I’ve been struck this morning by reflecting on how we measure failure.
In preparation for my first sermon in 9 months the passage of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 causes a change in thinking about success and failure. Failure isn’t not succeeding it’s not being faithful.
The best and most recent example of success and failure is the Olympics. For many competitors any result bar gold is a failure. We saw in the coverage, swimmers, gymnasts, and athletes, who came second or third weren’t looking overly happy up there on the podium. Yet, for other competitors simply standing anywhere on the dias was a massive achievement. Even competing in the games was an achievement (Think: competitors from third-world countries or Eddie the Eel from a few years back).
Yet, for Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians success wasn’t measured on the number of converts or how many he preached to or what connections he had with authorities. Paul’s success came in being faithful to God and the mission that He had called him to.
In evaluating whether he was a failure the passage gives us the impression that if he was to seek glory for himself, be greedy, or try to trick people into believing in Jesus then he would’ve been a failure. Not only would this mean his attitude and motivation for the mission would be skewed away from God’s priorities, it would also mean he failed in his task. Yet, in the face of opposition and persecution he remained faithful to the mission, faithful to God, and faithful to the gospel.
It seems that faithfulness isn’t failure, forgetting God is.