The Dark Side of Success22 February, 2019
In Luke 12, there was a certain rich man whose ground yielded plentifully. This man could be any person – a stockbroker whose portfolio of stocks had risen greatly in value; a real estate owner whose property assets had dramatically improved; or even a businessman who had just gotten the deal of the century. Or, he could just be a senior pastor who’s seen increase year upon year and all it’s been is hunky dory. Whoever he is, he’s someone who’s struck gold and has now more than he can accommodate. So, he has a logistical problem. He doesn’t have enough space to store his increase.
There’s this internal chatter. He asks himself a question, ‘What shall I do since I’ve no room to store my crops or increase?’ In his mind, he replies to his own question and says, ‘I’ll do this. I’ll pull down my barns and build greater barns. And the whole motivation is – my retirement is secured. I can enjoy life for the rest of my days eating, drinking, and partying. But God says to him, “FOOL! Tonight, you die.” Verse 21 is the lesson – “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich or generous towards God.”
I call this the ‘Bigger Barn’ mentality and it’s in many of us today, including successful pastors. God has blessed us and we now run 19 services over the weekend. Over the last 24 years, our attendance has increased year upon year without abating. So have our finances – we’ve never seen one year of contraction.
We now have Cornerstone bases in 23 nations. We own the iconic Bible College of Wales and the famed Pisgah Chapel. We organise a successful Kingdom Invasion Conference each year and our staff count is expanding pretty rapidly, and everything is hunky dory. But, there’s a tension in my heart and it has to do with this ‘Bigger Barn’ mentality and I want to make sure that, if we enlarge our tents, it’s because God is telling us to do it, not because we want bigger barns.
I want God to purge me from this relentless, unrestrained pursuit of success because, if we’re not careful, it can lure us into a false mindset that says, ‘I can do anything.’ When Paul said, “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me”, he wasn’t trying to say he was a superman. He knew his limitations. What Paul was saying was everything the Lord commissioned him to do, he could because Christ strengthens him.
The more successful you are, the more opportunities will open up for you and the more you’ll pursue. Organisations want you to sit on their boards. Conference organisers want you to speak for them. You get invited to important official functions, and it can all be very intoxicating. Author Jim Collins says that this mindset leads you down a path called the ‘Undisciplined pursuit of MORE’. Our success lures us into pursuing more ventures, more projects, more opportunities and more of whatever you see as success, and we actually start to believe that we’re like King Midas, that whatever we touch turns to gold. We begin to lose sight of what true value is.
It happened to King Solomon – everything he touched turned to gold. He had acquired so much wealth in his day that silver was piling up on the streets because it was considered of no value. Solomon had everything a man could want – all the wealth in the world, 700 wives to boot, a harem of 300 concubines, and wisdom the likes of which the world had never ever seen.
What do you do with all this wealth? Solomon had the same internal chatter as the rich man. He said, “I’m going to test this”. So, he indulged and experimented in pleasure, comedy, alcohol, architecturally astounding buildings, vineyards, gardens, servants – everything a man could ever want. But, at the end of the day, he had this terrible foreboding and sense of emptiness. And he couldn’t put his finger on why he wasn’t fulfilled. Satisfaction continued to elude him. He was the smartest man who did the dumbest thing. The old axiom remains true – if you chase two rabbits, both will escape. Solomon was trying to chase at least eight. He was intoxicated and deceived by pleasure, wine, and women and ended up a serial idolater.
In Italy, there’s a painting of Solomon, which shows him coming up before the Throne of God at the Resurrection. On the right of the Throne are those who are saved and, on the left are those who are damned. As Solomon approaches the Throne, there’s a puzzled expression on his face. He’s not sure if he belongs to the left or the right. Sad end for such an illustrious king.
The question we need to ask is Why? Where did they go wrong? What happened in their lives that made them turn around? Understand that this is a process – people don’t just get stupid overnight. You don’t get someone who’s following the Lord with all his heart in one season and, all of a sudden, end up worshipping false gods in another. It just doesn’t happen like that. There was a decaying process that took place, a slow dying, and we need to find out where and why that decay actually begins. They didn’t deal with the little foxes that spoiled the vine, and that little problem eventually became a stronghold of the enemy and a snare in their lives. May the Lord deliver us from this ‘Bigger Barn’ mentality.
Ps. Yang Tuck Yoong