Man's silhouetteIn Luke 24, Jesus appears to two disciples on the Emmaus Road. One was named Cleopas. Name the other one.

Well, if you can name the other one I would like to meet you because the other disciple is not named. He belongs to a large group of players in the biblical drama whose names are not mentioned. Some of these were key people but they were not ‘famous’ people because nobody knows who they were.

Important but not famous. This was a thought that came to mind when I read Dr. Jim Houston’s open letter in the recent Regent Alumni newsletter. Among the things he wrote was the following:

“…we may have been shaped in our childhood to be ‘special’, and so remain incurably romantic, despising anything that is ‘ordinary’. Instead, we value what is flamboyant, elegant, and indeed elite.”

As the only son growing up in an immigrant Chinese family in Malaysia, I could identify with what Dr. Houston wrote. I suspect Dr. Houston’s observation touches a chord in many of us. A few thoughts come to mind.

1. Many of us have been taught to define success in heroic terms.

Take a moment to think back on when you received positive rubs from your family, or from society. They were probably the moments when you did something outstanding, something that made you stand out from the crowd. We learn along the way that to be successful is to be outstanding.

2. We often transfer this definition of success to our spiritual life as well.

Of course there are some who have no ambitions for their spiritual life at all. But there are some of us who want to makeour mark for God, to do something significant for the Kingdom. Indeed we are often exhorted to do so. We have but one life to give, anyway. Let us use it significantly. Let us do something special for God.

3. If being ‘special’ is the only yardstick for success then many of us will end up frustrated, thinking ourselves failures.

The media loves heroes and ‘larger than life’ characters. Unfortunately, the church seems to have imbibed this ‘superstar’ mentality as well. We have the ordinary ‘faceless’ saints and the super saints whose names and pictures appear all over the place. Since few of us are ‘superstars’ we may end up feeling that we
are not important or that our contributions to God’s work are not

4. But God spells success f-a-i-t-h-f-u-l-n-e-s-s.

We desperately need to return to God’s understanding of success. In Matthew 24:45, Jesus says: “Who is a faithful, sensible servant, to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his household and feeding his family?” (NLT)

The world is looking for heroes and superstars. God is looking for faithful, sensible servants. Now that is a definition of success that is within reach of all of us. In God’s eyes many of you are already successful though you may not know it – parents patiently raising their children, Sunday School teachers, doing their best Sunday after Sunday, administrative staff quietly enabling your bosses to look good – as well as those of you who do end up in high profile positions. If
faithfulness to our God given calling means we end up in the public eye, then so be it, as long as we remember that it is the faithfulness that counts, and not the public accolades.

Do you feel that your life is a little grey because you have not made your mark in life? Is the soundtrack of your life in a minor key because you think you are not successful? Well, whose definition of success are you running with? Let us be good stewards of our God given gifts by all means. And let us be faithful to the tasks that the Master has assigned to us. For therein lies the source of true and lasting joy. For the LORD is king! Let the earth rejoice! (Psalm 97:1)

The world may or may not know your name. But God does.