For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
Ephesians 3:1 (NIV)
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV)
Most Christians know that we are supposed to be different from the people around us. We get that a different sort of behavior and value system is to distinguish us from the world. What is a good bit harder is to realize that our whole rubric on what is a win and a loss must also be radically impacted by our relationship with Jesus. Take for example Paul. Here is a man whose church planting and missionary efforts are hard to overstate. He literally had a part in planting churches in most of the Roman Empire. But, he had a different rubric for understanding if his life was a success than most of us do (if we are honest). He wasn’t about the accolades or a book tour or being interviewed by the Ephesus Chronicle. He didn’t vie for TIME’s man of the year. He had been deeply gripped instead by seeing his life as a success only as it related to seeing Jesus’ Kingdom grow. From prison he writes how prison has been a great way to “advance the gospel.” In other words, Paul saw prison as a “win” because, he saw his time in prison as something God ordained and that God could use for growing His kingdom. PRISON. I have to admit I am not there yet. I struggle with evaluating life through a far more secular, American definition of success than I am willing to admit. Things like safety, security, comfort, and yes, prosperity are far too important to me. They are the ways I measure success. The wrong ways but, still the ways. Being uncomfortable, or less secure or less well to do sure doesn’t feel like winning. But, God asks us to process from His categories of ‘winning’ and ‘loosing’ instead of the world’s.
God, grant that we would have your definition of ‘success’ in Jesus’ Kingdom shape us and what we pursue in this life. Keep us from the lies that will leave us wanting. Help us that we, like Paul, might see even painful and difficult parts of our journey through the lens of Kingdom “wins” and “losses.” Might we surrender our lives into Your hands for Jesus’ sake, amen.