“Grant to us that we sit on you right hand and left hand in glory.” Such were the presumptuous words of James and John to Jesus (Mark 10:35). I have often wondered who will have such places of prestige in heaven. Who will shine like stars? Who will have the brightest halos? Who will have best jobs, ruling over many cities? Who do you think it will be? Billy Graham? Chuck Swindoll? C. S. Lewis? Martin Luther? How about Augustine, Polycarp, or any of the great martyrs of the faith? Who would be on your list of the “Most successful Christians of all-time”?
What defines ministry success? Oh, that is an easy one: lots of people. In a church, this may mean bigger buildings. At a bible study, this translates into lots of people who don’t fall asleep during your lesson. At home, this means successful witnessing to your neighbors. In your family, this means all your children loving the Lord. On your blog, this means more readers. On Twitter, this means more followers. Here at the Credo House, it means lots of people deepening in their faith as well as planting dozens of new Credo Houses all over the world. Any or all of these are what comes to mind when we define success in ministry.
I don’t mean to minimize the importance of numbers, statistics, and, indeed, people who grow in the Lord. However, I am coming to believe more and more that these things are secondary to true success. I am beginning to think that those people who have done the most for the Lord are going to be “no-names” to us. They are going to be the school teachers, the car salesmen, the waitresses, farmers, and mayors of small towns. They are going to be the Bobs, Tammys, Jacks, and Sarahs. In other words, they are going to be those people who no one really knew much about. Not the men of fame. Not the movers and shakers in the Christian commercial industry. Not even the pastors. They are going to be everyday folk with everyday names who, were it not for the eyes of the Lord which penetrates all that we hold dear, would not be ever known.
Think about those who made it into the list in Hebrews 11. You know THE list. The list of faith. The list of the great men and women of the past. The list of those whom the Lord had his eye on. While most of us know about these people, there was really nothing too special about them from the world’s point of view. If the Bible had not told us, we probably would not have said that they were “succesful” in ministry. They certainly would not have made my list. Some of them may have made the “other” list if you know what I mean.
Abel made it in because of one sacrifice he made in faith. He was a faithful giver.
Enoch just “walked with God”. I don’t really know exactly what that means, but it was substantial to the Lord. Substantial enough for God to “take him” before death.
Noah built a boat when the Lord told him to. He did not have any converts to join him on the boat, though I know he tried. How many unsuccessful evangelism attempts did he have? Be encouraged!
Abraham simply moved to another city when God told him to. As far as we know, he wrote no books, had no evangelistic crusades, and did not even blog!
Rahab hid spies of Israel in her apartment. That is it!
Samson . . . how did he get into this chapter? Were it not for Hebrews 11, there might be some debate as to whether we will even see him in glory! The very fact that he is here let’s us know that God’s score card and ours is much different. (And it encourages me!)
But notice that these people were nobodies. Well, let me rephrase that: they were not people we would expect to make it into the “faith chapter”. They were not people who went to seminary, started churches, had big websites, or were in demand on the speaking circuit. They were just everyday people who did something extraordinary: they believed God.
What a great thing it is for me (though I am in ministry) to remind myself that success each day comes down to believing God each day. You want to do something tremendous for the Lord? Don’t quit your job just yet. Don’t start your autobiography (it might be too boring anyway). Don’t always focus on what God has you to do in the future. Indeed, he may have something for you later. But he has something earth-shaking for you to do right now: believe him.
You see, that is the common tie between Rahab, Sarah, Samson, Moses, Abraham, and all the great men and women of faith in Hebrews 11: they all believed God when he said something. How complex we can make things. How simple things really are. I love this verse which shows the substance of their faith:
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Are you are stranger on this earth? Do you believe you are? Do you trust God when he says that he is making all things new? If you do, you are extraordinary. You have a successful ministry beyond your imagination.