Who Keeps Score on Your Success?

by Andy Wood on April 8, 2009

in Esteem, Five LV Laws, Following Your Passion, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, LV Stories, Pleasers, Principle of Legacy

generations-3“Something’s wrong with your work.” The conversation eventually landed there.

A member of the denomination’s hierarchy delivered the critical review to a faithful old pastor during a prescribed periodic evaluation.

“Only one convert has been added to your church this year, and he is only a boy,” the boss said.

Later that same day, the pastor languished alone in his study, praying with a heavy heart, when someone walked up behind him. Turning around, he saw the boy – his only convert that year.

“Pastor,” he asked, “do you think I could become a preacher or a missionary?”

That boy was Robert Moffatt – the missionary who later opened Africa to the gospel.  Years later, Robert addressed a group in London, where a young doctor heard him say, “I have seen in the morning sun the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been.”  That young doctor, deeply moved by Moffatt’s message, himself sailed for Africa in 1840, where he labored for more than thirty years.  His name:  David Livingstone.

Back to that pastor…

Was he a success?

Was he significant?

I guess it all depends on whether you’re adding or multiplying.  On a surface level, at least in that particular year, he had precious little to advertise statistically.  Fortunately, God keeps a different scorebook.

In Yorkshire, England, during the early 1800s, a family named Taylor gave birth to two sons.  The older one set out to make a name for himself by entering Parliament and gaining public prestige.  The younger son chose to give his life to Christ.  He later recalled,

“Well do I remember, as in unreserved consecration I put myself, my life, my friends, my all, upon the altar.  I felt I was in the presence of God, entering into covenant with the Almighty.”

With that commitment, Hudson Taylor turned his face toward China and obscurity.  As a result, people remember and honor him on every continent as a faithful missionary and the founder of the China Inland Mission.  The other son left no legacy – no lasting monument.  People eventually came to refer to him as “the brother of Hudson Taylor.”

Never has the world seen a generation (mine) more intoxicated with success.  Nothing wrong with the desire, in and of itself.  I don’t know of anybody who draws near to the Throne every morning by praying, “Lord, please make me a failure today.”

The problem comes when Christians begin using faulty standards to measure their success and sow the seeds of their own discouragement and worthlessness.

In his book, A Call to Excellence, Gary Inrig says:

“Excellence is not achieved by spectacular outbursts of energy or by grand efforts.  It is in the daily grind of obedience and routine faithfulness to divine responsibilities that excellence is acquired.”

Sorry, Gary, but that version of excellence doesn’t sell books, get you on Larry King Live, or even make the Saturday church page in your local paper.  It doesn’t get you or me invited to the platform to tell the eager conference goers how we did it.  Show me the flash!  Sell me the sizzle.  Even the saints need sexy sometimes!


Get this:  You may not be the next darling of the press or the name-droppers club.  You may not receive lots of shiny awards or public attention.  (With the kind of attention some people get these days, that may be a blessing!)

But ultimately none of that matters.  Conventional wisdom and public opinion have never been the measure of real, lasting success, and they never will.

Behind the headlines and credits of the crowd, week in and week out countless people make a difference for the long haul.  They endure long days of service with little encouragement and no worldly attainment.  And that’s nothing new.  In churches and schools, homes and hospitals, retirement homes and orphanages, men and women who love Christ and love people have devotedly carried heavy burdens for years.

Accuse one of them of embezzling money, molesting a child, or lying, and you’ll hear about it everywhere!  Otherwise, their stories of sacrifice and service go virtually ignored.

But they capture God’s attention!  Many unsung heroes will leave their pilgrimage with the impression of being hardly noticed, much less effective.  Yet their apparent failure to receive recognition and rewards will entitle them to another kind of renown by the Lord Jesus himself.

When John Wesley died, all he left were two silver spoons, his glasses, preaching bands, cloak, prayer book and the usual odds and ends common to an elderly person.  But fortunately, his writing had also been preserved.  Today his journals, letters, essays, sermons, and tracts are available for all subsequent generations.  More than that, Wesley left the legacy of a life lived faithfully in service to his God.

My responsibility and yours is to leave a heritage of faithfulness.  God will keep score and take care of the results, – if we’ll only trust Him with them.  Can you do that?  If so, then a ripe harvest awaits you, even if it seems obscure and unimportant to the world.  Leave a legacy!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mattie April 8, 2009 at 7:37 am

Thanks for this one, Andy. We don’t realize the seed we are sowing, or the ground we are watering will produce results, good or bad. We’re drawn to the sensational, when the real world is in the mundane. But the mundane, the seemingly pointless and hopeless toil often yields the greatest results.

Matties last blog post..Signs of the Times

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