Posted in theology

I’m not successful

By Elizabeth Prata

I read a good essay at The Master’s University site this morning. It’s a summary of Nathan Busenitz’s chapel sermon called “What Does it Mean to be Successful?

“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (Legacy Standard Bible). (2 Corinthians 5:9)

God cares about why we do things, not simply what we do. And this should change everything about how we pursue achievement because God Himself is the right measure of success. ~Nathan Busenitz

Source: What Does it Mean to be Successful?

I’ve thought a lot about the difference between secular success and Christian success over the years since I was saved. The article hit a home run with me.

Photo Source Unsplash – Štefan Štefančík

I was saved by grace at the age of 42, so I had a lot of years pursuing success in the secular world. I come from a well-heeled, highly successful family. Getting a Ph.D was a usual career path. My immediate family and extended family is full of high powered entrepreneurs, doctors, professors, and Silicon Valley software Google engineers. One cousin got into MENSA, the genius group. They’re all ‘wicked smaht’ as they say in New England.

So there is a lot of pressure to follow the family expectations. Which is a good thing. They pursue excellence, and they were fortunate enough to be able to afford Ivy league Higher Education and other great colleges to attain their goals. I’m proud of them.

I’m mimicking Paul’s defense now, (Philippians 3:3-6, Acts 22:3-5)-

I was on that path too. I was tapped to write a booklet for Brown University and it was published. As a Grad Student I was asked to co-write a piece for The Reading Teacher Journal and it was published. I was asked to be an Editorial Assistant for the University of Chicago’s National Association for the Study of Education 98th and 99th Annual Yearbook of Education Research and earned a credit in the foreword. I attained a 4.0 grade in my Master’s Degree in Education, and was vetted and pushed to continue into the Ph.D program. I founded and ran an award-winning newspaper, earning 2 New England Press Association awards for editorial writing and a 3rd for Advertising Excellence. I was trained by Bloomberg News. I was appointed by the Maine Senate to serve on a Maine State Legislative Committee to look into improving and protecting Maine’s Right to Know Laws. The recommendations of our committee were passed by the Legislature.

As a secular person, I was climbing the success ladder, earning credits, notoriety, and reputation. I thought I was good. Then I made the same discovery that Saul of Tarsus had made:

But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; if somehow I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11).

I had potential. I was getting somewhere. I was becoming SOMEBODY. Only…outside of Christ we are nobody. We are pagans, wallowing in the mud, even lower than the pigs.

Christ came to serve. As a newly minted Christian I prepared to do the same. What I achieved before I must count as rubbish.

The very definition of my job now, is support. I serve. I serve kids in the classroom and the teacher I support. I am a Teacher’s Aide, a lowly job compared to the heights of others jobs I had potential to reach, and expectations to do so. However, Christ’s expectations are that we humble ourselves, be content in the arenas in which He desires to put us, and to serve in whatever fashion He may have readied us for.

Some serve in the heights. I am designated to serve in the lowlands, what would be considered a failure by world standards. A job where a full college degree isn’t required. In fact, I was rejected for a job as a teacher’s aide in another school when I first applied, they said I was overqualified. And I was…I am. But that is according to the world’s standards.

Pride is a deadly sin, infecting us thoroughly from birth. It was even found in the pure and righteous heaven, the place where glory dwells, in Lucifer’s heart. He was the guardian of the throne of God, (Ezekiel 28), blameless in his ways, till pride was found in him. No longer content to serve, he promised ‘I will’ ascend higher than God. (Isaiah 14:13). He won’t.

It took a while to release attraction to the world’s definition of success and look unto God’s version of success. I was proud of “my” successes, “my” heights, until I wasn’t. I had done it for me, not for God.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism describes what we are to do while drawing breath here on earth:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b][a]. Ps. 86:9Isa. 60:21Rom. 11:361 Cor. 6:2010:31; Rev.
4:11[b]. Ps. 16:5-11144:15Isa. 12:2Luke 2:10Phil. 4:4; Rev.

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, [a] is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. [b][a]. Matt. 19:4-5 with Gen. 2:24Luke 24:27441 Cor. 2:13;
14:37; 2 Pet.1:20-213:215-16[b]. Deut. 4:2Ps. 19:7-11Isa. 8:20John 15:1120:30-31;
Acts 17:112 Tim. 3:15-171 John 1:4

Nothing we do apart from God is worth anything, because we are NOT doing not for God or to glorify Him. In fact, Romans 1:18-21 says we do the opposite of glorify Him, on purpose,

Romans 1:22 has the result of this deadly suppression of the truth of our main job on earth,

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened.

For 78-80 years of a usual female life span here in America, I could have gone along and been somebody. I could have, and would have, spending my lifetime cultivating reputation, accolades, personal satisfaction. And that would have been great- until I died.

And just as it is destined for people to die once, and after this comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27).

What would I say to God? ‘I did it my way’? ‘It was fun while it lasted’? ‘I was making my legacy’? Our lives are but a vapor, and our legacy or reputation even less. It’s a few words carved on a headstone, one that after a few years is covered over with leaves and sunken crooked and obscured by frost heaves.

Where is their legacy? How is their reputation? What are their achievements? EPrata photo

The only reputation is Jesus’. The only legacy is His from the cross. The only way is His WAY.

Who am I? Who was Moses? Pharaoh’s daughter’s adopted son, rather than enjoying the riches of Egypt he was willing to suffer with his people instead, and thus was considered a friend of God and the most humble man on earth. His was a far better trade. Who was David? King of Israel, reputed warrior, yet content to dance nearly naked in public for joy in God’s mighty works. Who was Solomon? God personally said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” and Solomon answered by calling himself a little child and pleaded for wisdom to do right by God’s people. (1 Kings 3:9). Who was Paul? A Hebrew of Hebrews, attaining heights unusual for someone his age, from the reputable tribe of Benjamin, yet counted all his efforts for God prior to that moment on the road to Damascus as vile rubbish.

So who am I? No one. No one like Moses, David, Solomon, Paul. Make myself of no account and make much of Jesus.

Nobody…except a child of God. A person made in His image and given grace to repent and become adopted into His family. With a future bright with eternal bliss and joy, worshiping in the presence of the One True God. A woman given means to glorify Him in ways that hopefully actually glorify Him. Earning not an earthly, temporary, vaporous reputation, but one that will last in heaven as He resounds with the hoped-for welcome-to-heaven comment, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

The only good is from Him. The only service is to Him. And it’s enough.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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