Monday, June 18, 2012

contrasting generations & the lies of success

So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God.
2 Chronicles 27:6

This is the contrast between a son and his father. Both of them became successful and were powerful leaders through obedience to God's commands. But the son ultimately succeeded where his father had failed. Jotham stayed true to God and finished well. When he grew strong with riches and political power, he ordered his ways in obedience to God. His father, Uzziah, grew proud in his success and ultimately sinned against God and endured judgment (2 Chronicles 26:16). When both men arrived at the same juncture they took different paths.

Sinful patterns can be broken. Jotham did not have to repeat his father's sinful actions. He seems to have learned from his dad's mistakes. Perhaps seeing his dad succumb to leprosy had a sobering effect on his view of success and how to handle it. When God blessed him with success he did not let it get the better of him. He stayed humble. And that led to a good end. He was blessed with a life that pleased God from start to finish.

The more I read the stories of kings and leaders in the Old Testament, the more impressed I am with the need to finish well. It is not a given that I will do so. The odds are against me. The difference between the shame of Uzziah and the fame of Jotham comes down to the issue of personal pride. Uzziah's own self-centered thinking caused him to end poorly. Jotham's God-centered commitments led to blessing.

As I grow older I see the crossroads loom before me in vivid detail. Following hard after God is clearer, but it is fraught with more hardships personally than I anticipated as an eager Bible College student in my teens! It would be easy to slip into selfish desires now, after a quarter century of ministry. And the American Dream fed by retirement planners is an alluring temptation. In a strange way, I am actually kind of glad that circumstances have turned out that my retirement nest egg tanked... I realize now I will work in ministry until I die. But I want to finish well and must do so. To go all self-centered in my thinking now is a waste of my life.

In a couple of weeks I am blessed with a month long sabbatical. It can't come quick enough! I am ready to slow down and seek God earnestly. I am asking God for clarity for that time so that I can see a very fruitful decade ahead of me. I want to see God give me direction for the next five years. I think the decade of my 50's could be my most productive years in life and ministry... especially if I don't let myself get in the way and ruin it!

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