After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. Acts 21:19
I still attend a weekly recovery meeting. It helps keep me on track and it’s one way in which I can also help others. When we meet, we discuss our successes and failures of the week. If all we ever talked about were our struggles, and if we never had any success, I’d question the purpose of the group. As it is though, we can regularly celebrate that we’re sober and growing in our faith.
Alcoholics Anonymous does this by acknowledging clean time. Whether it’s a week, six months, or six years, AA presents medallions, in front of everyone, commemorating how long someone has been sober. It’s important for the one with clean time to give thanks and remember how he got there. It’s also important for those in attendance to see that it can be done. When I first attended AA and saw someone get a 20-year medallion, I was inspired. I desperately wanted what that guy had.
Today’s passage tells of the early Christians celebrating success as well. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, he met with the church elders, reporting all God had done on his missionary journey. When they heard it, they rejoiced and testified to Paul what God had been doing in Jerusalem. Paul had endured hardship, imprisonment, and beatings, which he likely also relayed, but it was important for the faith of the Jerusalem church to hear the success stories of lives changed by God.
We too, should regularly be celebrating our success and the success of those around us. A few things have to occur for this to happen. First, we have to have some success in our own lives. We must daily abandon our way, making room for God to transform us. Then, we must reach out and invest in the lives of those around us, allowing God to work through us, helping others find success as well. Finally, we must purposefully get together with others who are doing the same and we must celebrate with them.
If that entire last paragraph sounds weird and foreign to us, then we might have a problem with how we’re doing church. It’s inevitable that we’ll have struggles, but we’re also meant to grow and be transformed in following Christ. Then, we’re supposed to celebrate that transformation with others.*
*This isn’t done easily in a Sunday morning service. I do highly recommend a small group of confidants (my small group is only men), with whom you can be honest about your own faith, struggles, and successes. A group of four or five close brothers or sisters is where this kind of honesty and trust can be built. Again, this may sound uncomfortable, but if you’re struggling alone, you don’t have to. If you truly want transformation, make the uncomfortable leap to find others who also struggle.