Cornelius Plantinga Jr. wrote, “We don’t want suffering; we want success… We don’t like lepers or losers very well; we prefer climbers and comers.”
To many successism is our culture’s religion. If you are successful you can’t be all bad. Most definitions involve achievements, acquisitions and acclamations. Success is the good life – it is coveted, copied and chased after – it breeds success. Yet by these measurements the prophet Jeremiah was not successful. He preached for forty years and nobody listened to him. He was poor, rejected and imprisoned. But measured by God, Jeremiah was a huge success; measured according to obedience and faithfulness.
Jeremiah was called by God to live outside the center of popularity and outside the comforts of life, but with excellence and humility. His call as a prophet was to help people and institutions to fulfill their holy vocations, to help connect the visible with the invisible, the already of God’s kingdom with the not yet. Jeremiah was successful in this call because he understood his history with God. God knew Jeremiah before He formed him in his mother’s womb and before he was born, God set him apart and gave him away to be God’s spokesman.
If you are like me, there are times when we feel like our lives teeter back and forth between being a failure and a fraud. But the truth is somewhere in between. We’re probably not as bad as our critics might think and we’re probably not as good as we lead people to believe. All the more reason for us to understand our history with God, to hear God say to us, “I knew you, formed you, set you apart and gave you away for what I am doing in this world. It will change our entire view of what it means to be successful.