Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Romans 12:1-3
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Psalm 33:11
A bigger house, a cooler car, a wider rotation of outfits, a larger collection of degrees and diplomas, expanding franchises and participation in more organizations…the bigger the better, the more the merrier, the larger the more lucrative. I have been so conditioned to believe, even if I don’t consciously agree, that size matters. It is the pattern of our world, right? For a long time, it meant having a consistently large number of people in my circle of friends, and being able to identify our defined relationships, which kept that circle secure. But then Terrell and I started feeling the mile wide, inch deep dilemma. You just can’t have meaningful relationships with people you only see on a 3-6 month rotation at best. And, I just can’t have deep, committed relationships with hundreds of people.
But this pattern of the world makes sense because numbers are tangible and measurable. If I have 100 people reading my blog every day, for example, that means it must be more worthwhile than if I just have one person reading it each day, right? If I fill my house with ten more kids, that would better validate my motherhood than just the two I already have, right?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
My treasure has been in the numbers so that my goal and the measure of my success is in the numbers. My heart then begins to work for the numbers rather than the person and work of Jesus. This means I begin to trust the testimony of the numbers more than the testimony of Jesus. I begin to trust the evidence of the numbers more than have faith in the things hoped for (His Kingdom coming) while evidence is left unseen. I become anxious over low numbers and comforted by high numbers, assuming that the numbers and not the depth of heart change is the measure of success. I want to hurry His Kingdom’s coming, and I feel like I can accomplish this if it isn’t about hearts but about numbers.
We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 2 Corinth. 5:12
I take such pride in what is seen rather than what is happening in my heart, or my children’s hearts, or the hearts of those God has put into my care as a minister of the Gospel. I am so focused on the outer appearance, on the “wow factor”, that I practically forget about the heart which is God’s focus. I guess it is because of all that conditioning I referenced – I want to be able to define my life’s impact, my ministry’s value, my measurable and attainable goals. And yet, I am slowly coming to find, the Holy Spirit’s work is far more ambiguous than that…and far more powerful. Elizabeth Turnage said it this way: “Of course there is the indescribable reality that the Holy Spirit will move in ways we cannot describe on paper!”
So what am I beginng to realize defines success? I would say heart change. And what can I do to bring about heart change? Well, that would be the work of the Holy Spirit, but He graciously involves me as I get to move deeper into the hearts of a few people at a time. Mostly, I get to get down and dirty with the hearts of my family who I see and live life with all the time. After that, my neighbors and friends who live life with me daily. Beyond that, I can’t really hope to get messy in the hearts of others or have others get messy in my heart at an occasional gathering or in a highly structured format because it happens more organically than that.
Ultimate success, then, is the Kingdom of Jesus coming into the hearts of His people and transforming them into His image. This doesn’t happen in an hour, in three months time or in ten years time. But it will happen because He has said so. My faith needs to grow in letting Him do the work, at His pace, in His way. He is not worried about numbers but committed to hearts. Oh that I may begin to be too!
Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32