Posted by: Bob Clark | May 31, 2005

Success and Failure

“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

By what standard do we evaluate success and failure?

Too often we calculate accomplishments solely on the basis of immediate results: “just win, baby!” Our sometimes idolatrous obsession with sports has colored our thinking. There are winners and losers. So when things are going smoothly, we feel successful. “Things have just fallen into place, I must be living in the center of God’s will.”

Such reasoning would be confusing, at best, to Joseph. Was he in the center of God’s will when he was thrown into the pit? Sold into Egyptian slavery? Wasting away in jail? This same reasoning was used like a weapon to discredit Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica. Critics accused Paul of being a miserable failure when he slipped out of town under cover of darkness.

So Paul steps up and answers the charges.

Had he suffered? Yes he had suffered – he was rocked and left for dead in Lystra. Along with Silas he was stripped, beaten, jailed, and fastened in stocks in Philippi. Not to mention the humiliating departure from Thessalonica.

Success or failure?

In spite of being surrounded by the opposition, Paul boldly, defiantly spread the Good News. Sure, people who are making judgments merely based on what they can see pronounce this failure. But Paul, with his awareness of things unseen, says it best: “our visit to you was not a failure.” How so? Paul understood – God was with him, strengthening him all along the way.

Perhaps we need to do some reevaluating.

By what standard do we evaluate success and failure?

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