Fear Success

King David had a string of successes and each one was preceded by carefully and faithfully inquiring of the Lord before he did anything. And then we come to Second Samuel chapter 25. Here we read of David’s intentions to build God a house. Not a bad idea, he meant well, but it appears that this time he didn’t ask God. And because of that the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to issue a rebuke to David.

We don’t have all the details. It seems like David presumed that he didn’t need to get God’s confirmation on this one like he had on previous plans. I could certainly understand how after a series of victories he could have gotten a bit sloppy and forgot, or didn’t see the need to ask, after all…how could God not be in favor of David building him a house? But David was wrong.

In a journal entry dated April 11, 1959 Thomas Merton wrote, “I fear success more than our failures.” Success will eventually make a place for self-confidence.

If a church experiences rapid growth, or if the pastor’s ideas all prove to work, over time a certain subtle cockiness can set in. The pastor begins to think that he knows something the others don’t know. His church is special, blessed, under God’s favor. And the others (those that are smaller or those that are not growing), well at best, God is just tolerating them.

We all want success, but according to who’s definition and at what price? I’ve talked to pastors who are “successful” and seldom do they seem more at peace, less stressed, more content than those who aren’t “successful”. Maybe success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What if success has it’s own dark side? I know we work really hard not to fail, in fact some of us fear failure. But maybe it’s success we should fear. Not a “trembling, I’m going to run in the opposite direction” type of fear, but a respect. We teach that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and are quick to qualify the word fear. We assure our people, “I don’t mean be afraid of God, but respect Him. He’s powerful, awesome, etc.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and perhaps the fear of success is the beginning of wisdom as well.

The next time you experience success don’t get sloppy and don’t get cocky. Stay humble and stay on your knees. You don’t want Nathan to pay you a visit.

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