As a Christian and a professional, what is your idea of success? Is ultimate success being able to carry out an uncompromised religion while at the same time reaching the highest level of your career field? If you feel this way, you may be aligned with the majority of Christians today. In a book for Seventh-day Adventist young people, this is what Ellen White says:
Dear youth, what is the aim and purpose of your life? Are you ambitious for education that you may have a name and position in the world? Have you thoughts that you dare not express, that you may one day stand upon the summit of intellectual greatness; that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations. You may every one of you make your mark. You should be content with no mean attainments. Aim high, and spare no pains to reach the standard.
Messages to Young People, p. 36
Often times, Joseph and Daniel are pointed to as examples of what young men and women should become. They were leaders of nations second in command only to the pharaoh and king, respectively. Through these examples, many an Adventist young person has dreamed of someday rising as these men did. But what do we do with Jesus, the Man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief? What do we do with a God who created a perfect world, yet still lost a high-ranking angel and eventually His first son and daughter? Is success for the Christian measurable by the world’s finite test tubes and powerpoint graphs? Or do our minds need to experience revival and reformation just as much as our spirits?
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Notice Paul’s words to the Philippians:
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
According to his resume, in both great (a Pharisee) and small (the day of his circumcision) Paul has attained the highest marks. A Hebrew more successful than Paul is hard to find. Yet for Christ’s sake, he counts temporal profits an eternal liability. Why? Because his mind has been revived and reformed:
A revival and a reformation must take place under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Revival and reformation are two different things. Revival signifies a renewal of spiritual life, a quickening of the powers of mind and heart, a resurrection from spiritual death. Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Reformation will not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness unless it is connected with the revival of the Spirit. Revival and reformation are to do their appointed work, and in doing this work they must blend.
The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Feb. 25, 1902
Paul did not disregard his experience. However, he did devalue the worth that society placed on his successful measurability. As for Joseph and Daniel, perhaps if we had a conversation with them about their experience, they would talk more about the opportunities they had to witness to others about God and less about their paychecks, job perks and prestige.
Maybe there is a greater reason to achieve greatness. Perhaps God is trying to do something bigger than showing the world how His perks are in comparison to what the big names of today have to offer. Maybe the only reason to achieve greatness is to show His humility. And maybe that is why so few are entrusted with the jobs of Joseph and Daniel today.
By their wisdom and justice, by the purity and benevolence of their daily life, by their devotion to the interests of the people,–and they, idolaters,–Joseph and Daniel proved themselves true to the principles of their early training, true to Him whose representatives they were. These men, both in Egypt and in Babylon, the whole nation honored; and in them a heathen people, and all the nations with which they were connected, beheld an illustration of the goodness and beneficence of God, an illustration of the love of Christ.
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Education p. 56, 57
A mind revived and reformed seeks to do whatever it takes to be a witness through the life, of the goodness, beneficence, and love of God. And those who achieve that kind of success, attain the greatest success possible on this side of eternity!
To men of principle, faith, and daring, the world is indebted for its great reforms. By such men the work of reform for this time must be carried forward.
The Great Controversy, p. 460.
NOTE: These thoughts were sparked from a Sabbath School discussion on Revival and Reformation at the University Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Israel Ramos is the Director of the Public Campus Ministries Department for the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Michigan Headquarters