See yourself as God sees you

Franz Josef 1st of Austria was the last Emperor of the Habsburg Empire. He died in November 1916 during the First World War and his State funeral was in stark contrast to the swift burial young soldiers were given on the war front. The funeral was filled with pomp and pageantry. Eight black horses drew the hearse containing the coffin which was draped in the black and gold imperial colours. The hearse was preceded by carriages filled with wreaths. In turn these carriages were preceded by further carriages containing the highest court dignitaries of the Empire. Behind all this procession came carriages carrying members of the Royal Family and foreign officials. Mounted guards flanked the procession, all dressed in magnificent ceremonial clothing. As the cortege made its way across Vienna to St Stephen's cathedral, a band played sombre music.

After the lengthy cathedral service the cortege descended the steps of the crypt. At the bottom was a great iron door leading to the Habsburg family crypt. Behind the door was the Abbot. The Grand Master of the Court then began a ritual dialogue which had been established for centuries.

The Grand Master first cried out "Open". The Abbot correctly responded "Who asks to enter here?" The Grand Master then listed the Emperor's 37 titles; "We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Defender of the Faith, Prince of Bohemia..." and so he continued through the whole 37 titles.

When the Grand Master finished this list, to the shock of every one present the Abbot then responded "We know him not! I ask again, ‘Who goes there?'" The Grand Master was taken a back but spoke again this time using abbreviated titles. Once again the Abbot responded "We know him not! I ask yet again, ‘Who goes there?'" According to witnesses, in an act of desperation, the Grand Master got down on his knees and simply cried out "We bear the body of Franz Josef our brother, a sinner like us all." With that acknowledgement, the Abbot opened the door.

This true story is a stark reminder that no matter how "successful" people may appear in worldly terms, they are still ultimately sinners in the sight of God, needing His forgiveness. God shows personal favouritism to no man (Galatians Ch2v6) so what a person does as a career, what talent they may have, what position they may hold, what money they may make and so on, is completely irrelevant to Him. It's a person's heart that counts!  (See 1st Samuel Ch 16v7, and Hebrews Ch 4v12-13). Real "success" in God's eyes is when an individual chooses to repent of their sins and obediently tries to follow Him faithfully day by day.

Many people today boast about their various endeavours and so called achievements, with comments like; "I have a University Degree", "I have a position on The Board", "I am the Chief executive", "I know this or that important person", "I am an heir to money," "I belong to this social or racial class", "I have numerous friends", "I am very attractive" and so on. Scripture teaches however, that none of these things make God either more or less favourable towards them,  than He is towards people without such things. In His eyes worldly success is of absolutely no significance.

In stead God measures "success" in spiritual terms such as; Has an individual truly repented of their sins? Is an individual really trying to grow in their faith? Is he or she learning to resist temptation and develop in personal holiness? Are they growing in their knowledge of the Bible? Are they prayerfully sharing their faith with others? Are they becoming more aware of the meaning of the Cross, of God's hatred of sin and His deep love for sinners? Are they gaining a spirit of humility, growing in enthusiasm and learning to turn the other cheek? Are they, from their heart "behaving" as a Christian should, as outlined by St Paul in Romans Ch 12vs9-21? In this passage St Paul provides a template, demonstrating what a Christian should be like in character. How is an individual measuring up to that? It is this "hidden person (or character) of the heart" which is most precious to God and what really matters in His sight. (See 1st Peter Ch3v4).

God's greatest gift is for an individual to come to know Him personally and since this relationship can only be established through repentance and obedience "from the heart" (Ephesians Ch6vs5-6) this is what people should really strive for and regard as "success". In John Ch6v27, Jesus warned "Do not labour for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life." People are wasting their time striving for worldly "success" because it doesn't last and doesn't count in His eyes. In stead they should be striving hard to develop a relationship with the Lord. This is the kind of labour which will result in the indescribable blessing of coming to know God personally and will reap an everlasting reward.

Since it is the "person or character of the heart" which matters to God, any one can be close to Him no matter what their station in life may be. I know of particular people who feel they are worthless from a worldly point of view. They are the opposite of the boastful. These people lament "I am only a cleaner", "I am only a binman", "I was a failure at school", "I am poor", "I am unattractive", "I haven't accomplished much", and so on. Although the world regards them as failures, they all have one thing in common; Almighty God regards them as "successful"! He observed how they laboured and strived to find and follow Him and now He looks upon them as His beloved children and has a personal relationship with each one of them. They are now part of His adopted family and joint heirs with Christ. (See Romans Ch8vs15-17, Galatians Ch4vs5-7 and 1st John Ch 3v1).

In Mark Ch 12vs41-44 Scripture states that Jesus observed people placing money into the Temple money box. It says "Many who were rich put in much". As He was watching, a poor widow put in two small coins called "mites". These coins were worth but a fraction of a penny. Jesus called over the disciples and said to them "Truly I say to you, that this poor widow has put in more than all those others, for they gave out of their abundance, but she gave out of her poverty." The Lord sees things as they really are; He is interested in our personal faithfulness not our worldly status. It is our faithfulness that God wants because it is the state of our hearts that counts.

Scripture reassures us that "He who is faithful over a very little is counted as being faithful in much"
(Luke Ch 16v10. See also Luke Ch 19v17 and Matthew Ch 25v23). The moving story is told of a poverty stricken Chinese woman who started to follow Christ in her late sixties. Although truly converted she felt unable to be Baptised. One day the missionary sat down and had a long talk with her to find out what was holding her back. With tears streaming down her cheeks she said that Jesus had commanded His disciples to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." She then added "I am an old woman, nearly seventy years of age and almost blind. I can tell my husband about Jesus, I can tell my son and his wife, I am willing to speak to my neighbours, but beyond that I am useless. Now do you think Jesus will let me call myself His disciple if I can do so little?"

The missionary then explained that Jesus only ever asks for the best a disciple can do in their own particular circumstances. He doesn't require from anyone, more than they are able to do because it is their faithfulness of heart that counts, not their ability to work. (As St Paul stated in Ephesians Ch2vs8-9 "We have been saved through faith…not by works, lest anyone should boast.") When she understood that in God's sight it's a faithful heart which makes a good disciple and not someone's ability, she happily got Baptised.

What God wants is holiness and faithfulness of heart in our individual lives, which even the least able in life, can achieve well. Whatever our status in life we can all be "great and successful" over "little things". As Dean Farrar said "little self-denials, little honesties, little passing words of sympathy, little nameless acts of kindness, little silent victories over temptations—these are the silent threads of gold which when woven together, gleam out so brightly in the pattern of life that God approves." A faithful and holy life in God's eyes is made up of a multitude of these "small things" and we all have the ability to do these "small things" in a great way. We can all be "successful" in little tasks. Let us see things as God sees them!

"I may not sing an anthem sweet, but I can find an empty seat and listen with devoted care while someone lifts his heart in prayer; I may not play the organ grand, but I can clasp a strangers hand, and smile and say word of cheer. Who knows? It may dispel a fear and help that one upon his way, if I can just the right word say; I cannot preach a sermon great, but when the offering they take, I can be honest with my Lord and freely give of my small hoard; These things that I can do seem, oh, so small, and far too few, but if I am watchful of them all, when His dear voice to me shall call, I'll say `here I am Lord; all that I can bring, is faithfulness in many little things`" Rosilyn Sture.