"His Master said to him, 'Well done, my good and ________ servant.'" (Matt. 25:21)
Am I A Good Christian?
We all want to know that we are serving God well, that we are being used to bring glory to his name and salvation to the lost. But how does a Christian measure their success? I don't mean to ask how we measure our salvation, we know that this comes through faith in the work of Christ alone. What I mean is how do we assess our effectiveness as "ambassadors for Christ" in this world? What does success in the christian life look like in the eyes of God? How do we know when we are really doing it?
We are tempted to look at quantity.
Am I doing enough for God? Am I serving enough? Am I reading my Bible enough? Am I giving enough?
We are tempted to listen to opinion.
What do people say about me? Do they like me? Do they think I am a good christian?
We are tempted to rely on titles and achievements.
I am successful because I graduated college… I am a hardworking person… I lead a Bible study… I am a ministry leader at my church... etc.
Not one of these are the proper measure of a Christian's service to God. They are simply unable to provide the heavenly approval we seek, no matter how diligently we search them out. For one thing, the work of God cannot be quantified according to the assessments of the world. There is no human yard stick or tape measure with the ability to calculate the worth of things like faith, hope, and love. Secondly, sinful humanity tends to view all of life with their own ends in mind, not the desires of God. This means that your good service to the Lord is likely to be frowned upon by the self-seeking world, and vice versa. The opinions of men are unavoidably fickle. And third, titles and worldly achievements are inevitably feeble. God’s love cannot be won or lost on a battle field of generals, it cannot be installed or removed through judicial systems or government elections, and there is no university or seminary in existence whose degrees provide the approving smile of the heavenly Father. We must not look at visible numbers and results. We must not listen to human opinions, (whether favorable or disapproving). And we must not rely on earthly credentials that are awarded through human institutions. No, none of these will do. So where then do we look? How can we know if we are serving the Lord well? What should every christian be aiming for?
Faithfulness Not Fruitfulness
There is much to learn from the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, but one particular lesson tends to escape us. When the Master returned from his journey and settled accounts with his servants his focus was not centered on their earnings. The recorded dialogue between each servant and their Master focuses on effort, not results. It is typical to think of the Master’s blessing as being linked to the increase each of the two successful servants procured; but in fact it is not rooted in their financial gain at all. Even the Master himself calls the money entrusted to them a very “little” amount. No, his words have nothing to do with their fruitfulness, rather they have everything to do with their faithfulness. “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” he says to them. His measure for their success was not what they could produce for him, but how faithfully each would attempt to fulfill the calling that he had given.
This gives us a picture of what success looks like in the christian life. We are not laboring for impressive numbers, we are not striving to gain the applause of people, and we are not relying on titles and personal achievements. Our singular aim is not results, not fruitfulness, not popularity or productivity, not efficiency, not conversions, not church attendance or scripture memory. No, our singular aim is to be found faithfully serving our King. His measure of our success will be based on this one thing.
Am I a good christian? Am I doing enough for God? Is God pleased with my service? The only right way to answer these kinds of questions is by asking another more important question: Am I being faithful to God?
Faithfulness is what the Master sought from his servants and faithfulness is what God seeks from you. The fruit will always follow.