What does God require? Not success, but faithfulness

As a church, we recently finished a series through the book of Acts. It’s easy to get carried away by all of the dramatic stories in Acts, but as we finished the series, what stuck out to me was one simple word—faithfulness.

The apostles saw miracles that most of us could never imagine. They experienced ministry success that most pastors today will never see. Yet when we find the Apostle Paul nearing the end of his ministry (Acts 20:17), what is his concern? Faithfulness. “You’ve seen how I lived,” Paul says, “And you know that my only concern is to finish the task that Jesus gave me.”

As Paul would say elsewhere, “What is required of stewards is that they be found faithful” (1 Cor 4:2). A steward is just a servant. He doesn’t run the household, the master does. His only responsibility is to do what the master tells him. So if the master tells him to invest money in something that completely tanks, the steward doesn’t take the blame. On the other hand, if the master gives the steward an order that leads to great success, the steward doesn’t get the credit. Success and failure are master words; faithfulness is the concern of stewards.

What God requires of you is not success, but faithfulness in what he has assigned to you. Ask yourself: what has Jesus called you to do? You aren’t responsible to save the world, but you are responsible to follow Christ in your situation.

For a servant, “success” in life is identifying what God has called you to and being completely faithful in it.

I’ve seen people go very wrong with this. Some people get so overwhelmed at the needs around them that they see everything as “their” cause. So they want to minister to prisoners, take in foster children, mentor elementary kids, feed the poor, end human trafficking and lead an entire unreached people group to Christ—in general, to save the world. But, as a mentor once told me, “Not everything from heaven has your name on it.”

This is a lesson I have needed to learn personally: God can do more with one act of faithfulness than I could accomplish in 10,000 lifetimes on my own. Many of us need to change the questions we ask when we come to a crossroads from, “Where can I make the biggest impact?” to, “Where does God want me?”

Here’s a hint: Most of the opportunities for faithfulness are already right in front of you. If you’re in high school, faithfulness might mean staying committed to purity, even though you feel like it isn’t making a difference. If you’re in college, it might mean continuing to share the gospel even after you’re mocked and humiliated in front of your peers. If you’re at work, it means choosing integrity when everyone else is cutting corners, or using your career for the sake of God’s mission instead of your own bottom line. If you’re a parent, it means obedience to Christ in the most mundane aspects of everyday life, because your kids are always watching.

We only see the fruit of this in glimpses now, but one day we’ll be shocked at the powerful ways that God used these small acts of faithfulness in the lives of others. I think, for instance, of the mother of one of our pastors, who recently passed away. He shared with me that there was nothing particularly extraordinary about her—in terms of talent. But in her late 40s, she learned that God wanted to use her to disciple other women. So she did. She picked up some ready-made discipleship curriculum and just walked women through it. Ordinary. Simple. But faithful. And over the course of 25 years, this dear saint discipledhundreds of women.

What do you think she heard when she walked into heaven? She did what God had told her to do until her very last day. Don’t you think she heard the one thing we all desire to hear? The voice of Christ, the beginning and end of creation, the one who loved us and pursued us and died for our sin, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord!”

Published September 22, 2016

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