What is success and failure in God's eyes?

Do you view success through God's eyes or man's?

John G Paton was a missionary to the New Hebrides Islands. After his first few years on the Islands, he returned to England. He had been through a nightmare. His wife had died on the Island with him. As had their infant child. He had to stay up late guarding their bodies where they were buried to keep, not animals, but Islanders from getting to them.

He had spent those years going through constant attempts on his life, constant discouragements, constant betrayals, and constant illnesses.

When he returned he met up with a friend of his. This man heard what happened to him and said, "Man, it's too bad you didn't die on those Islands. At least you'd be a martyr that people could rally to. But now what do you have to show for it all?"

Too often we view success through a human lens. Yet what happens to Paton I'll explain in a minute.

If someone has a lot of followers online, then they are successful. If they had sold a lot of books, or even if they have just written and published a lot of books, that's success. Did they get a lot of degrees from great institutions? Did they know a lot of people who were influential and important? Did they have a big side-hustle?

And it's not that these are NOT markers of success. They can be.

But success in God's Kingdom often isn't these things. David Livingstone was one of the world's most profound missionaries. But on paper, he was horribly unsuccessful. He never set up mission stations, didn't convert any (or maybe just one?) Africans, and half the time people thought he was dead.

What he did discover, though, was how to get the tribes of Africa to stop warring. He and his successor Henry M. Stanley also helped end the horrible and violent slave trade in central Africa. And he discovered many, many cures to diseases. As a medically trained doctor, his notes were used to help cure a large variety of diseases. Malaria, parasites, relapsing fever from a tick, sleeping sickness, and several other diseases were either cured or aided greatly in their treatment.

This allowed many missionaries, for the first time, to be able to settle into Africa without fear of dying (as 9/10 Europeans did until these cures were discovered). Further, it allowed many Africans to survive long enough to hear the Gospel, as they also often died of many of these diseases. And they were no longer being sold into slavery, making them more open to hearing the Gospel.

With human eyes, Livingstone did not look successful. Yet his "failures" have brought about untold amounts of harvest.

Charles Spurgeon is well regarded by many today. But at the end of his life, he had just been voted down by his own denomination. Why? He had stood up to theological liberalism. In a vote of 2000 to 7!! he had lost the vote of standing up to theological liberalism in his Baptist denomination. Although he was the head pastor of the largest church in the British Empire, his church would leave the denomination.

His wife said that this controversy and the anxiety it brought took him down to an early grave. And yet, he never gave up on the idea that he was right and that the theological liberalism of his day would fail. He declared that history would vindicate him and that the Downgrade Controversy as it would be called was true.

He was right. History has completely vindicated him. He laid the ground work that later generations picked up and championed. His name is still famous to this day and he is remembered as one who beaconed the light of truth to the world when too many had their eyes closed to what was happening.

Jonathan Edwards is world-famous today. Yet it is forgotten that in his own day, his own home church kicked him out. The very church he had preached and started the Great Awakening in, removed him due to some issues he was having with the elders. The revival had died off, and although it may have looked like his time had ended, he had no way of knowing that his most famous book was just beginning to make the rounds.

For he had seen a "failure" named David Brainerd. And he had published his journal. This man, dying of tuberculosis, would pass the disease onto Edwards' daughter (because they were in love). But in this diary, he poured out his grief, his sorrows, and his failures.

That book by a "failed" missionary who died in his 20s would rock the world and inspire more people to missions than anyone could have dreamed. That pastor in the process of being kicked out of his church would find that this book of Brainerd's would be his most purchased work.

That before his sermons or his theology, David Brainerd's journal was the most likely book someone would own by Jonathan Edwards. John Wesley highly recommended it. Adoniram Judson and William Carey cited it as their reasons for going overseas.

God does not judge with human eyes. You will likely be forgotten by this world. I once stood on a cold crisp night in the middle of downtown Kansas City, where the last place DL Moody ever preached in a giant revival was.

There was no sign or placard to remember him. I once drove past Whitefield's orphanage, but there was very little to note about it on the outside. I once lived in Hangzhou, China, where Hudson Taylor was headquartered, and there was certainly no signs or monuments to him.

This world will forget you as quick as they can. And you may often look like a failure to the world.

But God is not judging that way. God sees. He remembers. He knows the battles and fights and struggles and wars that are waging around you. He knows how much you struggle to wake up again and do what is right. He knows the grief and pain you feel. He knows the "losses" you have had. He knows how you fought temptation yesterday and will fight it again today.

He sees it all. And where the monuments and statues of this world forget you, there are crowns waiting those who strive faithfully in this life.

John G Paton went back into the New Hebrides Islands. His later mission there was just as hard as his earlier ones. But eventually, and through decades of committed service, the whole Island chain became Christians. The cannibals that lived there all gave up the practice. It took his whole life, but he had success in this life. He once said no one worships God with such love and joy like a converted cannibal.

God knows and sees you through it all. This world will likely not remember you. It will likely treat you as if you have lost. It may even attack you and slander your reputation.

But they treated Christ the same way. And the Cross, which looked like defeat, became the greatest victory.

We are told to carry our crosses, too.