Faithful-not successful

                                         Remember. God has called you to be

                                                   Faithful; not Successful. 

                                                            Frank N. Kik

 I was late to church one Sunday, having seen more than the usual amount of patients in the hospital that morning.  I almost didn’t come, but thought that I at least might be able to hear some part of the sermon.  As I sat down, Frank concluded his sermon with the words as quoted above.  I can say in all honesty that it was one of the few sermons I have remembered.  It may be in part related to the fact that this was the only sentence that I heard.  My daughters would probably attribute it to the fact that I managed to stay awake during the sermon!  As I contemplated the significance of his words, I was impressed that it was worthwhile to have made the effort to hear them, even though it was a brief comment summarizing his sermon. 

Over the last twenty five years since this sermon was given, I have observed the universal obsession that our world has with success.  Corporations, their leaders and employees are driven to reach ever increasing goals resulting in more acclaim by the business world.  There is fierce competition in business to be the first in areas of growth and earnings.  In the areas of sports and entertainment the accolades are given only to those who are first.  Unfortunately this mindset carries over into our Christian culture as well.  Churches are recognized for the number of buildings, bodies and bucks they accumulate.  We become trapped into using worldly measures to determine spiritual value. 

I am frequently asked the following question by interested individuals. “How is the ministry of the Kansas Navigators doing?”  I always hesitate before I answer.  I know that they would like to hear and be encouraged by the number of people coming to the Lord as new believers, the growth in the number of disciples as well as increased outreach to new communities.  I find that I cannot consistently encourage them with reports of what would be regarded as a successful ministry.  It is true that in my travels to another area of the state, at a conference, or over a conversation, I hear such encouraging news on occasion.   At the same time, however, I see and hear of those who are slow to understand the implications of the gospel despite prolonged input from those connected with our team.  I see some of our team members, who, though prepared and able to make a difference in the lives of others, are being diverted by the worries, cares, and responsibilities of this life. (Mark 4:19)  Our summer conference is barely surviving due to decreased attendance.  Financially, we have been in a precarious position for the past eight years.  Through the faithful and sacrificial giving of many, we have been able to keep the office open, but just barely.  When Jim Morris turned over the Kansas Navigator Ministry to me eighteen years ago, he remarked that he thought our ministry was on the verge of rapid expansion into new areas of Kansas.  That has not happened. 

As I consider what it means to be successful, I also look at what the Lord has called me to do with individuals.  Some are thankfully walking faithfully with the Lord and making a difference in the lives of people.  Others, however, have reached plateaus in their Christian lives and are not progressing beyond a certain level.  Some are still struggling to be established in their faith.  The lives of others take one step forward and two steps backward. 

It is so refreshing to be reminded again as I write these thoughts that the Lord has called us to be faithful, not successful.  In I Corinthians 4:2, it states “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”  In what areas of ministry has the Lord called us to be faithful?  Let me suggest four of these for your consideration.  

1)      Intercede.

I have been a good friend of this man for thirty five years.  We have visited at his place of business, his home and have had dinner together. I have visited with him at the hospital during various illnesses and have had opportunity to pray for him during those times.  Throughout this time he has remained closed to the gospel.  Though there is no visible sign of openness, however, I can remain faithful to intercede.    

2)      Initiate.

It was just a simple question which prompted our conversation.  It would have been easier and less time consuming not to have described where I had been earlier that day.  The Lord enabled me to be faithful to initiate a spiritual discussion for which there was a definite hunger.  This interaction has led to other conversations regarding spiritual topics. My co-worker has continued to pursue the scriptures and look for answers to questions and problems.

3)      Invite.

I have discovered over the years that it is very easy and non- threatening to simply invite someone to do something.  All they can say is no, and some of them have declined.  This man, however, said yes.  We are studying the Bible together regularly.  At this point he has not yet trusted Christ, but he has continued to look into God’s Word.  All I did was to simply be faithful to invite him to look at the scriptures together.  

4)      Invest.

To invest in someone means simply to take time out of your day to spend time together.  To spiritually invest means to share your life, to share God’s Word together and to pray together. This can be done as individuals, as a couple or in a small group.  In the last few months, Beverly and I have had an opportunity to invest in the lives of a young couple. They are learning to read the Bible, to memorize some verses, and apply them to their lives.

In the examples given above which are to intercede, to initiate, to invite and to invest, there is no guarantee of “success.”  We are praying for a change in these lives, but it is by no means certain.  It is the Lord’s desire that we remain faithful to His calling, despite the presence or absence of visible fruit.  It is in these times when the veil is drawn over the work of God in the lives of others that I recall Isaiah 50:10.  “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant?  Let him who walks in the dark; who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.   This is pleasing to Him and when He calls us home to be with Him, He will not use worldly methods to evaluate our lives.  The growth and fiscal position of our religious organization will not be a topic of conversation.  What will our LORD remember and mention?  It will be our faithfulness!

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)

May the LORD establish you in His faithfulness. 

In Christ, Richard Spann

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