Thursday, September 24, 2009


Graceful Success

Justin Taylor recently did as he is wont to do, talk about some books. In this case, the works of John Newton. His choice of pull quotes was great. Consider these two:
It is like walking on ice. When you shall see an attentive congregation hanging upon your words: when you shall hear the well-meant, but often injudicious commendations, of those to whom the Lord shall make you useful: when you shall find, upon an intimation of your preaching in a strange place, people thronging from all parts to hear you, how will your heart feel? It is easy for me to advise you to be humble, and for you to acknowledge the propriety of the advice; but while human nature remains in its present state, there will be almost the same connexion between popularity and pride, as between fire and gunpowder: they cannot meet without an explosion, at least not unless the gunpowder is kept very damp. So, unless the Lord is constantly moistening our hearts (If I may so speak) by the influence of his Spirit, popularity will soon set us in a blaze.
And then:
Beware, my friend, of mistaking the ready exercise of gifts for the exercise of grace.
Those are very wise words indeed. And they do not apply just to preachers - what about those gifted with music? Churches make "stars" of them so fast nowadays.

And then there are the people that have told me all about their gifts of tongues and how it made their life so much better than any other Christian's.

It seems like our giftedness, our success is always the source of our greatest potential pride and downfall. It is so easy to forget the source of our success and grace. I personally think success, in any field, may be the hardest thing to manage for a Christian. The root of our sin is our desire to "replace" God in our lives. It is just so easy to take credit for what He has given us.

Sometimes I wonder if it is not worthwhile to aim low - that way when we do achieve success, we know it is not of our own doing. But aiming low so often leads to doing nothing and that is not good either.

I think gratitude is the key. Are you thankful for what you have? Are you even aware that virtually everything we have in America is an extravagance? I heard someone say on the radio the other day that ours in the only society in history where obesity was a symptom of poverty. Stop and consider that for a moment - we are so successful that our poor still have too much to eat. Have you ever thought about thanking God for that fact.

Thankfulness reminds us that we are not the source of what we have.

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