I’ve been in ministry long enough to view success differently than when I started off in 1982 as a first- time pastor. When I attended pastor conferences and conventions, they featured the so-called successful pastors and leaders of the day. These were the ones who led the fastest growing and most dynamic churches. They had the numbers to prove God’s blessing on their ministry. Most attendees would not have considered themselves all that successful in comparison.
We have just come out of the most challenging and stressful year of our life. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted every area of our life including how we do ministry in the church. The evaluation of attendance, giving and baptisms were not the same in most churches in 2020. Most of us did not look at success the way we used to from our experience in 2020. Success took on a different form last year.
The prophet Isaiah was called by God in the midst of a time of great uncertainty, loss and fear. King Uzziah had died after leading the nation for 52 years. He led the nation to a place of strength and security. It was in the year of King Uzziah’s death that God called him.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah 6:1
Isaiah saw the Lord and was immediately convicted of his sin and the sin of his nation. He experienced God’s forgiveness and cleansing. Once God cleansed him of his sins, he then called Isaiah with this message:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8
God’s message following this call was a word of preparation for Isaiah. In essence, here is what to expect with this assignment to proclaim the word of the Lord to the nation of Judah. This is what life will be like for you.
He said, “Go and tell this people:
“ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.” Isaiah 6:9-10
In other words, Isaiah, you and God’s message from you will be rejected by the people who hear it. We have this incredible book in the Old Testament that testifies to the word of the Lord for His people then and now. Isaiah would not be described as a successful prophet in his lifetime based on the response of the people. When we read the book of Isaiah today, no other Old Testament prophet spoke of the coming Messiah as he did. Isaiah was faithful to God’s call to preach.
We need to be reminded that in the end, what matters is faithfulness to the call of God. We must never separate our view of success from faithfulness to His call. 2021 will be a successful year for all who are faithful to the call of God. Don’t give up if things don’t seem to be going very well in your life and ministry. God is the ultimate Judge as to who is truly successful. Success is faithfulness.