THE DANGER OF “SUCCESS” Revelation 3:1-6 NIV
To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
This must have been a frightening message to receive! This church had a reputation for being “an alive church”. They must have looked pretty good. They probably thought they were doing well. Yet, Jesus said, they were actually a “dead church”.
This highlights a frightening possibility: we can have a church that seems to be doing well, but is actually doing badly. And because we think we’re doing well, we continue to operate what is actually a lifeless church.
How do we get so misled?
The key word is “reputation” – this is what people think and say of us. When our reputation is important to us, we can fall into the trap of listening to people more than Jesus!
There is a very real danger of doing things that gain the approval of people – at the expense of seeking Jesus’ approval and direction. We enjoy recognition and popularity, and we want to be relevant to our community, but we must be careful not to “take their lead” as opposed to taking Jesus’ lead.
Another frightening rebuke is: “I have found your deeds unfinished” It is possible to be lulled into complacency by our “success” – that can result in us not being ready for Jesus’ return or our assigned work on earth being unfinished when Jesus returns.
Complacency lulls us into passivity. We feel that “we have arrived“, that “our hard work is done“. This is one of the dangers of success; that early successes can lull us into a place where we actually settle into a state that is far short of our potential and our mandate from God.
Jesus remedy is to revisit the basics – “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.” I believe we need to regularly stop and do this:
– go back to the Gospel, and Jesus’ words and ways
– take hold of these things and change our thinking and ways accordingly – get on with the mission that Jesus has given us!
Its great to have a good reputation! But let’s not let that seduce us and side-track us! And let’s not let that lull us into complacency!