“… and missions exists because worship doesn’t.”
(John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad)
As much as I want to say I understand that my existence isn’t predicated on my accomplishments in ministry (missions), I don’t. I don’t understand it. I am a goal-oriented, goal-driven, results-focused individual who struggles to enjoy the goodness of God if results don’t follow that goodness. If there is even a single day where I sit in my room and do nothing, my brain interprets that as a day of failure, a day that God is disappointed with me, a day that should be counted as regret.
I believe that I exist for mission, not for worship.
I take my identity in what I accomplish. Who I am is determined by what I do. I wish that were a lie. I wish I could say that I am content in whatever God puts before me, even days, weeks, months, years of stagnant ministry for the sake of knowing Him more. But I’m not.
I believe that I exist for results, not for worship.
Over time I have come to the conclusion that what I do for Jesus is more important than how well I know Him. I have found myself in a perpetual state of discontent knowing that I can never accomplish everything that I want to accomplish. This discontent is both within my walk with God and without. Success, in my mind, is being able to tell friends, family, supporters, church members, pastors, leaders that I have done x, y, and z and here are the results to show for it.
I believe that success is about what I do, not who I worship.
But in the kingdom of God, what, truly, is success? Are Christians called to be successful? I believe that Mark 13:1-2 gives us some insight into this question.
“As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.'”
What the disciples saw as worthy of praise Jesus saw as ultimately worthless. Jesus acknowledged how great the buildings were, He was not unaware of the beauty of their outside appearance. But Jesus knew things that the disciples did not know- He knew that outward appearance of beauty means nothing in light of ultimate reality. What do I mean by this? Jesus is telling the disciples, “you think these buildings are worthy to be praised because of their beauty, but little do you know that one day none of this will exist. Ultimately, spending your time googly-eyed over things that appear beautiful on the outside but will cease to exist is not worth it!” Jesus is making a very important point here: success does not always appear beautiful on the outside. What looks good now may very well end in destruction. Success, then, is not ultimately about results that appear positive.
But what is success? Jesus gives us an idea in Mark 14.
“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, ‘Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.'”
Faith in Jesus is success.
Faith in Jesus is success even if it appears to be failure.
Everyone, including the disciples, scolded this woman for wasting an expensive bottle of perfume that could have been used for something else. In the eyes of the world, success has tangible results always. This woman was a failure because what she did to Jesus had no tangible results. This woman had faith that anointing Jesus with costly perfume was worth it, even if it appeared to be foolish and worthless. This is the key to the Christian life- Christians are not called to be successful, but to be faithful.
The kingdom of God is not a matter of success and failure, but of faithfulness and unfaithfulness.
The woman that anointed Jesus with what very well may have been her life savings was praised by Jesus because she worshiped and glorified Him. Success? Not in the eyes of many. Faithful? Not in the eyes of many, aside from God, and those are the only eyes that ultimately matter.
We do not exist for mission – we do not exist for results – we exist for worship; to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and faithfulness is worship.
Why does mission exist? Why do results exist? Because worship of the most high God does not exist. If worship of God does not exist, ultimate joy of people does not exist either.
I find myself continually wrapped up in the idea that I need to be successful in the eyes of people in order to please God and “make a name for myself.” I routinely feel like a failure if I do not accomplish something that I can point to detailing tangible results. But the kingdom of God isn’t even about results in the first place. So why am I hyper-focused on things that God is not focused on? Why am I anxious/distraught/nervous when I, seemingly, accomplish nothing?
It’s because I am asking the wrong question; what results show that I have been successful?
Instead I ought to ask, have I been faithful to God’s Word and the pursuit of His glory?
If the answer to that question is yes, then failure is simply impossible, for God says,
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58)
Faithfulness to the Lord – whether or not that faithfulness results in anything tangibly praise worthy – is ultimately success, because it is God-glorifying, joy-producing, worship.
…and we exist for worship…
…because worship glorifies God…
…and because worship brings us ultimate joy…
You do not exist for mission, you do not exist for results, you exist for worship.