Before creating man, God put in place everything that was required for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and this was not only about dietary needs but even gold and precious stones in abundance. The redemption from the clutches of sin and the devil through the sacrifice of the Son of God also includes freedom from Satan controlled dominion on the earth. Our life on the earth is a continuous struggle where the forces of darkness place hindrances in our path. Our success and happiness in every aspect of our life also, therefore, cannot be achieved without faith in God.
Success versus/and happiness – If we evaluate our acquaintances, how many do we consider really successful and then make another list of people whom we really think to be happy. In these two lists, how many find their name in both lists. We offer elaborate heartfelt prayers before God seeking all sorts of things for our whole families, friends and many others. What do we really ask God for, success or happiness? Among the successful people most have become successful but with little happiness and this is evident from the number of suicides, divorces and other such terrible happenings. This is the tragedy of our times that success and happiness are no longer synonymous in most cases.
Differences between the two are very clear – Success is getting what I want but happiness is wanting what I get; success is being rich but happiness is to have a loving family and friends to enjoy it. Success is working hard but happiness is in loving the work; success is everyone knowing my name but happiness is knowing everyone’s name. Success is never easy and is about reaching the top but happiness will never feel difficult and has no limit. Most important, success is measured and seen in human terms whereas happiness is a Divine gift for those who live their lives well by heavenly standards. Happiness is to surrender to God’s will like His Son and then like Apostle Paul to be able to say, ‘for me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21).
How could Moses and Apostle Paul remain happy despite unimaginable sufferings throughout their life right up to death? – Apostle Paul understood that happiness is aspiring for spiritual perfection to live for the glory of God and to realize that work of the heavenly kingdom cannot be completed by any man and it must continue beyond one’s life. Moses pleaded with God to let him ‘cross over and see the good land beyond Jordan’ but was categorically told, ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter’ (Deuteronomy 3:25-26). Moses stood before Pharaoh demanding release of his people, performed tremendous miracles that destroyed Egypt financially, militarily and socially yet the goal was to be fulfilled by Joshua.
God talked with Moses ‘face to face’ and revealed His passing glory to him, gave him the most precious thing ever held by man, the stone tablets with the God written commandments. But was he disappointed with his life? He stood before God for forgiveness for his people after the sin of the golden calf and placed his own life at the risk of eternal damnation and succeeded. On mount Nebo, he stood alone before God and at 120 years of age, ‘his eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished’ (Deuteronomy 34:1—7). His mission was yet incomplete but he did not lose sight of the vision given to him by God and his eyes remained focused on that and he gave detailed instructions to his people. The teaching given by him to the Israelites is relevant to us also today. The Israelites were warned by him that the challenges of life are not only of poverty but of affluence, not homelessness of the desert but the comforts of a home, for these lead us away from God. Moses was alone with God on a mountain in Midian and heard God’s call from the burning bush that changed his life. Again he was alone with God on another mountain with not even his wife and children to say goodbye. Moses lived and died as a lonely man of faith but was never lonely for he was with God always.
The Savior Lord chose Saul, the Pharisee, to make him Apostle Paul with his assigned role of being ‘a chosen vessel of mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel’ and to undergo abnormal suffering for the Lord (Acts 9:15-16). But he like Moses was alone with God in his prison to declare, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith’ (2 Timothy 4:7). Whether Moses wrote the last lines of the Torah or Joshua wrote these with tear filled eyes, the obituary in the Word of God to Moses is unique, ‘But since then there has not arisen a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face’ (Deuteronomy 34:10).
Were they successful or not and were they happy at what God had done through them or not? From every measure of success they achieved all that they were tasked to do and were especially cared for by God Himself at every step of their lives. They walked in faith and changed everyone who came into contact with them whether it was Pharaoh, or Agrippa who exclaimed, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian (Acts 26:28). They were both aware that God’s work cannot be completed by man and both trained good successors like Joshua, Titus, Timothy and many others to carry forward their work. All successful and contented people train others to help in carrying forward their vision beyond their lives.
The Holy Bible records the history of mankind and history has no end. The name of God that was revealed to Moses is ‘Ehyeh asher Ehyeh or I AM WHO I AM’. It is a command to live in the present and focus on the assigned task for nobody except God can complete that and that is possible only through a life of obedience. Seven times God promised the land to Abraham, ‘Lift your eyes and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward and westward. For all the land which you see I give to you and your descendents forever’ (Genesis 13:14-15). The first five books of the Bible end without fulfillment of the promise, but not the hope of its fulfillment. The end and a new beginning to the world is brought about by God the Father and God the Son as seen in the Book of Revelation.
The lessons we learn from the lives of Moses and Apostle Paul, one a great prophet and leader and the other a great evangelist and teacher while both lived their ministry lives in close relationship with God.
First, No one is outside God’s reach – Moses fled from Egypt to escape punishment for the murder of an Egyptian and Saul was going to Damascus to persecute believers there. Both received great personal revelation from God before being assigned new roles, Moses at the burning bush and Saul on the road blinded by the light of the glory of the Lord. We must reach out with the message of the Gospel to each and every person without looking at his/her present or past life.
