rather than a success.

It is hard for most Christians to realize that there are no two situation which are exactly alike. What worked in one place does not necessarily work in another. What failed in one place does not necessarily fail in another. The only constant we should keep in making decisions is inquiring of the Lord. He knows all there is and can direct us to victory. Relying on our own resources may result in some victories but simply repeating exactly what we have done in the past is an unreliable method of success.

I have a Blackberry cell phone. It was one of the best phones on the market when I purchased it. However, Blackberry kept doing what had brought them success only to find that the market was changing. People wanted more "smart" phone technolgy rather than superior email. Thus, Blackberry is not repeating its success even though they are repeating what brought them success. Why? Because things are always changing.

The Christian life is not carbon copied between individuals. God knows the names of each person. No person is exactly alike. God has made that clear in our physical makeup. We have different fingerprints, different eyes, no one looks exactly like another person (even identical twins are different) and even our voices are different. We are unique down to our DNA! It is impossible to copy another person in minute details. We can appear to the same but it only appears that way because the measurement is flawed.

This means that I must listen to God and obey Him completely in every situation in every day. Since I am unique and those around me are just as unique, I can't repeat the success of another person in exactly the same way. I can't simply copy a mega-church pastor and grow a mega-church since I am not that pastor nor are the people in my area the same as the people in his.

So, the most pragmatic approach to ministry is to listen to the Lord in each and every situation and obey Him completely.

Believe me, this is not new news. It is just something I have to remember daily.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.


Anthony Chia said...

3 things came to mind on your entry:

1. Frank Sinatra's "I did it my way"
2. God's way is the way, and
3. Imitate Jesus, but you have NOT become Jesus.

For the fallen man, "I" (self) occupies a much, much higher position than say, "O" (others). The emphasis of “I” epitomizes sins; in fact, for the fallen man, another "I", Iniquity, resides in his flesh. Satan, through Iniquity that resides in the flesh of Man, pollutes men to thrust "I" up to the top position. Well, Satan himself was originally for "O" as in "God" and in "others"; but when Iniquity went into him (Eze 28), he became the Father of "I", Iniquity, and he (Satan) replicated Iniquity in Man, through the Fall in the Garden of Eden.

What I believe is that, regardless we are a believer or NOT, Iniquity is in our flesh, because of The Fall. Iniquity is NOT yet destroyed, and will be destroyed when either Satan is destroyed or we, men, pass on (our flesh ceases to be the host). This is the understanding behind the Apostle Paul's "tug of war" analogy of what is happening within us, believers, in our earthly living; we have the voice of the flesh (Iniquity within) and we have the voice of the Holy Spirit hitting us. Paul was saying, we, believers, got to nail down the "I" (self, and flesh), and push up the "O" (God and others). We have to trash the urge to do it our way; that is from the "I", Iniquity in the flesh, not from the Holy Spirit. Of course, Paul Anka's "My way", popularised by Frank Sinatra, hit the top spots in the billboards, for it appealed to the "I" in us. “Trash it, trash it”, I say, so that God's way always comes to the forefront.

We got to accept it, that we are created and recreated (new creation upon entry into salvation) to please God (Rev 4:11). If God is to be pleased, His ways are all that matter - His way is the way to go. If His way is the way to go, then we have to inquire of Him or check with Him, all the time. This reminds me of an entry I put up on my own blog in 2010, “Durian or papaya?” which although was NOT directly on success or failure, was nevertheless relevant for it explained what it meant for us, to “NOT forsake our first love”; the attitude of attentiveness was emphasized (the link is this, if you are interested to read: It is possible that we are NOT guilty of the first point mentioned here (that we want to do the thing our way), but all the same, we can be pleasing God NOT, because we have NOT been attentive to what God wants done for the occasion.

In this regard, we are usually guilty of either, complacency and taking things for granted, including just going through the motion, or presumptuousness - we simply assume we cannot be off, by doing the same, same thing. What God wants (done) for the occasion (i.e. His way) is what would please Him. God is wisdom, and if it is His way for the occasion, why would it NOT succeed? Why would He NOT grant grace for success? Just because God sent Naaman to dip in the “dirty” river, does NOT mean you should send people with skin diseases to the “dirty” river all the time, and expect God to heal divinely; maybe He wants this one to roll in the mud; don’t assume!

Ps Prentis said it right, we are all different, for God created us different, individually; our DNAs differ. But what I want to point out, additionally, is that we do NOT have our DNAs replaced with the DNAs of Jesus upon entry into salvation!

COntinue on next page...

Anthony Chia said...

COntinue from preceding page

The overly grace preachers who said that when God sees you, He sees Jesus literally and NOT you, is WRONG. You are NEVER Jesus, if you were, you can die for a non-believer, and he can enter salvation through your death. No, you are you, the fat you or the thin you, the “scientific” you or the “artistic” you, you are you, with all your strengths and weaknesses. I say the ones who believe they have become Jesus, in the physical or in the spirit, are lazy people, for only lazy people can come up with such deception; for if you are Jesus, you do NOT need Word of God, for you are the Word, and so, you do NOT have to be bothered with the written Word.

God did NOT say you become Jesus, literally. Biblical authors used such terms as “identify with Jesus, identify with His death, and with His resurrection”, “abide in Him, and He abides in you”, and “be like Jesus, imitate Jesus”. The sooner you “get back down to earth”, the sooner you realize there is no easy way out, but to study the Word, to know how you can be like Jesus, and act in a manner pleasing to God, like Jesus did. The central theme of New Testament is to follow Jesus. You don’t become Jesus, for then you will be following yourself! No, you be like Jesus, to follow Him. When we be like Him and follow Him, we will have success, for He had success, and is Success, for we will then enjoy His favor, and will receive the divine help we need in our earthly Kingdom Living.

Whether we look from the angle of the first love which we are asked NOT to forsake (attentiveness required), or we are the followers, we cannot be complacent, we cannot be presumptuous, we cannot be emphasizing ourselves (the “I”); we got to be attentive to what the Lord is wanting, NOT was, but is wanting, and obviously we cannot have our own way, unless that is also the way of the Lord. Although I pray this from time to time, I am clear I am NEVER literally Jesus, rather I be the vessel through which Jesus comes alive again even in our time:

Lord, as I step into your Word, {this meaning, I act upon His Word}
Step into my life, {this meaning, I am inviting Jesus to use my life}
And I will be Christ Jesus on earth again (even briefly). {this meaning, I become the “extension of His [earthly] life”}

This prayer was, as I remember, a word given to encourage believers to avoid being like the man who looks into the mirror, and then steps away forgetting how he looked like! (James 1:23-25 – calling us to be a doer of the Word); and I have adopted it for myself.

Things change, but there is one unchanging - God. Things change, but one approach needs NOT be changed - be always attentive to God. Things change, but with God’s way, the outcome is always the same, success. People will judge us, but pleasing God matters more. People will judge us, but God judges, too. People will judge us, but ultimately, it is the judgment of God that counts.

His is holiness, His is wisdom, His is righteousness; can it NOT succeed? He is God, He is the Creator, He is the Alpha and Omega; can it NOT succeed? It got to be His way, to truly succeed.