SUCCESS IN THE BATTLE
The gauge for measuring success in most areas of life is often set by the dictates of popular thought. Society in general, or a certain segment of society as the case may be, develops its own standards by which it measures how successful a person is in various areas. For example, a businessman is often considered to be successful only when his business gives evidence of financial prosperity and he himself manifests the same. The growing business, along with the ability of the man to ‘move up in the world,’ are looked upon as signs of success. The accouterments of personal gain are established as the marks of success, and once possessed the man is spoken of as being a successful businessman. Because of this, issues such as honest business dealings, dedicated work, customer relations, job creation, and the like are often not thought of as marks of success themselves, but only as a means of becoming successful. The attainment of personal advancement and material gain is what people associate with succeeding in life. In similar manner, success in education is often measured by the degrees one is able to accumulate, along with the recognition and admiration they bring. Posting them after one’s name is like wearing a badge of success, and the expectation is that people will acknowledge them as such. Within their own circles, such gauges of success do Christians little harm. However, when Christians allow themselves to be influenced by them and they become criterions for evaluation in the place of what God says He values and esteems, then they become very detrimental.
It should be no surprise to us that God’s standards of success almost always stand in direct opposition to that set by popular thought. What God values and esteems and what men value and esteem are usually at odds one with the other. The Lord pointed this out to the Pharisees in His earthly ministry.
“And he said to them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15)
“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
In like manner Paul rebuked the Corinthians for having their thinking conformed to the world’s norms and standards.
“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.” (I Corinthians 3:18-20)
Often it is easy for us to fall into the trap of judging by the erroneous standards of popular thought and not by what God values and esteems. One such area in which this often happens is that of our privileged warfare. We often allow what others think to determine whether we are waging a successful battle or not. However, this is one area in particular in which it is disastrous to use the wrong gauge for measuring success, for doing so plays right into the hands of the Satanic policy of evil against us.
As Paul teaches us in I Timothy 1:18-19 and 6:12, we are privileged by God to be engaged in ‘fighting the good fight of faith’ and ‘warring the good warfare’ in connection with the “mystery of Christ” — i.e. the truth of God for and about this present dispensation of His grace.
“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;
Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:” (I Timothy 1:18-19)
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (I Timothy 6:12)
War has been declared by Satan and his co-horts against the “preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery,” and the major objective is to have “the revelation of the mystery” get lost in a mind-blinding-storm of conflicting and confusing contrary doctrines. (Eph. 4:14) In so doing, Satan’s policy of evil against the body of Christ works to keep Christians as children “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” and so keep them from making an impact to God’s glory in the heavenly places, which can only be made by fellowshipping around and proclaiming the “manifold wisdom of God” revealed in the “mystery of Christ.” (Eph. 3:8-12) In view of this declared war, God has privileged us to function as soldiers and to “war a good warfare” by standing for the “revelation of the mystery” and for “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
As we engage in this war, though, there is a false gauge that Satan’s policy of evil wants us to use when it comes to measuring success in the battles. If we use it, it will aid him greatly in fostering discouragement in us, and it can even bring us to the point of voluntarily resigning from the war. This false gauge is simply the issue of measuring success by the standards of popular thought, and not by what God says. For example, the prevailing opinion among Christians is that numeric growth is the sign of God’s blessing upon a church. If a church is large and growing numerically, God is blessing it. If it is small or not growing, then the conclusion is that God is not blessing it. Along with this, numerous followers is often taken as the sign of a minister who is being greatly used by God. And Christians who are very diplomatic and well liked for their refusal to be contentious when it comes to Bible doctrines are usually thought of as highly spiritual and loving. Ideas such as these are common among Christians and they lead many to make numerous faulty evaluations. Though we should easily recognize the error in these ideas, they can often influence us adversely when it comes to functioning as a “good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
None of these commonly held ideas are marks of success to God. But, most importantly, none of these things are mentioned as things that He values and esteems when it comes to ‘warring a good warfare.’ Instead, God measures success with an entirely different gauge. He measures it by the gauge of faithfulness to His cause and faithfulness to what He says is at stake in the war. Therefore, we find that what God is well pleased with is the issue of us as soldiers standing for the truth regardless of the opposition, and regardless of any positive impact we see it making. Notice this in Ephesians 6.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God, THAT YE MAY BE ABLE TO STAND AGAINST THE WILES OF THE DEVIL.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, THAT YE MAY BE ABLE TO WITHSTAND IN THE EVIL DAY, and having done all, TO STAND.
