What is success?
Have you ever felt you were less than successful in some way?
Have you felt like you failed in some area? Or even worse, have
you felt you were a failure in general? If any of these are true
in your life, I have some good news for you. The only time in
the Bible that God is pictured as running is when He was hurrying
to embrace the prodigal son (Luke
15:20). The prodigal son is the classic symbol of someone
who has made mistakes, sins, foolish living, or little commitment
to righteousness. Yet God ran to embrace him and accept him. Why?
first it was because God made us. This is usually only understood
after we have children ourselves. There is something about those
who you made that are different from other people. Many fathers
and mothers have given their lives for their son or daughter.
I once worked for a man who ran through a burning house to pull
two of his children out alive. Judi and I have a friend who just
gave one of her kidneys for her daughter whose kidneys had failed
due to disease. This is great love. God so loved us that He gave
His only begotten son. How much more proof should we demand from
God that He loves us? In Jeremiah
31:3, God Himself says, "I have loved you with
an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness I have drawn
you." It is God's attributes of love, grace, and
mercy that drew us to forgiveness and salvation.
Along these lines,
the only time I know of where God shouts is when He shouts for
joy over you and me. Zephaniah
3:17 says, "The LORD your God is in your midst,
a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy... He will
rejoice over you with shouts of joy." Why will Almighty
God shout over you? Because He was trying to win you back
and if you are saved, He is excited that you came back to Him
(like the prodigal son or daughter). I don't know exactly what
God yells, but you can't get away from the fact in scripture that
God is excited and shouting for joy over you and me.
That brings us to
the second reason God ran to embrace the prodigal son. He had
repented. To repent means to turn "180 degrees" around
and go the opposite direction. To see the prodigal son returning
clearly indicated he had turned around and was heading in the
opposite direction from when he had left the father. This is symbolic
of what God wants us to do. Any time we have sinned: blown it,
lost our temper, stolen something, lied or deceived, used profanity,
engaged in an addiction, been really selfish, done things we knew
were wrong, or even walked in pride or self-righteousness
God wants us to repent and He will embrace us like the prodigal's
father. He doesn't want us afraid of Him, He wants us to know
He loves us and will take us back every time.
This was one of the
two big themes that Jesus taught on in the Gospels of the New
Testament the "father" nature of God (the second
was how the spirit realm works). The Pharisees and Saducees thought
they knew all about God (like a lot of Americans). They knew a
lot of the "thou shalt & shall nots", but didn't
know the character of God His "father" attributes
of caring for His children: His grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
But just how often
will God forgive a person? Well, He instructs us to forgive the
same person at least 70 times 7 or 490 times. God is not
a hypocrite, so He has to also be willing to forgive the same
person over and over. And I think He is willing to forgive in
"King-size" amounts, as long as we keep turning to Him
Most people's biggest
stumbling block is our remembrance of our own earthly father.
The Bible teaches that our image (as a child) of what our earthly
father was like created our theology of what the Heavenly Father
is like. This is revealed in 1st
Corinthians 11:7, "For a man ought not to have
his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God."
You may need some extra explanation about this verse to
understand it. The context was Paul's instruction on family relationships,
and particularly between a husband and wife. The Greek language
did not have different words for man, husband, and father to easily
distinguish these. You had to read the context to know what was
intended. In this passage, the husband is mature and was presumed
to have children. So this verse could be rendered, "For
a father ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image
(& the glory) of God (to his young children)."
The father is the image of God to his children, because they don't
have the ability to read the scriptures or even understand abstract
concepts until they are well past 6 or 7 years old. So our "theology"
about what God is like was formed by what our natural father was
like. Now, we can renew our minds with the teaching of the Word
of God and therefore change our theology. But nevertheless, most
people still have "strongholds" in their minds about
what God is like based on the flaws, weaknesses, and personality
of their earthly fathers.
We need to renew
our minds to see God as He really is the good, merciful,
compassionate Father God of the universe who is always ready to
forgive whenever we turn to Him and confess our sins. And we need
to realize that no matter how many times we have failed, God wants
us to get past it. Failure can be a learning opportunity
the school of hard knocks. And most successful people had many
failures. Thomas Edison failed in over 1,000 experiments when
inventing the light bulb. Abraham Lincoln failed to win numerous
political elections before becoming President. On the topic of
failure, Dr. Martin Seligman, a renowned author and psychologist
at the University of Pennsylvania, said, "It is the
combination of reasonable talent and the ability to keep going
in the face of defeat that leads to success. What's missing in
tests of ability is motivation. What you need to know about someone
is whether they will keep going when things get frustrating. My
hunch is that for a given level of intelligence, your actual achievement
is a function of not just talent, but also of the capacity to
stand defeat." The Bible says we can do all things
through Christ who strengthens us. So there is no need for anything
more than temporary defeat for a Christian. The future holds total
victory for the believer, so we should dust ourselves off and
get back up if we ever stumble and fall. "The path of the
righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and
brighter until the full day (Proverbs
4:18). So this brings me to conclude with the definition of
success for a Christian: knowing the will of God, and continually
working at doing it.