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Ends and Means

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Our culture is addicted to success. From parenting to painting to online image managing, we are constantly bombarded with a thousand and one means by which we are promised a success that has to this point eluded us. Churches and other religious organizations are often not far behind in their promises. If you will follow their plan, if you will buy their books, if you will join their congregation, you too will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Your marriage will be more successful, your life will be more pleasant and you will, in general, finally begin to live life in the promised land.
You don’t have to buy into all the vagaries of the so-called “prosperity gospel,” in order to fall prey to this mentality. All of us, no matter how conservative our theology or straight-laced our life style, are tempted to turn God into a means by which we can accomplish our goals rather than the goal, the end, of our existence—and you don’t have to pray for a Lamborghini to do that.
We know, if we are true believers, that the glory of God is to be the end of all that we do, yet, if we are not careful, we can convince ourselves that God will only really be glorified if we are successful at whatever we are trying to get Him to help us accomplish. What we constantly need to remember—and what we are just as constantly tempted to forget—is that we don’t have to be ‘successful’ in order for God to receive glory from our lives.
The theatre of God’s glory is far larger than how ‘successful’ we feel that we are at any given point. God’s glory shone most brightly in the life of Job, not when he was the richest man in the East, but when he was the most wretched man in the East and yet refused to curse God and die. It was when his business failed, his children died, and his marriage was on the rocks that Job brought the greatest glory to his Creator—even though Job had no way of knowing it at the time.
Though this truth may sound discouraging, it is in reality incredibly liberating. All Job was called to do was be faithful where he was at—and God used his faithfulness to give the lie to the Devil himself. In the last analysis, if our end is really the glory of God, we simply have no way of knowing whether or not our success in a particular area in which we wish to be successful will contribute to that end. If God is truly to be our end, rather than simply another means, our only success is staying faithful—whether or not that faithfulness leads to ‘results’ that make us successful in the eyes of others.