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Archive for October, 2010

SUCCESS AND SIGNIFICANCE

I was invited recently to speak at a men’s Retreat in St Moritz, the famous Swiss Ski Resort. The topic  they had on their hearts was ‘Success to Significance”.  This topic opened a new perspective for me as I pondered the implications and prepared my heart for this honoured task. It was only after returning home to South Africa however, that the full impact of this subject dawned upon me. My experiences over the past three months had taken me through a progressive, graphic, unfolding of this subject.

In the beginning of this  year 2010, if anyone had asked what our plans were for the year, my reply would have been that we had nothing planned, so the year would be just the routine  work, local fellowship and possibly a short break to see our children in Durban.

This all changed dramatically when an invite came for me to participate in Conferences in West Africa in July; followed by the invite to speak in Switzerland. Although ostensibly I was to bring the messages, I believe now that the Lord ,in a dramatic way, actually took me on a journey to demonstrate the true meaning of success and significance, in a way that only He can!

My first lesson was experienced in Lagos, Nigeria, where I witnessed  firsthand, an example of failure on virtually every level. On a macro-economic level oil revenues are being squandered (the reason for the recent bomb attack), while the majority of the people live in poverty with the infrastructure disintegrating. On a micro level each individual has to eek out a living in dirty conditions, with open drains carrying filthy water down the streets. The overloaded roads are in poor repair and road users generally make their own rules in the absence of Law Enforcement. There are no trains and public transport  is limited to overloaded buses and un-roadworthy taxis. The church is so polluted with the prosperity heresy that it would take a divine intervention to rescue her.

My second lesson was when my wife and I arrived in Switzerland a month later, which oozes success on every level. A country blessed with snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes, rolling green hills and beautiful forests. It is pristine in its cleanliness, precise in its timekeeping, outstanding in its civil engineering of roads, bridges and tunnels, orderly in its governance and affluent in its material wealth. It is one of the richest countries in the world and as a chatty Swiss man told us on the train, unemployment is virtually non-existent and the minimum wage is 3,500 Swiss Francs per month. Swiss Francs  are roughly equal in value to the US $.

My third lesson was while roaming through Rome and being brought face to face with the former greatness and glory of ancient Rome with her mighty Caesars and Emperors. It is in this city, where success and significance came together. There is startling evidence of the military victories and therefore,  abundance of the spoils of war that adorned the enormous palaces of the Roman Emperors, who lived in the lap of unsurpassed luxury, with no carnal pleasure withheld from them. The Roman Empire with its engineering ingenuity, military might, facilities for entertainment, enjoying the many pleasures of affluence, was the epitome of success and material glory. Despite this abundance, each Emperor had a desperate need for significance. This drive for significance is seen in the great arches, statues, images and inscriptions by which Emperors endeavoured to be remembered and thereby declare their perceived significance to the world.

We usually define success in terms of wealth because the rich generally have all the things that our hearts desire or that we have ever dreamed of and therefore represent the ultimate of success. Significance on the other hand is a little harder to nail down in a clear definition because it is usually measured in relation to something else.

For example, the Springbok rugby player made a significant difference in the Provincial game. Or, Albert Einstein made a significant contribution to science, but this doesn’t mean that he, or the Springbok rugby player are significant in all spheres of life. There are many men and woman who are significant in their field of expertise, or have had a significant impact on human history, but may have failed in other areas of their lives and are therefore insignificant in these areas.

In search of significance

Of all people who have ever walked this earth, there is only one man who has attained to the ultimate significance. He is significant in history, he is significant in character, he is significant in status, in title, in power and authority. He is also significant in eternity. I am obviously referring to Jesus Christ.

His significance above all men is brought into focus when He was baptised in the River Jordan. As He emerged from the water, the Heavens opened and a voice made an astounding declaration that separated Jesus from all other men. The Father declared from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The writer of Hebrews asks the question, “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, You are my Son, this day have I begotten you? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? “ (Heb 1:5) For God the Father to call ‘a man’ His Son was a greatest honour than He had bestowed upon any man, woman or angel and we know that angels are far greater than men in every respect. But, even the angels bow down and worship this man, Jesus Christ!

Jesus is therefore given the ultimate significance in all of history and in all of creation, by none other than God the Father!

On our arrival in Switzerland, by mistake, we boarded the wrong train from Zürich; en-route to who knows where, the train gave a slight jolt and then came to a halt and an announcement followed that the train had been involved in an accident and that there were casualties. At the next station everyone was ordered off the train. I walked to the driver’s end and enquired as to what had happened. “Suicide”, said the driver and the gruesome evidence could be seen on the front of the train.

This experience brought home the harsh reality to me, that even in an affluent first world country, blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, there is no real significance in human success. We learned the dark secret that Switzerland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world! I had to consider that for a human being to get to the point of suicide, they must regard themselves as so insignificant that they do not wish to live any longer. The very depths of insignificance!

Where do we find lasting and meaningful significance, no matter what our station in life?

Here is the amazing news! God did not send Jesus to show off the uniqueness of His wonderful Son, but sent Him to pay the ultimate price so that you and I can be become sons too.

These lessons have high-lighted for me the deep and glorious significance in what Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again”. To be born into God’s family and become a son is the greatest honour that can be bestowed upon a human being!

Jesus gave John the Baptist one of the highest accolades when He said that of all those that are born of a woman, there has not been a greater man than John, “yet he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matt 11:11)

Such significance is bestowed upon someone who is in the kingdom of heaven and this pronouncement comes from the lips of the most significant man in the Universe!

In John’s letter he presents the greatness of this revelation when he calls to “behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: …. “(1 Jn 3:1)

Conclusion:

Human success in any field does not equate to lasting significance, it soon fades and is then forgotten or superseded by someone else more significant.

The greatest significance that any human can aspire to, is to be called a son of God. Not even the angels are offered this privileged position!

Whether in poverty in the dirty streets of Nigeria, or surrounded by wealth and snow-capped mountains, or residing in the ruins of Rome; we all can find eternal true significance in Jesus Christ.

But unto the Son he says, Your throne, O God, is forever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. And, you, Lord, in the beginning have laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of your hands: They shall perish; but you remain; and they all shall grow old as does a garment; And as a mantle shall you fold them up, and they shall be changed: but you are the same, and your years shall not fail. (Heb 1:8-12)

This is true success and eternal significance.

 

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