Advent Reading Day 14 – The Successful Life

“25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying  29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  Luke 2:36-38

What does success look like?   Success drives our careers.  Success drives our family life.  Success drives our spending habits.  Dress for success, Buy for success, Be a success.   It is a word that we throw around a lot, and especially within Christian circles.   Have a successful family life.  Have a successful ministry.  Have a successful life.  We as Christians (no matter the continent we are on) are consumed by success.   Even small churches here in Ethiopia watch American mega-church pastors and model their ministries after theirs (teaching style, program, dress, prayer style) in hopes that some of the success rubs off on them.

When I look at the first Christmas there was so little that could be considered successful.  If there had been a project director he would have been fired the next day.   I mean come on, no lodging, no bed, no royal robes, a tainted guest list, an eventual need to escape under cover of dark, it took possibly 2 years for the gifts to arrive.   Yet, in God’s economy it was the most successful night on record – the night which forever changed history.  It was the night and the way that He had planned it all to be.   There was no splash of success in this story, and it would take the rest of history to truly show just how successful that one night was.

What does success look like?  To me it looks like Simeon from our reading today.  Imagine having lived your life in such a way that when you saw the promise in front of you that you had been praying for, hoping for, struggling for, crying for, waiting for…now you are able to say, “May I now be dismissed to die in peace.”  Then, he delivered a prophetic message that God had put in his heart along the way.  That prophetic word sums up the whole Mission of God and sends an earthquake throughout the whole world of all that this Baby King is going to do.   Simeon was righteous and devout and faithful.  And throughout his whole life he was being prepared for this one moment when he would play a critical part in Jesus’ Mission.   In my opinion, Simeon was a huge success.   He didn’t build anything large or successful, yet He was obedient and faithful and His words still move me to tears everytime I read them.   God may not have given this old man much that was flashy or hip, but what He gave to Simeon was a glimpse right into God’s own heart.   That is what is a success.  It is not big nor small.  It is not fast or slow growing.  It is not wealth or programs or fame or glory.  It is getting that glimpse right into God’s own heart which then propels you to put it all on the line to walk out obedience and faithfulness to Him.

As I read about Simeon I think about folks we know who are a success and who along with Simeon are able to pray, “Lord, now dismiss your servants in peace.”  These folks first came as missionaries to Ethiopia over 30 years ago.  They served long and hard and they continue to serve faithfully from afar.   By the worlds standards their time on the ground here was not a booming success.  You see in the first 5 years here in Ethiopia they had 1 person choose to follow Jesus.  If we followed the guidelines of success given by most, then they should have given up long before they did.  However, God had given them a glimpse into His heart and they kept on plowing and sowing seed.   Now, 30 years later there are almost 90 churches because of those “unsuccessful” beginnings.   The first people who came to Jesus are now some of the most influential Evangelical leaders in Addis Ababa and in all of Ethiopia.  Success requires a much different perspective and a much different timeline than what we are used to giving it.

This Advent season I invite you to join me in seeing God for a glimpse into His heart.   I invite you to allow God to take off the expectations of big and fast and slick and smooth as being indicators of success and instead asking Him to give you your part in His Mission.  Who knows, it could be that your part is to wait and watch and pray and deliver a prophetic message after waiting for decades.  It could be that you are called to waste your life on behalf of the poor.   Or, it could be that you are called to be part of the fastest growing church in The US.   The cool thing is that because God is the One who defines success, He also makes sure that nothing is a waste along the way.

Prayer:  Jesus, thank you for Simeon.  Thank you for the image we have of him as dedicated, faithful and obedient.  May we gain perspective from Simeon.  I pray that you would give us some of what He had.  And, help us not to judge success based on how much or how fast, but rather on getting a glimpse into Your heart and being obedient to you.   Give us that glimpse this Advent season – a glimpse of all that we and the whole world mean to you.  Amen.

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