Sneaky Little Masters (Part Three)


So I struggle with treating success like an idol…what do I do now?

That is not really a question I thought I would be asking. It is, however, a reality I live with. A generally successful person can, in times of struggle, come face to face with an unhealthy priority they were unaware they had.

I want to clarify my use of idol here. I do not bow down and worship success. I simply allow it to come before God and anything that is before him is above him, and there is nothing or no one above him.

In Matthew 23:25-28 Jesus throws down some WOES to the religious leaders of his day. He tells them that they wash the outside of the cup and call it clean or that they whitewash tombs and pretend they are not filled with death. He teaches that it is not just the outside that must change but the inside, too. It is the root of the matter that musty change, not just the fruit of it.

So, how do I experience that? Here are some practical points from Matthew 23.

You might have a success idol if…

1. WHAT happens matters more than WHY it happened.
Does why matter to you at all about the things you hope to accomplish in life? Or is what you are striving for your only concern?
2.  WHAT I am matters more than WHO I am.
When you deal with a success idol what you become trumps who you are. If you are not careful you can have an “everyone loves a winner” mentality towards life…which eventually causes you to act like a loser.
3.  WHAT I do matters more than HOW I do it.
Do ends justify means? Winning at all costs comes at a very high price to everyone involved.

Burning a success idol requires…
1. Emptying the cup.
Emptying the cup means pouring it ALL out. Money is perhaps the best illustration of this. You are not faithful to God with money because you give a certain % at church. Every penny is his. You are not faithful to God without the % either, but that % is much easier to give when it is all his anyway.
2.  Open the door.
The best way to clean out the stench of death is to open the door and let the light of truth in. Opening the door to your sins and struggles usually requires sharing the worst about your self with someone else. “Confess your sins one to another.” Are you?
3.  Pray inside out.
Get to the root issue, don’t just treat the fruit.
4.  Be what you are.
Jesus’ final illustration was a tomb. A tomb is a tomb. It is what it is. Often our greatest struggle with success is desiring to be what we are not…or the desire to not be what we are. Be what God made you.

The greatest truth we must all remember about our struggles with success is that Jesus is greater than our biggest failures. Give to Jesus your best. Give to Jesus your worst. And give him everything in between.  You cannot give him one without the other.

Sneaky Little Masters (Part Two)


Anything kept for or to ourselves is, inherently, before God. Thus, it is an idol.

This statement is from part one of this blog. God commanded us to have no god before him. Jesus clearly taught that man could not serve both his selfish desires (mammon or money in most translations) and God at the same time. It is one or the other.

In Ecclesiastes Solomon, the most interesting man in the world, wrote about the vanity of all the things he experienced in life. (Remember Solomon was the richest, most famous, most successful person of his day. He had everything this world offers.) In chapter 2 he writes that it is vain to live wisely because all one earns is eventually left to another. The one it is left to could easily be a fool. He teaches how vain it is to work and toil because in the end you die the same. Yet he concludes that it is good for man to eat and drink and enjoy his toil….why? It pleases God.

Success is a small, short, little trophy.
Success is the idol that Solomon is ultimately speaking of. As he speaks of living wisely and working hard he is speaking of the things that we sum up with that one little word…success. Success is working and accomplishing and achieving in life. It is living wisely and attaining in this life.

Our earthly successes are, however, very small in the scope of history, much less eternity. Our earthly successes are short in the scope of our own lives or their value to others. Time keeps ticking and success is short-lived. Success quickly becomes failure if one does not keep moving forward. Success is little in the emotional and personal benefit it actually offers. Success is often not as satisfying in the moment as we hoped it would be, much less in the scope of our ongoing lives.

Success, however, is a good thing. We are called by God to give our very best and to work unto him and not unto man. The problem is the priority we give success.

We get burned when we magnify right things in wrong ways.

Success is no more the problem in our lives than money is actually evil. The love of money is the root of evils.   It is the priority and place it gets in our lives that causes it to be a source of sin and rebellion against God. Success gets more than it gives when it gets more than it deserves.

I wrote in part one that I would be preaching this past Sunday about an idol I struggle with. This is it…success. I love to succeed. Honestly, I have for the most part in my life known success. There are very few things in life I feel I have failed at. I was not as good at certain things I wanted to be good at along the way, but I did not fail at many.

This year I have dealt with what I feel is the biggest failure in my leadership. Our church has set some goals we are not reaching. We have some things we must do to move forward in our mission and we are struggling to get there. I set out and led out on an initiative to move us forward, and it has not worked as planned. I see that as failure.

Others tell me other wise, but I struggle to see it differently. Some times preachers just need to be real. This is my greatest struggle with an idol. I realize God has us right where he wants us, but I see that as failure too. If this is what God wanted then why did I lead us towards something that looked so different? I have a very black and white view of success. It is far less subjective to me than it is to many people I love and know.

You see, I love giving God my successes. I want his glory. I truly and sincerely desire the spread of the Gospel and building up of the Church. It is all for his glory. The problem is that I love giving God my successes, not success. Success is mine to keep . God can have the glory when I get done.

This struggle is real enough in my life right now that I am taking personal growth steps to learn more about myself and God so that I can be healthier in this area. I will blog tomorrow about some steps for identifying and burning success idols.

But, God put this question on my heart and mind as I studied this topic and I want to ask it to you. Maybe it will help you evaluate your love for success and the priority you give it in relationship to God.

Is God worthy of your biggest failures?

If God asked you to do something that did not “work” would you be okay with that? Can obedience to God, at least in seasons and moments in life, look like failure to the world and be obedience to God? If so, are you okay if God so asks?

Till tomorrow…