Too Much Success?
He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Acts 12:2
One of the worst things that happened to me, after I first diverted opiate pain pills for my own use, was . . . nothing. I cheated the system and the sky didn’t fall. For days, I was paranoid that I was going to get caught, but I didn’t. In not getting caught, my misbehavior was rewarded. That perverted success was the worst thing that could have happened to me as it emboldened me to repeat the behavior. As long as I didn’t get caught, as long as I could continue making a good salary, and as long as I could also have my pills, I was never going to change.
It wasn’t until it was made painfully clear to me that I could not have a happy marriage and successful career while using pills, that I became willing to embrace painful change. Success on my dark path only led me further down that path. It took a catastrophic failure of my way to convince me that I must follow a radically different way.
Many of us struggle with our successes more than our failures. Most of us can handle trials well. When the going gets tough, we get going. Give us success after success though, and we become prideful little monster-gods, living for whatever our destructive appetite demands.
This was the case with Herod who persecuted the church in today’s passage. In the story, Herod put the apostle James to death. When nothing bad happened, but rather, the Jewish leaders cheered, he was encouraged and had Peter arrested also. Later, when the people lauded Herod as a god, he momentarily basked in the glory. He should have corrected the blasphemy, but instead, he reveled in it. His perverse success was his undoing, as an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory (Acts 12:23).
None of us want trials (even though we grow more through them). We all prefer success. However, many of us don’t have the maturity to handle success well. When things go our way, we turn inward, following ourselves rather than God. If we desire to avoid being victims of our own success, then we must continually turn our gaze not inward, but to God. Daily, we must do what it takes to follow his plan instead of our own, even in our success.