there's another problem with focusing so much on numbers & other external indicators of 'growth' and using it as our basis for success or even confirmation we are "on the right track"..... (ex: this is applicable to groups --- growth of programs, churches, organizations... and applicable to us individually as well --- how many people we help, how many we tell The Message to)
I have heard quite frequently, "Oh we're finally seeing growth.....it must be God's will....that must mean we're on the right track" .... There's a problem with this message --- not everything that grows is God-breathed. Not everything that grows is good. Cancer grows.
Growth is not a steadfast indicator that we are following God's blessing nor an accurate way to determine if a ministry or decision was godly. My post yesterday explained one reason why and that is because basically --- fruits of the spirit are hard to quantify - like Steve so eloquently put.... but
another problem with being so focused on numbers & growth --- is that if we are so focused on numbers --- we won't allow Him to give us rest and time to "sharpen our ax". He WANTS us to rest and have periods of stillness. My husband's favorite psalm (23) is a perfect example of God's desire for us to take rest in Him.... to have time throughout our life (and even in each day) to have stages of rest, rejuvenation, stillness, preparation, learning....
Haven't you heard the story of the 2 woodcutters - one going hog-wild cut cut cut cut cut never resting trying to get the highest number of trees down. The 2nd woodcutter meanwhile just focused on quality....continually took time to rest & sharpen his ax. During those times of rest & rejuvenation, it appears this 2nd ax man isn't being productive or making 'progress' or that his ministry isn't growing... he's not being successful. Some would even go so far to say that he must not be following God's will because he's just not producing visible results ---- but those assumptions again are all looking at worldly scales of success..... what the world doesn't get is that a lot of what goes in this world can't be seen....time in rest & sharpening is the ever crucial time that will make this worker more effective, efficient, and focused.
That 2nd ax man doesn't care what others say about the results he is producing at certain times --- he is in it for the long term - he is focused on the long term. He knows that believers are to live by faith not by sight. Not focusing on what the world tells them to focus on - but focusing on God instead.
Some times there will be seasons in our life where on the world's standards it appears nothing is going on.... but you and God know what's going on!! Keep on keeping on. It ultimately doesn't matter what the world thinks. Sometimes you yourself might not even feel successful, significant, or productive -- in the world's standards or even in your own standards... you might just feel.... empty, lost, wandering...but God is at work. He's there. He's a supernatural spiritual God unlike everything else in our world we are in contact with and subjected to have to listen to. We can't always sense or discern what He's teaching us, preparing us for, doing in our hearts.... but that's where faith comes in. Our flesh doesn't allow us to always see what God is doing.
So many of us quit, get discouraged, flee, and lose our faith and desire for Him during these times of strengthening because we are so focused on seeing visible results - we don't even realize He's at work. Imagine the discouragement and judgement we produce in others by focusing on the visible results in their lives or ministry.... by valuing them by their individual or corporate 'growth'.
God will do with me what He wills for my life --- my job, my focus is to be with Him and focus on Him ---- He will focus on the results. We don't have to.
bottom line of these 2 posts is:
We must value others because they are valuable and deserve to be loved just the way they are. No matter the season of their life. No matter what the world thinks of them. No matter how many know them. Value them because of who created them. Value them because they are equal in value to you. They ARE equal to you no matter your experiences, or whatever standards of success you believe you have achieved. We are to focus on God and what can't be seen. We are to give Him credit for successes people try to praise us for. We are to focus on abiding in Him - as long as we make it our determined purpose to be with Him, to be defined by Him - we don't have to worry about failing --- He will use us as He wants to.
We must submit our lives daily for a cause greater than ourselves -- that cause is Him and His people. Much of that work will not be seen. Many of the results of our work will not be seen except by God. God says to live quietly - in other words - not allow others to put us on a pedestal - to not make a big show of our life & good deeds - and to leave the results & judging of success to Him.
soooo what's on my heart now after these 2 entries?.... how about.... talents, gifts, uses of them, trying your best and excellence.... I'll try to conquer those soon :)