By Paul Tripp
Although it may not seem like it from the surface, success is more spiritually dangerous than failure. Failure produces a sense of need. It humbles you and drives you to God for help. Because of this, failure often produces good things spiritually.
The Danger of Success
Success tempts us to take credit for that which we couldn’t achieve and couldn’t produce. You do not produce change. You are an instrument of change in the hands of the One who controls everything. Success in ministry is never God’s endorsement of your character but God’s revelation of His character. It is God making Himself known as He blesses the ministry that He’s called people to.
When you start viewing yourself as the author of change rather than the instrument of change, you start raising yourself up above people rather than standing beside them. Having this mindset, you alter the nature of your relationship with those you lead.
The danger of success is the growth of ministry-deadening, personal pride. Pride enables you to do things that you shouldn’t do. Stealing credit that doesn’t rightfully belong to you fuels criticism of others. The more you confirm your own weakness, the less you’ll be able to condemn the weakness of others. When you know you need help, you don’t despise others who need help. When you affirm the extraordinary extent of God’s patience for you, it’s hard to be impatient with others. It’s important to remember that every person you lead is in the middle of their own journey of personal sanctification. No one is a final product. Everyone is in the process of change.
Proud people are controlling people because they have come to trust themselves more than they trust anyone else. They are resistant to ministry and the confrontation of others. If you take all the credit for your success, it’s easy to think that you have reached your full potential and don’t need spiritual guidance from anyone else.
No leader sees themselves with absolute accuracy. No leader, no matter how successful they are, is beyond the need of owning their weakness and failure. Every leader needs a community of help to surround them. Pride shuts you off from that community and puts you in a dangerous place. Prideful leaders are comfortable in isolated living. They close themselves off from community and help because they don’t actually think they need it.
Failure is hard in any aspect of life but particularly in ministry. But success has the potential to put you in greater spiritual danger because it produces pride which gets in the way of what God has called you to do.