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I'm not getting success from something God was calling me to do. What can I do?
Thank you for your question - it is clearly something which is very personal to you, and we are glad for the opportunity to help you out by pointing you to the truth of what God thinks about what you are experiencing. Obviously it’s hard to know exactly what is going on specifically in your situation without knowing all the details, but let’s go through a few options for what might be the answer you are looking for. It could be a combination of these, or none of them. I ask you to prayerfully consider:
Option 1. You have been wrong about what God is calling you to do.
Though this may seem like a harsh thing to say but we do need to consider this possibility. I don’t know what it is that led you to believe that God was calling you to what it is you’re doing, but whatever it was we must confess that all of us sometimes can mishear something we believe God is saying to us. Hearing the voice of God is not an exact science, and we can all make mistakes, so it is worth thinking and praying through this in the light of what your lack of success. What I would certainly not suggest is that you just give up what you are doing, especially if you are pretty certain you heard from God - a lack of success does not necessarily mean that God has not called you to something as we will see.
What might be wise to do is to ask God to re-affirm that calling on your life in some way to give you added confidence that you are in the right place with Him.
Option 2. There could be something in your life which is inhibiting the blessing of God.
Again this may seem harsh, but must be considered. There is no certain link between our disobedience in a certain area of our lives and the lack of God’s blessing on what we do - in fact all of God’s blessings are gifts of grace, undeserved, and unearned by anything we can do. However this does not remove the possibility that out of some kind of discipline (Hebrews 12:7-11) God is removing His blessing and success from what you are trying to do. Once again, there should be no knee-jerk radical changes in regards to this, but I would encourage you to allow God to search your heart, and deal with whatever may come out, as David does in Psalm 139:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Option 3. It could just be that God does not wish for you the kind of success that you are looking for.
To be a Christian means to look at the world from a completely different direction than those who are around us in almost every area of life, and this is no different when it comes to the area of success. The world around us has a very particular view of success, and this would include earning money, obtaining power, becoming popular, or simply becoming the best at what we do. However the Biblical view of success is quite different. Consider these simple words that will be said to millions of Christians at the end of time:
"Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master." (Matthew 25:23)
What is God’s measure of success? From a parable that Jesus told (Matthew 25:14-30) it is faithfulness. These servants hadn’t done anything remarkable, or superhuman, they’d just used their master's money wisely and earned a little more with it. The master was angry with the servant who simply buried the money and did nothing with it which warns us of laziness and inactivity, but the story does show us that God isn’t so much concerned with the worldly view of success, but more with our faithfulness with what He gives to us to look after. Consider these examples of Biblical characters who didn’t really seem to be ‘successful’ in what they did:
- Noah was called to build an ark to save people from the coming flood, and was also a ‘preacher of righteousness’ (2 Peter 2:5) for what must have been a fairly long time, yet only managed to persuade his own family (7 other people) to get on the ark with him and be saved from the flood.
- Isaiah was a prophet who God told at the beginning of his ministry that no-one would listen to him (Isaiah 6:8-13).
- In the New Testament Stephen was appointed one of the first deacons in the church (Acts 6) but then not long after became the first early church martyr when he was stoned by the Jews for his testimony about Jesus.
Thousands of believers have met similar situations in their lives. We cannot say that they were 'successful' in human terms, but they were certainly faithful.
Do you think that God was looking down angrily on these 3 men and others who didn’t appear to be successful? Of course not - they all carried out the work and mission that God gave to them, and because of that either have, or will hear those words ‘well done good and faithful servant’.
Let’s bring this into a modern example of a church. Does God love it when churches grow and more and more people come to trust in Him and are saved from hell - yes, of course He does, that’s the very reason Jesus died. But does God also love a faithful pastor, and a faithful congregation of a small church, who are faithful in witness and in ministry for years and years, and yet see very little fruit? Of course He is. All of us need to be constantly checking our own hearts and lives to make sure we are where God wants us to be, and living as God wants us to live, but as we do that we must also confess that God’s ways are far above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and whatever we think ought to happen in our lives and ministries, may not be what God has planned for them.
Lastly let’s just take a moment to remember why we do what we do for God. You see the foundation of the world’s view of success is that it is all centred around them - their success is built to make them look good to those around them. At the heart of all worldly success is pride, and a desire to be recognised as successful by others. It’s so easy for us as Christians to be sucked into that same place of wanting our lives to be a success so we can show them off to others, or even to God. What we must remember is that everything good we have been given, and everything good we will ever be given is all a gift of the grace of God to us. Our salvation is not based on anything good we can do (Ephesians 2:8), and our successes are ultimately not based on anything from within ourselves. Jesus said these words in John 15:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
We should guard our hearts from falling into the trap of doing what we do for the purpose of gaining favour with either God or man by reminding ourselves of these truths regularly.
I am nothing, but Jesus is everything and therefore I can be content with whatever His plan for me might be. Whether that seems successful to those around me or not doesn’t matter, because I know that God is working out His perfect will in my life and it’s ultimately for His glory and not my own.
I do hope this general answer to your question goes some way to helping you find peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: www.lookingforGod.com
In closing, I want to encourage you to get more involved with your local church. It would be good to speak to a Christian leader or another trusted church individual regarding your question. I know they would be delighted to further answer you as well as offer prayer and support as you continue your spiritual journey:
Please use our Interactive Answer Matrix and feel free to ask another question. Our helpful staff are praying for you and waiting to try and answer to you from the Bible, and will be delighted to tell you more about Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Matthew 25:14-30
- Ephesians 2:1-10
- Hebrews 11
*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline
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