• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

the Trap

Today’s post comes from Chris in France.

This chapter speaks to my own story.  I’m older than most of you and I spent a long time climbing the greasy pole towards career success.  I had some temporary wins but eventually someone added extra grease to the pole and I was out.  The euphemism is Voluntary Early Retirement, but I was no volunteer.  Despite my best efforts, or because of them, I was a failure.  Painful as all this was at the time, it has led to great blessing for me.  You see, I wasn’t very useful to God while I was busy succeeding.  While Keller focuses on money, I found success to be the greater trap.

It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t seem to have a problem with worldly success.  When Jesus met the rich young ruler, he didn’t say that he was a bad person because he was rich and powerful.  Jesus didn’t condemn the virtuous accumulation of wealth or power or influence.  When Jesus met the guy, he loved him – because he understood the terrible trap this young man had fallen into.  The young man wanted to be good and was having some success in this quest, but sensed in himself that he was missing something critical.  Jesus, in his tough love, immediately makes a terrible offer to the young man that goes to the heart of his problem.  Could he put aside success and his potential for much more of it, and trust his life to Jesus instead of to himself?  Jesus was asking for trust not just in the life to come, but in this life – right now.

It’s incredibly hard on self to lose in the struggle for worldly success.  I found my own fall desperately difficult.  I saw myself (for an agonising moment or century) as the rest of my world must have seen me – a middle aged loser.  How much harder it would be for a young man, with so much ahead of him, to choose such a fate voluntarily.  What would everyone think of him?  What would he think of himself for giving away so much?  And so, he went away sad, rich and powerful but still trapped.

Many of us also live our lives inside the success trap.  We live as if we and not God were the source of our jobs, talents, opportunities and eventual success.  So we find it hard to imagine that all we have earned – social position, educational qualifications, possessions, work achievements – are not only temporary but possibly undeserved gifts.  We are beggars spiritually who must ask for help to be saved.  But our self-respect has trouble handling beggar status when it comes to our worldly successes.  We find it hard to rely on the One who has already given us everything.

Tough times seem be coming again in Europe and North America (and perhaps even in Australia).  The jobs, investments, property and arrangements many of us trust for security might be threatened – even lost.  Suddenly, we might not be successful.  It will be humiliating but it could also be ultimately liberating.

My question; How would you cope if you lost all the success you’d worked for?  What would reliance upon Christ look like at that moment?


Next instalment of the King’s Cross blog post will be August 27th, looking at Ch 12 “the Ransom”

2 Responses

  1. That final question of application applies to all of us. Thanks Chris.

    There is also a trap even more subtile than the worldly success of a corner office and/or becoming wealthy. It is the trap of of finding our identity and worth from success and/or fame in ministry and failing to recognize in humility the reality of II Cor. 3: 4-6. When the disciples returned from a ministry trip and were rejoicing in the fact that even the demons were subject to them the Lord rebuked then by staying that they should not rejoice in the fact of the delegated power they had over demons but just in the fact that their names were written in the book of life.

    • Good insight, Ed. I think, though, the examples given by you and Chris are both dangerous traps. We can fall into any of them at any point in our lives. However, as you underscored, it all comes back to how we see ourselves in Christ. Do we value more the ‘applause’ of others or of our Father?

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