What is success to you? Think about it for a few minutes and write it down. At the end of your life, as you lay on your death bed, what would cause you to feel that your life was a success? Some people do not worry about success and live their life with no direction, no compass. Others have their life goals planned out in great detail and have definite measures of success in their life. Many struggle with depression, anxiety and a sense of lose because they failed in their goals.
Imagine, facing death knowing that something you had worked so hard on and that had met with great success, was suddenly destroyed. Maybe in other circumstances you would have rushed in and rescued the situation but your time is up. There is no more working. What is done is done. It is lost. How would you feel? A life wasted? This was the situation apostle Paul was in.
From the beginning Paul had wanted to get into Asia Minor but the Spirit had blocked him. When the time was right he was allowed in and when he was things happened. Paul spent years in this region, based in Ephesus. He had a great team who would go and preach in every corner of that region. In Acts we are told that there was not a person who did not hear about Jesus. It was a busy time but also very fruitful.
Paul was now in Rome, under house arrest, going through a trial before the world's most powerful man. He could receive visitors and send people with letters but he could not leave. It is while he was there, during his last days that he wrote this letter to Timothy and he states this:
You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy 1:15)
Could you imagine how that must have felt.? He had invested some much time and energy, made so many friends, considered them family, and here he was abandoned when he needed the most support. But Paul was not like this and neither should we by this. Paul did not find his worth in what he did. He did not consider it a success to have the biggest ministry. Paul did not require a following of people to give him a sense of well being. There was only one thing that Paul knew God measured as success, faithfulness.
Yes, it must have hurt, but this abandonment was not devastating to Paul because his worth was found elsewhere. Paul knew he had done everything the Lord had asked. He faced trials and persecutions. He faced some terrible circumstances, but Paul always pressed on, determined to serve in great joy. Some of his last words penned reveal Paul's motivation:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
May these words convict us of a need for an attitude change. Is Jesus really our everything? Is obedience and faithfulness to him our motivation in what we do? How are we measuring a successful life? Even if everything we do comes to nothing, is it enough that we were faithful to the end? Is saying those three things enough to to cause our heart to sing: I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Will that be success to you?