DANGERS OF SUCCESS
by Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 20 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Blue Denim and Lace)
Someone has said that what a man is can be determined by what it takes to stop him. In a sense this is true. The greatest test in life, however, to this author is not how he takes the tough places in life, but how he learns to take the successes in life. Many people have stood the tests, trials, and heartaches that have confronted them but could not stand prosperity or success. Many institutions, churches, and nations have withstood the dark hours but could not stand the prosperous ones.
In this brief article we will not attempt to list all of the dangers of success, but we will enumerate some.
1. Self pride. It is very interesting to note that God uses only small people, small things, and small churches. This does not mean that the small cannot become big. One does not have to read far in the Bible to find that the way up is down, the way to be the greatest is to be the servant of all, and the way to become big is to become small. It was said of Saul that God could use him when he was little in his own eyes. Someone has said, "Immorality has slain its thousands; pride, its tens of thousands." Certainly this is true. Let us always realize that whatever we are, whatever we have done, and whatever we have is all because of the grace of God. There is nothing good about any of us except Jesus Christ. Let us never forget it.
2. Self-confidence. When the days of testing are over and we have thrown ourselves upon God for His strength and help, then ofttimes come the days of success and victory. It is then when we often feel that we have no need of God, and it is then when we really need Him the most. Actually the tough times are caused by opposition from without. In prosperity our opposition comes from within, and this is the most dangerous of all. Many a Christian has with stood the onslaught and attacks of the Devil on all sides only to find himself defeated by self-confidence because of his past victories. He looks about him and finds that all of his enemies are slain. What he does not know is that inside of him the enemy of self-confidence is lurking for the deadly blow.
3. Self-satisfaction. The Holy Spirit led the inspired writer to say, "Where there is no vision the people perish." It is easy for us to arrive at a certain plateau of victory that causes us to lose our vision for the future. It was Alexander the Great who said, "I have no more worlds to conquer." This was said at the tender age of 29 and led to his downfall. The Christian should always be setting new goals, looking for new heights, and pointing to new victories. We should never look back and gloat; we should look forward and dream and plan. Let us never be self-satisfied until we awake in His likeness.
4. Selfishness. Success often brings this enemy to the forefront. Perhaps God gives us a great victory and much success. Then the Devil tells us that we were the cause for the victory. We are tempted to forget others who helped us and stood by us on the road to success. No man lives unto himself or dies unto himself, and there are no self-made men. The Apostle Paul said that he could but speak the things which he had seen and heard. We are certainly influenced by our environment and those with whom we work. We should readily give the major share of the credit to those who help us, lest the deadly enemy of selfishness creep up from within to defeat us, not in hours of trial, but in hours of triumph.
5. Self-evaluation. When we have been through the battles, won the victories, and have found ourselves successful, then we often begin to measure our degree of success. This is a crucial time in our lives for this is the time we want to evaluate ourselves, but we should not. There was not time to pause in the battle to find our positions for the standings are decided when the game is over. Let us not evaluate ourselves by growth, size, building, etc., but rather let us keep pressing on realizing the work is the important thing, not the status which we have achieved or the plateau to which we have arrived.
6. Self-analysis. There are certain tried and tested means by which success is gained. Often when success comes, we begin using new methods. A businessman who works his way to the top is tempted not to work as hard to keep successful as he did to get successful. We should remember that the same thing that gets us there keeps us there. The same diligence, the same humility, the same spirit, the same character, the same integrity, the same honesty, the same earnestness - these and other characteristics that brought about our success are the characteristics that will sustain our success.
How easy it is for us to win the battle of Jericho and lose the battle of Ai. How easy it is to fight and defeat the wild beast and be destroyed by the little foxes. Certainly, what we are is shown in the heat of the battle, but many people who have won the battle have lost the victory. Many a runner who won the race stumbled at the Bema and broke a leg while receiving his crown.
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