The Deceitfulness of Success
Success can be toxic! It makes a person think that success is the norm and should follow his every step. Jonah had known success back in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, King in Israel. This was not the first Jeroboam who took the throne in the dividing of the kingdom, but a second Jeroboam about 140 years later.
Scripture says that “he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat …” (2 Kings 14:24). Yet, despite his evil, God mercifully intervened during his reign and marked it by an expansion of territory. This blessing had been prophesied by Jonah. No doubt no end of skeptics would have questioned Jonah’s prophecy. “Would God actually bless a wicked king with military victories and an increase in the kingdom?” “How could God use a man like Jeroboam to defeat other nations?” Yet Jonah prophesied by the Word of the Lord that it would happen; and it did happen. Jonah was right!
Jonah was a success; but he was more than a success. Here was a true patriot. He was not like the other prophets who were always pointing out the failures and sins of the nation. He was for Israel, and not against her.
Jonah rode the wave of success and was at its crest when the word came to arise and go to Nineveh. At first glance, it might appear that Jonah would have been thrilled to go and tell a Gentile nation that God was going to destroy it. How patriotic he would be. But Jonah knew that God must have reserved the possibility of forgiveness and grace for them, or he would not have been sent to announce the pending judgment. Jonah did not like the possibility of a mission which did not guarantee success.
The Delusion of Success
Does success equate with divine blessing? Does a lack of success mean divine disapproval? Our society, and even our religious institutions, have equated bigness, financial profit, and instant results with success. Thus when results are not seen, methods are questioned and new approaches, many times unscriptural, are suggested. Famine conditions should make us examine both our hearts and our methods. If the methods are Scriptural, and our motives are free of intentional self-seeking, then we must leave results with the Lord. We must never be content with barrenness, but we must never jettison the Scriptural for the sake of results. God’s work will never suffer because we are doing it in a Scriptural manner.
Staying by a small assembly in days of difficulty is not easy. Teaching a Sunday school class of children who do not respond is stressful. Supporting a four week series of gospel meetings when no fruit is seen can be painful. Whenever the Word of God is preached, however, God is always working even though it may not be visible and apparent.
Periods of prosperity and blessing are frequently followed by times of dearth and difficulty. Were we always prosperous, we might think that we had brought the blessing. Perhaps God allows times when the blessing is withheld to remind us of our dependence upon Him for blessing.