When Success Becomes a Catastrophe

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the February 6, 2017 article by the same name on Scott Sauls’ blog. Click here to read the full essay.

By all appearances, it feels like I am in a very sweet season right now. Marriage is a source of joy. Our daughters are the kinds of girls who make a mom and dad both proud and thankful. Ministry is a blast these days — I get to serve alongside some truly exceptional people. I love Scripture and Jesus and the church more than I ever have which makes everything else in life seem sweeter, because all of life centers around these things. We are well provided for.

At least for now, in a world of so much unrest and injustice and suffering, my life feels to be an embarrassment of riches.

As I think about all of these things, I am struck by Jesus’ admonishment to his disciples precisely when their perceived “success” and “influence” was at its peak:

Luke 10:17-20 (ESV)

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them…“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

Did you catch that?

When Jesus’ disciples came to him with news of their extraordinary strength and influence and success, his response was to say, “Do not rejoice…”

When God gives us success and loved ones and happy circumstances for a time, when he chooses to put the wind at our backs—by all means, we should enjoy the experience. But we mustn’t hang our hats on it…because earthly success, in all its forms, comes to us as a gift from God and is also fleeting. Our Lord is telling us not to allow appetizers to replace the feast, or a single apple to replace the orchard, or a road sign to replace the destination to which it points.