Two, for each of us there will be a Jordan we will not cross, a destination not reached – It is not for me to finish the task but nor is it for me not undertake it for it is important that we start what others will take to completion.
Three, Our achievements do not define us but our relationship with God does – Moses could stand for his people’s forgiveness going to the extent of seeking his own name being removed from God’s Book and also to ask to see God’s glory. Apostle Paul, in faith and obedience, could move to Jerusalem despite being warned by many about his persecution there.
Four, they did not live to please man and Apostle Paul could write ‘O foolish Galatians’ (Galatians 3:1) or to the other churches that he had established in an equally harsh language to set them on the right path. Moses laid down clear choices before the Israelites to receive curses or blessings.
Five, humility was their basic nature for they understood the real power that worked in and through them. Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses but Scripture identifies him differently, ‘Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth’ (Numbers 12:3). Apostle Paul emphasized about his efforts to live fully what he preached (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Six, they were focused on God’s calling for them – Apostle Paul’s life was fully committed to his ministry and life or death were both equal for he was sure of his place in and with the Lord (Philippians 1:21). Even at 120 years of age Moses’ ‘eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished’ for he retained his focus on his passion for his people, never giving way to cynicism (Deuteronomy 34:7). The eye supported the vigor of doing the will of God in both of them.
Seven, both lived with eternity in their minds – Moses commanded his people to ‘set their hearts on the word of God’ and to command their children also to obey ‘all the words of the law’ and then like Jacob blessed all the tribes of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:46). Apostle Paul declared that his heart is set on the ‘upward call of God in Christ Jesus’ and even in prison lost no opportunity to preach the Gospel to others (Philippians 3:14).
Eight, they believed in team building – Moses heeded the advice of Jethro, his father-in-law, and appointed suitable men as leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens to train them to be leaders with Joshua as his successor. Apostle Paul selected, appointed and guided leaders in all the churches that he established and his epistles are great teaching for all believers. Success and happiness is not in what I have achieved but what I started and for completion of that labored hard with a team to continue the effort. It is about total dependence on God for His guidance and control despite failures or difficulties in the way.
Gauging success and happiness – Apostle Paul teaches, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!’ (Philippians 4:4). He could say this after having suffered so much all along in his ministry to the ‘Gentiles’, left as dead, scourged and in peril always and then the prison on false charges by his own people (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). A believers life is filled with joy at being saved by the Savior’s sufferings and sacrifice and grant of eternal life for the Scriptural command is ‘In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’ and it is thanking in everything ((1 Thessalonians 5:18).
How do we measure success? – Moses could not lead his people into the Promised and in the same way King David established a great kingdom which disintegrated not much later. Solomon, the wisest man on earth, wrote, ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3). Moses is rarely quoted as Abraham is for his faith, or David for his charisma or Isaiah or Daniel for their prophecies of hope. Abraham ‘died at a good old age, an old man full of years (years with a meaning for posterity); and he was gathered to his people’ (Genesis 25:8). He had a child of promise; a plot of land bought at an exorbitant price and had a sense of completion to his life. There is no mention of the end of Apostle Paul’s life and in the end he was lonely in the prison with only Saint Luke with him. Even then he was longing for ‘the books, especially the parchments’ to gain some more spiritual insight to teach someone ((2 Timothy 4).
The promise to us is, ‘For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’ (Isaiah 41:13). When God revealed His name to Moses as ‘I AM WHO I AM’, the implication was that I am unlimited, indescribable and beyond the reach of a name. God is in the future to the present and from our destination to our journey of everyday. God did not create man to be alone and no one can lead also alone and needs others like Aaron for his peacemaking skills and the courage of Miriam. I cannot be as great as X or Y for I have been given specific skills, a passion and resources that make or can make me great. The greatest mistake is trying to be someone else instead of being myself. Moses was not an eloquent man but he was the greatest prophet (Exodus 4:10).
God chooses us not for what we are but what He wants us to do and for that He equips us like He did Moses, Bezalel and Aholiab and others. Our success also is not relative to someone else but is about how I have used the ‘talents’ that the Master has given. My Master decides my success to call out to me, ‘Well done good and faithful servant – enter into the joy of your Master’ or be cast away (Matthew 25:21). That joy of the Master is my measure of success for during this journey He will lead me to success, happiness when I remain steadfast in faith. Moses, Apostle Paul and other warriors of faith were blessed to be called ‘the servant of the LORD’ (Deuteronomy 34:5) and that is the real definition of success.
We undertake many a thing in faith but when Satan brings mountain size obstacles in our way or the work is very long for some results to be visible, we lose faith and give up. It took Noah 120 years to complete the Ark in a place far away from the sea and when there had been no rain on the earth till then. The widow who was under debt, believed Prophet Elisha and collected many large vessels to pour out and fill them with oil. Despite all the opposition, we must persevere for LORD our God is holding our hand and He leads us to success and in Him only can be our contentment.