The lament of Asaph in Psalm 73 gives us a glimpse of what happens when our eyes turn toward our own success and for measures that are earthly. “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” What Asaph saw with his eyes were successes and happiness. He was frustrated that “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.” Asaph was valuing pleasure, prestige and possessions as measurements of success. It appears that as Christians, we need to come to grips with a Biblical teaching of success. It might just be that we need to look at something other than the ledger. (See this article for more on that.)
Rick Warren suggests “three antidotes” (https://pastors.com/temptations-success/) to what he calls, “success temptations.” He includes- integrity, generosity and humility. Each of these seem to stem from a driven character that is above board, seeks to improve the world around him and doesn’t seek fame.
But maybe, just maybe, the answer is driven and heard in the Psalmist’s words of Psalm 106:47-
Save us, O Lord our God
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord!
Our success driven world, including the challenges of proving success in our Lutheran schools, is cancer to our work. God calls us to faith, keeps us in faith with his Word and accomplishes his will through our work with families. Does this mean if we aren’t having baptisms in our schools that our proclamation of the Gospel is not effective? Does that mean that if discipline referrals are through the roof that the compassion of Christ is missing? Is our school ineffective if signs of sharing time, talents and treasure are seemingly inadequate for the goals of the school?
Maybe the signs of “success” are more driven by a counterculture perspective. Instead of turning to self-help, how about faith help.
*Look to Christ - always (“Save us”). Pray to seek and align with God’s will. Bible study because we know it’s needed and because God will show us His Son and share that we need not take on undue burdens in our life. Our life is in Christ, part of the mystical body, the Church.
*Stay in community (“gather”)- When things get us down, we can become reclusive and dig in our heels to do better. Rather, we are built for community. Our family, our faculty, our church, our town. Each provide needed elements for our life and provide needed counsel.
*Praise God (“thanks....glory...Praise)- Praising God turns us outward, rather than inward. Paul shows it in his epistles. In jail and after shipwrecks, Paul was content in faith and confident of God’s will in his life. Classic churches were designed to lift up our eyes (steeples, raised pulpits). Just like the eyes of the Israelites looked up to the bronze serpent for healing, so too we can lift our eyes to Christ and his all (ALL) out work for us in His life and death.
Focus on Christ- focus on something other than a stat.