Summary: How should Christians measure success. Sermon delivered as a part of Senior Day Graduation
A Measure of Success
(Preached at FUMC, McMinnville, Tn by Dr. Steve Angus on 4/30/2006)
Hasn’t this been an exciting morning? It is not every day that you have the opportunity to recognized a class of graduating Seniors. Once again on behalf of your church family, I commend you for your accomplishments. You and your families have reason to be proud.
As the commercial of television so vividly describes, from this moment on, “Life will be coming at you fast.” Some of you have plans to go immediately to work; other own to college; some perhaps are still deciding.
With this in mind, I want us to consider an important question. This is not just a question for the graduate. It is a question for all of us.
The question is this, “How are we to measure success?”
There are many who say that the measure of success has to do with money. Like the board game, Monopoly, it is a matter of how much you have been able to accumulate by the end of the game.
In a commencement speech given on May 15, 2000 at Emerson College in Boston, multi-billionaire Ted Turner talks about success:
It’s all relative . . . I sit down and say, I’ve only got $10 billion, but Bill Gates has $100 billion; I feel like I’m a complete failure in life. So billions won’t make you happy if you’re worried about someone who’s got more than you. . . . So don’t let yourself get caught in a trap of measuring your success by how much material success you have. (Ted Turner, People, June 12, 2000, p. 62)
Is success for a Christian to be measured by the size of the company? The size of the collection? To be recognized by the masses? If these are the criteria we use to measure success then we would have to say, that the passage we read from Mark describes a successful day in the ministry of Jesus.
We are told that people came from everywhere. It began with a large group of locals but soon word spread and people came from the regions to the north and south, some came from the large cities like Jerusalem, while others crossed the Jordan River. They arrived in droves for the sole purpose of being near Jesus.
The needs of the people varied. Some had deformed limbs. Others could not see or speak or hear. There were so many trying to get to Jesus that the press of the crowd nearly crushed him. Finally, a boat was brought near the shore where Jesus could stand in it and minister to the people.
Imagine this, so powerful was the work of Jesus that those who were possessed by evil spirits fell down before him. As the demons came out of them they would cry out, “You are the Son of God!"
What a way to end the day! Demons bearing witness to who Jesus was. One could not ask for greater press! Can’t you see the see the headlines in the Jerusalem Chronicle: Devils Proclaim Local Preacher, Son of God!? Surely this was the high point of Jesus’ ministry. Success had arrived! Sweet, sweet success!
But suddenly, Jesus does a most unusual thing. He tells the demons to keep quiet. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus didn’t just tell them to be quiet, "He sternly ordered them not to make him known." Why? Wouldn’t this have made Jesus’ work easier? Can you imagine the response of the people if demons were flying all over the place pointing to Jesus and saying, "Hey, here is the Son of God?" Success would be assured! Why command them to keep quiet?
We cannot answer this question apart from the following episode.
We are told that Jesus went up into the hills and called to him those he wanted and they came to him. From this small group he chose twelve men to be his disciples. In verses 14-15 he tells them that as his followers they had three basic responsibilities. Listen to what he said:
And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons.
The first responsibility in being a disciple of Jesus was to simply "be with him". From this moment forward the disciple spent just about every waking moment with Jesus. They were with him when he reached out his hand and performed his acts of mercy. They were there when he preached his powerful sermons and told those simple, yet unforgettable parables. By being with Jesus they learned and came to know that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Because they spent time with Jesus their lives were changed forever.