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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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What Is True Success?

J. R. Miller

People are very concerned with success. Some are consumed by the desire for it. They will neglect family to have more time to climb the ladder of their career. They must always drive as good or better cars than their friends or neighbors. They must always dress themselves and their children in the latest name-brand clothes.

It is not that wanting to be successful is inherently wrong; it is in discerning the right goals and assigning values to the various areas of our lives that we often make wrong choices. Christians, in particular, should remember the words of Paul: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) J. R. Miller (1840 – 1912) discusses this problem in the article below:

What is the true aim in life?

What should one, setting out to make his way through this world—take as the goal of all his living and striving?

‘Views of life’ differ widely. Many think they are in this world to make a career for themselves. They set out with some splendid vision of success in their mind—and they devote their life to the realizing of this vision. If they fail in this, they suppose they have failed in life. If they achieve their dream—they consider themselves, and are considered by others, as successful.

The world has no other standard of success:

• it may be the amassing of wealth;

• it may be the winning of power among men;

• it may be the triumph of a certain skill;

• or genius in art, in literature, in music, etc.

But whatever the definite object may be, it is purely an earthly ambition.

Applying this standard to life—but few men are really successful. Great men are as rare as lofty mountain peaks. Only a few win the high places; the mass remain in the low valleys. Only a few win honor, rise into fame, and achieve ‘distinction’; while the great multitude remain in obscurity—or go down in the dust of earthly defeat.

Is this the only standard of success in life? Do all men, except for the few who win earth’s prizes, really fail? Is there no other kind of success? The world’s answer gives no comfort to those who find themselves among the unhonored. . . .

The true test of life—is character. Everything else is extraneous, belonging only to the husk, which shall fall off in the day of ripening! Character is the kernel, the wheat—that which is true and enduring. Nothing else is worth while—except that which we can carry with us through death, and into eternity! “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

It is altogether possible that a man may fail of winning any earthly greatness, any distinction among men, anything that will immortalize him in this world’s calendars—and yet be richly and nobly successful in spiritual things, in character, in a ministry of usefulness, in things which shall abide—when mountains have crumbled into dust! It is possible for one to fall behind in the race for wealth and honor—and yet all the while to be building up in himself—an eternal fabric of beauty and strength!

What is the standard of success in the sphere of the unseen and the eternal? It is the doing of the will of God. He who does the will of God—makes his life radiant and beautiful, though in the world’s scale he is rated as having altogether failed in the battle. He who is true, just, humble, pure, pleasing God and living unselfishly—is the only man who really succeeds—while all others fail.

Really, there is no other final and infallible standard of living. One who writes his name highest in earth’s lists, and yet has not done God’s will—has failed, as God Himself looks at his career.

God had a purpose in our creation—and we only succeed, when our life carries out this purpose. The most radiant career, as it appears to men, means nothing—if it is not that for which God made us. We fail in life—if we do not realize God’s will for us.

We live worthily—only when we do what God sent us here to do. A splendid career in the sight of men—has no splendor in God’s sight!

Not the making of a fine worldly career, therefore—but the simple doing of God’s will—is the one true aim in living. Only thus can we achieve real success. If we do this, though we fail in the earthly race—we shall not fail in God’s sight. We may make no name among men, may raise for ourselves no monument of earthly glory—but if we please God by a life of obedience and humble service, and build up within us a character in which divine virtues shine, we shall have attained abiding success!

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Conversion Generally Leads To Conversions

Bishop J. C. Ryle

The closer your relationship with Christ the more you will know His comfort. Make it a point to daily live by the side of the Fountain. You shall then experience within yourself “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:I4) In this article, J. C. Ryle points out that you shall not only be blessed yourself, but be a source of blessing to others:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37)

[T]here are some believers who are “rivers of living water” by the beauty of their daily conduct and behavior. There are many quiet, gentle, consistent Christians, who make no show and no noise in the world, and yet insensibly exercise a deep influence for good on all around them. They “win without the Word.” (Peter iii. 1.) Their love, their kindness, their sweet temper, their patience, their unselfishness, tell silently on a wide circle, and sow seeds of thought and self-inquiry in many minds. It was a fine testimony of an old lady who died in great peace,-saying that under God she owed her salvation to Mr. Whitefield:-“It was not any sermon that he preached; it was not anything that he ever said to me. It was the beautiful consistency and kindness of his daily life, in the house where he was staying, when I was a little girl. I said to myself, if I ever have any religion, Mr. Whitefield’s God shall be my God.”

Reader, lay hold on this view of our Lord’s promise, and never forget it. Think not for a moment that your own soul is the only soul that will be saved, if you come to Christ by faith and follow Him. Think of the blessedness of being a “river of living water” to others. Who can tell that you may not be the means of bringing many others to Christ? Live, and act, and speak, and pray, and work, keeping this continually in view. I knew a family, consisting of a father, mother, and ten children, in which their religion began with one of the daughters; and when it began she stood alone, and all the rest of the family were in the world. And yet, before she died, she saw both her parents and all her brothers and sisters converted to God, and all this, humanly speaking, began from her influence! Surely in the face of this, we need not doubt that a believer may be to others a “river of living water.” Conversions may not be in your time, and you may die without seeing them. But never doubt that conversion generally leads to conversions, and that few go to heaven alone. When Grimshaw, of Haworth, the apostle of the north, died, he left his son graceless and godless. Afterwards the soul was converted, never having forgotten his father’s advice and example. And his last words were, “What will my old father say when he sees me in heaven?” Let us take courage and hope on, believing Christ’s promise. (J. C. Ryle: “If Any Man!”)

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