How do you know if you are really following of Jesus? How do you know if you are in God's will? Or maybe we could put the question this way: How do we make the Christian faith legit?
It seems to me that many people, both inside and outside the church would respond with one word: "Success." Another way to put this would be to say that following Jesus brings us personal satisfaction. Just look at how we talk about following Jesus. It is said by some of the most prominent representatives of the church that following Jesus will give you the "best life." We lift up Christians who are successful in the public arena and applaud them because they have triumphed in their particular field. We turn winning in a particular profession into a way to legitimize Christ. When we think about churches that are really doing what God wants, we point to the mega churches assuming that the success of the multi-site movement is marked by God's blessings. As they say on ESPN when a football player makes a bad play, "Common Man!" Let's really think a little bit about this.
I've been reflecting on Isaiah 53 and Peter's reference to that chapter in 1 Peter 2:23, which reads: "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he
suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who
judges justly." After reflecting on this, can we say that the mark of the following Christ is "success." If we do, then maybe we need to tear Isaiah 53 out of the Bible. Paul called all of his successes "dung" and in 2 Cor 6, his ministry resume is a list that points out his weaknesses.
We are addicted to success in the church. We have allowed the idea of the American dream to interpret the "blessings" of the Bible. If we determine that success is the mark of a Christ follower, then we must conclude that all the martyrs who died for their faith were not actually blessed of God. Does this mean that I am against success, that I'm against growing churches, that I'm against financial increases? Of course not! But there are a ton of things that have been successful, i.e. triumphed, won, dominated, etc., that had nothing to do with God. So when a Christian dominates and wins, why should we automatically attribute that to God's hand of blessing? When we do, the implicit message to those who don't succeed, who don't win, who don't triumph, is that they are NOT blessed of God. Try telling that to the disciples of Mother Teresa.