Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsWednesday 16 Mar 2022Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 4 minutes
I’m fairly sure we have a liking for people who are successful—those who’ve made a name for themselves or we see in the media. They are well thought of, sought after, taken photos of, and we look up to them.
They are successful, and sometimes we feel envious, thinking I’ll never attain to much. In other words, nothing succeeds like success. But is that really true? Let’s think about it for a moment.
I suspect we’ve all been brainwashed. Statements like, If you work hard enough, you can be anything you want to be. How often have you heard that one? It sounds great advice—like the real Australian dream. Just work hard, make plenty of money, and you can achieve anything you want. Sorry—it’s not true.
And then we heard this statement: Winning is not everything—it’s the only thing. In other words, how many men, for example, have been taught that being first is so important, that it becomes the only thing they will settle for. Nothing else is acceptable.
Chariots of Fire
Let me remind you about Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian, and a Gold Olympian, whose story was part of the wonderful 1981 Academy Award (Oscar) film Chariots of Fire. He ran in the 1924 Olympics, and this made him a celebrity. In many people’s eyes, he had made it—Gold for his 400-metre race. I’ve seen a photo of him being carried on a victory lap. He was a hero—but he had very strong religious beliefs. He refused to run on Sundays because he was a preacher. That came first. He refused to let anything come between his faith in God and his beloved sport.
He was Scotland’s fastest sprinter, and he received a hero’s welcome when he returned home. But he believed God had called him to return to China where he had grown up with his missionary parents. He and his wife served there for 20 years. But war surrounded him, he ended up in a Japanese prison camp for two years, suffered terribly, and died aged 43 from a brain tumour. He is buried in a lonely, largely forgotten grave.
Was Eric Liddell as success? Yes—most emphatically he was. God was everything to him, and despite his remarkable athletic skills, he placed God first in everything. And that’s the difference. When we speak of success, we’re usually talking about personal achievements, strength and performance, from within ourselves. Look how clever I am—I am supreme. But that’s not what the Bible calls success. I’m not knocking successful athletes or business people. God has made us with talents and abilities—use them—but use them for his glory just as Eric Liddell did back in 1924. I think the best piece of advice is in Ephesians 2:10: “God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are”.
What is success for you?
When we say nothing succeeds like success, we probably mean when we have lots of money, when others admire and envy us, when we have the best technology, and own several investment properties around the world. Advertising does its best to promote success in this way—spend up and you can be successful. But new stuff won’t make us happy. Does it really matter if we are rich, as we all have to face death one day? Actor Heath Ledger was just 28-years-old when he died. He was the picture of success. He had done so well for himself, and was recognised as one of the best young actors and he had millions of dollars. His death came suddenly and unexpectedly.
Consider Jesus Christ—in the eyes of many he did not lead a successful life. He spent the first 30 years at home making furniture—a simple, practical job. He wasn’t ambitious or wealthy. He spent his time loving those around him, loving God, and doing his work. When he started his ministry, he spent three years going between the different towns. He had many friends, but only a small group of followers who believed in him right to the end.
He preached that the kingdom of God had arrived, and he was the new King. This caused a revolt among the religious establishment, who were incensed at this blasphemy—and they executed him by nailing him to a cross. He didn’t write any books, he made no money, and he was even shunned from his own hometown.
So what was success for Jesus? It was being obedient to his Father, the Lord God. Success was spending time with the poor, outcast, sick people, who needed help, those who had mental illness. He spoke up for the poor.