Of all the temptations that men face, the temptation of power is the one that scrubs up the best. No-one can deny the lure of sex and money, but it’s a lot harder to make your interest in those look noble. But power? Well, who doesn’t want to change the world for the better? Who doesn’t want to use their influence for good, to improve the lot of the downtrodden common man? Who doesn’t secretly believe that although power corrupts, it won’t corrupt me?
I don’t know if it was what Tolkien intended, but his One Ring is a fine metaphor of what power can do to us. No matter how well-intentioned, how noble the goal, taking hold of the One Ring is to invite corruption. Handling power wisely requires a certain strength of character. I’ve already quoted Martyn Lloyd-Jones in a previous blog, but his insightful comment bears repeating: “The worst thing that can happen to a man is for him to succeed before he is ready.”
Power gives you influence over other bearers of God’s image. This is a delicate and weighty responsibility. If you wield power then your feet should permanently be bare, for you are always on holy ground. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not proud, it is not self-seeking. Love always protects.
Why do you think that the meek will be the ones to inherit the earth? Who else would God trust with it?
If you’ve read my blog/heard me preach/seen my book, you are by now no doubt saying to yourself, “Wow! This guy is AMAZING! Why is he not a world-famous blogger/preacher/author who is, quite rightly and correctly, making an absolutely fortune from his work?”. The truth is that I have no-one to blame but myself. When I was a young man I remember hearing a quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones – “The worst thing that can happen to a man is for him to succeed before he is ready”. Even though I am foolish, I saw that there was wisdom in those words and, as such, one of my prayers over the years has been ‘Lord, don’t let me succeed before I am ready’. Funnily enough, God’s been 100% on board with that prayer.
Success, as most people perceive it, is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It promises much, but behind that sharp-toothed grin is a monster that will destroy you if you are not strong enough to tame it. By contrast, failure can be the making of us, even though we do all we can to keep it at arm’s length. Few things test the strength of our foundations like good old fashioned failure, and few things are better for us than when all the stuff that we’ve built is knocked down so that God can start His own Great Project.
But no-one wants to fail at everything that they do, and neither should we. The issue is really how we define success and what it looks like in a framework of faith. The wise among us already know the truth. The story goes that Mother Teresa was once asked how she measured the success of her work. Her response was, apparently, to look puzzled and then say, “I don’t remember that the Lord ever spoke of success. He spoke only of faithfulness in love. This is the only success that really counts”.