How do you measure success or failure? Is it based upon your obvious victories and accomplishments? What about some things that aren’t so readily apparent?
Paul made some observations about this to the Thessalonian church.
You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.
1 Thessalonians 2:1
Paul makes this simple, clear statement of fact. But what was he talking about? Surely the great Apostle Paul didn’t have any major setbacks in his ministry.
Fortunately for us, the people recorded in the Bible had the same types of challenges that we face. That way we can see how they trusted God to bring them through victoriously. It turns out that Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was a major temptation for him to feel like a failure.
In order to see the whole story, you can read Acts 17:1-10. But I’ll review the basic story line here.
Paul was on one of his missionary trips. He had just left Philippi, where he was temporarily thrown in jail. He arrives at Thessalonica, and is allowed to teach in the synagogue for three Sabbaths in a row.
Of course, he preaches Jesus Christ as Messiah. He talks about the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection.
As a result, some of the Jews and a large number of Gentiles trust in Jesus for their salvation. Because the number of Christians was increasing, the Jews started to become jealous. They wanted to shut down Paul’s ministry.
So, what these hateful people did was to round up some unsavory characters from the marketplace. The Jews then paid them to start trouble and cause a riot. They tried to find Paul and his team, but weren’t able to locate them.
Instead, they grabbed some of the new believers, and dragged them off to the magistrates. They then began to accuse them of criminal activity. The city was in an uproar.
Fearing for Paul’s life, the believers made him leave the city immediately. Because of this, Paul and Silas, his partner in ministry, were not able to fully establish this church in the usual way. They had to trust God for the church’s continued survival.
It wasn’t until months later that Paul sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians. Not only did they survive, they were flourishing as followers of Christ.
We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
1 Thessalonians 2:2
When it came to evangelizing the Thessalonians, Paul went from one trouble to the next. Yet in spite of it all, he could boldly declare that his visit was not a failure.
We need to learn that lesson. It would go a long way to giving us a better attitude.
Remember this – Just because things don’t go according to our plan, doesn’t mean it’s a failure. The fact is that we rarely ever see everything that God is doing behind the scenes. He sees the end from the beginning, we only see the surface.
Paul only knew that it was God’s plan to bring the Gospel to this region. He did his part, and then he had to trust the Lord for the results.
Many were saved. The church was established on a firm foundation. And – miracle of miracles – the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish it without all of Paul’s expertise.
Do what God has called you to do. Then leave the results in His hands. That’s the basis of true success.
Question: What is something you originally thought was a failure; but God turned it into a success?
© Nick Zaccardi 2017