Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write an INSPIRATIONAL or DEVOTIONAL piece (04/26/07)
TITLE: The Unsuccessful Savior
By Elizabeth Burton
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The temptation for us as Christians is to define our spiritual “success” in the same way. How many verses did I read this morning? One...I’m not ready for the day: can I go back to bed until it’s over, God? One hundred...bring it on! While there’s certainly nothing wrong with reading a hundred verses of the Bible a day (or playing the piano at church, leading a Bible study, or volunteering at the local food bank), none of what we do is what God is most interested in. He wants more for us than that; He wants to free us of the desire to earn His approval (not that we can, anyway!) by transforming us into His own image.
Romans 12:1-2 speaks powerfully to the fact that it is God’s power that changes us, not anything we do: “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...” (NIV). We are the sacrifice and all we have to do is present ourselves to him; in essence, we just need to stay out of the way and let God do His work!
Did you ever think about the word “transformed”? Literally, it means “metamorphosis,” or a mysterious, beautiful and complete change of being, like that of the caterpiller to the butterfly. God’s transformation changes our being in much the same way, taking a fallen nature and changing it into a wondrous reflection of His image.
Being busy is something that most of us have simply accepted and gotten used to. It’s important for us as Christians, though, to take a minute to step back and remember that Christ didn’t come to help us do more but to transform everything about us. Right down to the way we measure success.
Was Jesus a success? Certainly not by the standards of His time. His earthly father was a carpenter, a skilled craftsman, and as the oldest son, Jesus would have been expected to join the family business. Going off on your own as an itinerant preacher wasn’t exactly the way to get ahead in Biblical times, any more than it is today. Jesus had no earthly source of income; instead he depended on his patrons, his mission “sponsors,” to provide for his needs and those of his disciples. After a very public trial, he was branded a criminal and put to death for his crimes. The “society” of his day must have been aghast!
Jesus would be even more of a failure by today’s standards. He died as a 33 year old ne’er-do-well with nothing the world could point to as evidence of success. He never married, never had children, never even held down what we would consider a “real” job, and never amassed any fortune. His life and death were, from our culture’s perspective, a colossal waste of time.
Yet this man who didn’t necessarily “do” much with his life was God Incarnate: our role model and the image God is making us more like. So what does that mean for us and the way we approach our “busy-ness” today?
It means first and foremost that we have to reevaluate our definition of success. Where the world counts the end result only, as Christians, we need to appreciate the process of transformation itself and recognize that even those times when we seem to be “accomplishing” nothing are valuable in God’s eyes.
No matter where you are in life, God has a plan for you. Even when things may seem slow or boring. Maybe especially when things seem slow or boring. If you’re in a time of preparation today, rest assured that “...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy the ride!
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