2013 was a tough year for many, myself included.
What we sign up for as Christians is to be used by God. What often takes us by surprise, however, are the difficult periods of refinement we must go through in the process. Sometimes after an especially tough journey, it feels like I’ve crawled out of an industrial clothes dryer that was set on high! After my own challenges last year, with several trials—one after the other—I’m thankful to have survived. But what I need at year’s end is a standard by which I can measure what God considers true success. Here are three important considerations:
1. Success begins with an offering to God (Worship).
The Bible is filled with stories of regular, everyday people—folks who gave what little they had to God:
—Moses held up a staff: God told him to throw it down. Moses picked it up and afterward performed miracles with it and helped deliver a nation out of slavery (Exodus 4:1-5).
—David held up five smooth stones: God used David and those stones in a slingshot to slay a giant (1 Samuel 17:40-48).
—A widow held up empty containers: God filled them with oil; she went on to sell the oil to make good on her debts, and lived, both she and her sons, on what was left (2 Kings 4:7).
—The disciples held up five loaves and two fish: Jesus blessed the meal and fed over 5,000 people (Matthew 14:13-21).
2. Success is loving God’s people and doing His will (Service).
Our success as Christ-followers is not measured by the stuff we have, but by loving people, following Him in faith and trusting in His Word. In John 6:38, Jesus said: “I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me” (MSG). If we have followed after God in 2013—in big and small ways—we have succeeded!
3. Success is being conformed to the image of God’s Son (Spiritual Formation).
Living a life of faith is impossible for any man or woman to do; we cannot live the Christian life on our own. Thankfully, Christ redeems and indwells us, and lives the Christ-life through us. This journey may take us through some “lion, tiger and bear” moments in life, where it can be easy to give in to fear rather than trust God and walk in faith. I was reminded this year that God desperately desires that I be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
By using this method of measurement, I can celebrate many successes in the past year. God took what little I had and turned it into much more than I could have ever imagined. I pray that your personal recap of 2013 brings shouts of praise.