John Quincy Adams held more government offices than anyone else in U.S. History. He served as President, U.S. Senator, Congressman, Secretary of State, and Minister (Ambassador) to England, Russia, Prussia, and the Netherlands. He participated in various capacities in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and events leading to the Civil War. Yet, at age 70, nearing the end of an illustrious and distinguished career, he wrote, “My whole life has been a succession of disappointments. I can scarcely recollect a single instance of success in anything that I ever undertook.”
Nobody quite knows the reason for his low self-esteem and this self-deprecating remark. We can speculate of course. With certainty, we can ascertain that his father, John Adams, who also held many offices including President and Vice President, was a “prickly man of vigor, intellect, and vanity.” I can only imagine that standards were held pretty high in the Adams’ household. The senior Adams was a very competitive man in life and politics, even with his sworn rival, Thomas Jefferson. Both of the men died on the same day, ironically, July 4. Not knowing that Jefferson had already passed, John Adams, about to breathe his last cried out, “Jefferson lives!”
There are numerous Bible characters who didn’t always feel so confident, definitely not befitting a man or woman of God: Moses, David, Jeremiah, Elijah, Simon Peter, Timothy, and even the great Apostle Paul. The same thing happens in our lives, especially living in a society that places so much emphasis on looks, possessions, and accolades. But, how often do we consider that God’s ways truly are above our ways? (Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 8:5-8,11:33).
Aren’t we children of Almighty God? Don’t we know better? Why the discrepancy?
We use earthly standards to determine our significance (1 Samuel 8:5, 1 Chronicles 21).
- Bigger is better.
- Production is key.
- Numbers. Too often, spiritual fruit is relegated to a count sheet.
- How much money do I have in the bank? How many cars do I have? How many Apple products do I own and are they the best and most recent? How big is my house?
We find our significance in what we do versus who we are (1 Samuel 16:7).
- Am I climbing the ladder of success fast enough?
- My job is my life…or is it?
- Spiritually, we’re caught in a trap of trying to win God’s favor instead of simply obeying Him.
We find our significance in what we do versus who we are Who we know (Romans 8:15).
- God: the too often overlooked, ignored, and forgotten partner.
- We fixate on the results instead of glorifying the One Who’s causing the increase.
We waste time doing things that, perhaps, God never instructed us to do.
- God said speak to the rock, not strike it (Numbers 20:8-12).
- Christ’s last directive: Make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey everything He has commanded. Self-evaluation time…who am I helping to follow Christ? How can I teach others to obey God…am I obeying God??
We neglect the things that God has called us to do.
- “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.”
How do we grow in this? Prayer, studying His Word, worshipping Him—not just with our words but our actions, attitudes as well. Live a holy and blameless life.
- “AND, Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). How do we grow in this? Forgiveness. Generosity. Kindness. Sacrifice. Availability. Love. Patience. Humility…
We try to do things in our own strength
- We try so hard to help God, not realizing that He provides everything we need: resources, partnership with other people, divine appointments, how about miracles? (John 3:2a).
- God’s got what we need. Let’s just cooperate and act when He tell us.
We compare ourselves to others
- As early as Cain and Abel, envy and competition was birthed.
- We judge ourselves through the filter of other people’s accomplishments, attributes, and possessions.
- God wants us trust Him bow down before His throne (Psalm 46:10).
The over simplified and only answer: “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 12:2).
Watch Christ. In His desire to OBEY His Father, He endured everything the devil and world could dish out. Nothing slowed Him down in His pursuit to OBEY God. And because of His simple OBEDIENCE, He attained true success.
Too often, success is the enemy of obedience.