The Danger of Moderate Success

post date: September 21, 2010


If a pastor has 50 people in his church, 60 is a big increase. And 75 is even better, and 100 is a near-miracle.

But what if 700 people suddenly showed up one Sunday? Would that be a miracle or a nightmare?

Moderate success we can handle. Overwhelming success can destroy us because we’re not ready for it. 

When Jesus called Peter in Luke 5:1-11, the following things happened . . .

1. Peter had been fishing all night and had caught nothing.
2. He was washing his nets when Jesus asked to use his boat as a floating pulpit.
3. Jesus told Peter to “launch out into the deep.”
4. Peter replies, “Lord, we have caught nothing. Nevertheless at your word, I will let down the nets.”
5. They caught so many fish that their nets began to break.
6. They filled up two boats with so many fish that the boats began to sink.
7. Peter cries out, “Lord, depart from me for I am sinful man.”

I always thought that was a strange response. Peter wants nothing to do with Jesus after such astounding success. 

But it makes sense if you think about it. 

15 fish they could handle. Or 50. Or 100. They were ready for “moderate success.” But they weren’t prepared for hundreds and hundreds of fish. Especially after catching nothing the night before.

Moderate success is dangerous because it makes us think we did it. “You and me, Jesus. Look at what we did together.” But when your success overwhelms your capacity, it forces you to say, “Lord, I can’t handle this for I am a sinful man.”

If your “success” makes you proud and arrogant, it sets you up for failure later. If your “success” frightens you so that you are forced to your knees, then you’re a excellent candidate for the grace of God.

Moderate success can ruin us quicker than almost anything else. Beware of thinking that you’re hot stuff because you caught a few fish. Anyone can do that. Last night’s failure and this morning’s overwhelming success both come from the hand of the Lord. 

It’s the stuff in between that gets us in trouble. 

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