STAND THEREFORE,…” (Ephesians 6:10-14a)
As far as God is concerned, success in the battle amounts to STANDING. And that is simply the issue of standing for the truth in the face of any contrary doctrines, and doing it whether we think it is worth it or not, or whether it will do any good, or whatever. Just STANDING is the issue with God, and leaving the outcome of the stand to Him. Therefore, we successfully “war a good warfare” in God’s eyes by just standing for the truth in the face of the adversary’s tactics, whether or not there is any positive response to our stand. “Stand therefore,” is God’s charge to us. This is what He values and esteems. This is what He has equipped us to do with the armour He has provided. And “standing” is well pleasing to Him even when we are the only ones doing it. Notice this in the charge Paul gave to Timothy.
“FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, WHO BEFORE PONTIUS PILATE WITNESSED A GOOD CONFESSION;
That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:” (I Timothy 6:12-14)
Paul’s charge to Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” cites the example of the Lord’s own “good confession” when He stood before Pontius Pilate. Paul brings this up to impress Timothy’s mind with something about the nature of Christ’s stand at that time. When our Lord stood before Pontius Pilate and “witnessed a good confession,” He did so in the face of extremely intimidating circumstances, including the vile abuse of His person and the threat of death. Yet, He stood for the truth and “witnessed a good confession.” But that is not all. The Lord also stood all alone at that time. He stood for the truth all by Himself, having been forsaken even by His closest disciples. For this reason in particular Paul cites this to Timothy and gives him this charge in the sight of Christ Jesus, who knows all about what it is like to be standing alone for the truth. Timothy, therefore, needed to be encouraged by this and not discouraged if he finds himself all alone. Though popular thought would tend to make him think otherwise, Timothy needed to understand and appreciate that giving witness to “a good confession” as he fought “the good fight of faith” could be accomplished, and often would be accomplished, by standing for the truth all by himself. We, too, need to make sure that we understand and appreciate the same thing. Popular thought says otherwise, and the policy of evil against us longs for us to employ the erroneous gauges for measuring success established by human viewpoint. But to do so only breeds discouragement, especially when we find ourselves standing alone, or making no apparent triumphs for the truth.
Once again, faithfulness to God’s cause in the war and to what He says is at stake in the battles is the gauge that He uses for measuring success. Paul points this out in a passage in which he defends himself against the erroneous judgments of popular thought. The Corinthian saints, unfortunately, operated upon the false gauge of human opinion and judged after appearance, even when it came to the apostle Paul. But Paul knew the true gauge for measuring success that God used, and it wasn’t the issue of what pleased men. Notice what he says to them about this, and, therefore, what our own attitude ought to be to the criticisms of human viewpoint.
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
MOREOVER IT IS REQUIRED IN STEWARDS, THAT A MAN BE FOUND FAITHFUL.
BUT WITH ME IT IS A VERY SMALL THING THAT I SHOULD BE JUDGED OF YOU, OR OF MAN’S JUDGMENT: yea, I judge not mine own self.
For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.” (I Corinthians 4:1-4)
This is God’s gauge by which success in the battle for the truth is measured. He has one requirement — faithfulness. Faithfulness to His cause and to what He says is at stake in the battle. Paul knew this and operated upon it. “Man’s judgment” meant nothing to him. And this is how it ought to be with us. Faithfulness to standing for the truth regardless ought to be the big thing to us and it ought to be “a very small thing” to us when we are judged or measured by any other gauge. — K. R. Blades