“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”——-Judges 21:25
How do we as individuals evaluate if we are truly following the Lord?? How do churches and ministries know if what they are doing is in accordance with the Truth? How we answer these questions tells us what we really believe and what we think it means to follow Jesus.
For most, the default position is to see how we “measure up” by looking at other “believers”. We all have a tendency to want to compare ourselves to those we believe are “walking with the Lord”. We think that by comparing ourselves to others, we can get a good gauge if we have the right beliefs and how we are doing living out those beliefs. But what happens when we compare ourselves to those that may be believing and doing things wrong to begin with??
The same ends up happening on a church and ministry level as well. Churches and their leaders often look at what other churches and ministries are doing to see the success or lack of success it appears they are having. If there seems to be growth in terms of more people showing up to services, increase in giving, and needing to build bigger better facilities, then often times it is understood they don’t need to “reinvent the wheel”, but simply do what other churches and ministries are doing to have the same or even greater levels of success.
That is why we see very little variance anymore between individuals, churches, ministries, denominations, and the like today. Some may seemingly focus more on a particular element or theology that is important to them from preaching, music, small groups, life groups, prayer, spiritual gifts, humanitarian work, or many other things; but in reality there is very little that distinguishes one from another. Outside of a person’s own preference, most churches and ministries are basically the same.
Some might see this as “unity”, but we must be careful that just because a majority of people may happen to believe something to be right, doesn’t make it that way. And if we evaluate ourselves based upon what others are doing around us, we are destined to fall into Satan’s schemes. We must not allow ourselves to be conformed by the appearance of success, but on faithfulness to God and His Word.
Time and time again in Scripture, people were doing what they thought was right. Beginning with the temptation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, they bought into the lie that they could essentially become “like” God and choose for themselves what was right and wrong according to their own desires. Many countless others that follow them in Scripture also did what was right in their own eyes. All of us end up buying into this lie when we think we know what is best, but ultimately we go our own way and sin against God. It continues to perpetuate each time we think the best way to see how we are doing is to see if what we believe and do is right based those around us.
So how do we truly know if we as individuals, our churches, and ministries are believing and acting in accordance with the Lord?? Simply, the Bible itself.
Because it is so easy to want to compare ourselves with others, we must be on guard to let God and His Word be the measuring stick for our belief and practice. God has not called us to success from outward appearance, but from faithfulness within. This ends up driving both individuals as well as churches, ministries, and denominations crazy. Instead of using worldly business models to define success, it becomes much more difficult to define faithfulness when statics cannot reveal true faithfulness.
Throughout both the Old Testament and New Testament, we see many examples of men and women that were faithful, but it didn’t look successful to the world. Some were standing alone by themselves, while others were surrounded by a very small remnant of others seeking to remain faithful to the Lord. Some were told to speak a warning of God’s anger and coming destruction for unbelief, sin, and disobedience, while others sought to encourage people to stand firm in the faith despite temptations to compromise. What did they all have in common?? Faithfulness to God despite the outcome.
We could essentially believe and do everything according to Scripture, but not ever see someone put their faith in Jesus. We might not see a church grow numerically by much if at all. Or even more, we might not make an impact in the world that so many of us have been taught is what makes individual believers, churches, and ministries successful. So just because we may hear of those that are leading massive numbers of people apparently to Christ, churches on “mission” to “make a difference”, the new book or sermon series from that inspirational celebrity pastor, or that upcoming conference featuring the whose-who in the Christian world, doesn’t mean a thing. What matters is how each of us are faithful and grounded in God and His Word in our daily lives.
What we believe about God and what it means to follow Him is critical. Either we are walking in the Truth or we are not. This carries out to the individual as well as churches. Therefore, we must be careful that we don’t fall into the temptation to evaluate ourselves based upon what others believe and what may bring about the appearance of success to the world.
We are called to faithfulness, not success. So in all that we believe and do, let us strive to be growing in greater faithfulness and obedience to the Lord. Let’s make sure we don’t get caught up in compromising our beliefs in order to have an audience or to give people false assurance of salvation just so it looks outwardly successful. God knows the truth and each of us will be held accountable for our beliefs and actions that follow those beliefs. Let’s make sure we are walking in the Truth and are grounded in faithfulness despite what others may believe or are doing.