Summary: Faith is not based upon success or failure. Success and failure have one thing in common, they allow us to become closer to Jesus Christ.
I ran track in High School and my thing was running the sprints, 100, 200, hurdles, relays and such. In my Junior year the School hired a new track coach. At every practice this coach would give a short talk on strategy and tactics for our next track meet. At first, we were all bored to tears with these talks, but as the season progressed, we slowly realize how valuable his planning was.
A scout was sent to review the next team we would be facing. The scout would come back with various recommendations from what were the best lanes on the track to use, what size spikes we should wear on our shoes, to how long the guy who started each race paused before shooting the starting gun.
The best tactic our coach every came up with was in our sprint relays. In a relay, you hand a baton from runner to runner. Durning the handoff, the runner in front who receives the baton does not look back, so the running in back who is handing off the baton yells out something so the man in front knows to reach back to grab the baton. The rules were that you could say anything you wanted to when you were handing off the baton. Most teams would call out the name of the person in front of them, like, “Jack,” or “Randy” and then Randy would reach back and take the baton. Some teams would use the name of their school, “West High,” “Diamond High.” Our relay team used the name of our high school.
Well, it was the end of the season and our 400 relay team had reached the regional finals and we were up against teams that were very fast - we knew we stood no chance at all. Our coach was well aware of this, so he told us we had to use this new word, and we were to spend half of each practice handing off the baton yelling this new word, which we grudgingly did.
So when time came, we all went to our places and stood ready to run, the gun sounded and the runners were off. I was the last man on our team, the final leg of the race, so I watched with growing disappointment as our team fell father and father behind with each handoff.
Finally, it was my turn. Now even though we were dead last, all the runners were very close to each other, no team had pulled very far ahead of another team. I started running and my teammate Mike came up behind me and shouted our new word that the coach had insisted we use, Mike shouted, “STOP!” I took the baton and ran as fast as I could and hit the finish line seconds later…..all alone. All the other teams, had done exactly as my teammate Mike had shouted, they all stopped.
They stopped, but who told them to stop?
The NT tells us a total of six times that our Christian life is like a race (Acts 20:24; 1 Cor 9:24; Gal 2:2; Gal 5:7; 2 Tim 4:7; Heb 12:1). Our goal is to continue.... We read in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Are we called to success in our Christian walk? Actually, no.
In our story we see twice as much failure as success. Now, let’s set aside the thoughts of success and failure for a moment. The Apostle Paul. He is considered one of the great men of the New Testament. What makes Paul great? Is it the ratios of success over his failures?
Paul wasn’t great because of more success than failure in his Christian walk, Paul was great because he knew Jesus Christ well. What made Paul great was how closely he knew Jesus Christ.
For you and I, what will make us great in the kingdom of God. Success? No, Knowing Jesus Christ well.
We are called to neither success or failure, instead, we are called to obedience to the Holy Spirit. See, in our story today Paul and Barnabas experience great success with many believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ - is their success because of their own power, or is it by the power of Jesus Christ? In the same way Paul and Barnabas experience great failure when many reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ and expel them from the city - again, is their failure because of their own power, our is Jesus Christ in control of the situation?
We see this determination throughout the book of Acts. If there are great obstacles the believers keep on endure. If they achieve great success, they continue on. Success and failure, good circumstances and difficult circumstances these are not the things to focus on in our Christian walk - our focus should be getting to know Jesus Christ.