Failing While Succeeding

If there were Gallup polls in 870 BC, King Asa’s approval ratings would have been soaring.  He had defused a military crisis without firing a single arrow.  There were no battles, no casualties, and he even built two cities with the stones and timber taken from the fortress that his enemies had abandoned.  By any definition, his foreign policy was a smashing success.  Songs were probably being written about him.

Maybe that’s why he was so furious when the prophet Hanani confronted him with his failure.  A highly positive prophetic visit over 30 years earlier had been the high point of his early success as King of Judah.  But this time, Asa discovered that God didn’t care about public opinion, and wasn’t impressed by his apparent victory.  No, God told Asa that he had a heart problem: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.  You have done foolishly in this, and from now on you will have wars” (2 Chron. 16:9).

Asa had impressed his people, but not his God.  He had failed while succeeding.  That troubles me, because I can relate to King Asa.  In fact, I could have more in common with him than I care to admit.

Like Asa, I think I started well.  I went to Bible college and then to seminary as I worked part-time in my home church.  I became a youth pastor, and married my best friend.  I planted churches in two different countries, and we raised two wonderful girls.  There were no prophetic words of affirmation, but it was a good start.

Like Asa, my life 30 years later could be considered successful.  I’m part of the pastoral team in a large suburban church that has significant gospel impact locally and internationally.  I travel the world every year to visit missionaries that we have sent out, and will be preaching this weekend to over 2000 people.

But God isn’t interested in popularity polls, and is not necessarily impressed by my busy schedule.  He has a different standard for success, an internal one: “…the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Asa reminds me that I can fail while succeeding.  He reminds me that none of this will be worthwhile if I allow my heart to grow cold, or hard, or distant, or phony. That scares me.  And what scares me most is that there are times where it doesn’t seem to scare me enough.

While on sabbatical almost two years ago, I made a fresh commitment to care for my heart.  I was determined that my time alone with God would be the driving force of my life, around which all else would revolve.

That determination has predictably been put to the test, and my consistency has ebbed and flowed.  More than I want to admit, I think I have been falling short lately.  I’ve allowed busy-ness to rule, with frantic activity taking the place of restful confidence (that might explain why I haven’t posted in almost a month).  IMG_1677I give mental assent to this truth from Isaiah, but too often fail to live it out: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

I commit today to the renewal of an intentional focus on my heart.  With this blog post, I make a fresh commitment to the development of the kind of heart that makes my God smile.  I yearn for a quiet heart, a restful heart, a heart that seeks Him and is not satisfied until it finds Him.  With His help, I’m confident I’ll get there.

Your prayers are welcome, and appreciated.  And feel free to join me.

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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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9 Responses to Failing While Succeeding

  1. debra petrella says:

    I will be praying for you a restful heart. this speaks volumes to me Mike for a renewed heart. I was talking to a couple of my clients yesterday about YOU….the reason, among the many things I love about you is your heart for the unsaved. The way you make relations with people of different faiths. I admire the peaceable spirit in you, the love for your fellow man. now that being said I know God isn’t concerned about the opinions of man but I just wanted you to know how special you are to so many.

  2. Holly Rogers says:

    It is so amazing how the Lord speaks to us. I was listening to a sermon this morning on my way to work about guarding our hearts. Phil. 4:4-7 was part of the message. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” If we are rejoicing in the Lord, if we are trusing Him – not anxious about anything, praying (spending time with our Lord) God’s peace guards our hearts. I’m still trying to ascertain what all that means. And then I read your blog and the spiritual wheels are definitely in motion. Thanks for sharing. This journey is a daily adventure, isn’t it?

  3. Lindakilker@aol.com says:

    I think there comes a point at which we have exceeded our potential to function in the sweet spot of life. When that happens it steals the joy, confidence and comfort in knowing Christ. Why is it that when push comes to shove the busy-ness of life, with it’s demands, pressures, and the inevitable expectations of others that we allow ourselves to let go of the sweet refreshment that God offers and frankly expects we should delight in? Why is it OK to say no to God and OK to bow to ministry and job related demands? Perhaps, rather than pull up our spiritual bootstraps and determine to shoe horn more quality time with our Father we should simply say no to others and their agendas for our life. Perhaps letting God set the rhythm and pace for our activity is more God honoring than just adding Him to our myriad of nervous activity. Just thinkin…I sure haven’t worked it all out. Thanks Mike. Praying for you. Would you do the same for me? Steve

  4. Sargon Davoodi says:

    Thank you pastor Mike for this post. As I was reading your post I could not help but realizing my own opportunities in this area. It is amazing that most effective lessens we learn are not from commentaries or academic lectures but from the testimony of those who have walked with God. Even if it is called a hike!
    I have always believe that “when our hearts gets in line with God’s heart, things will start happening”
    I am joining you in this committment and will be counting on you helping me in this journey.

    Blessings,
    Sargon

  5. Penny Burch says:

    Thank you Mike

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