Deborah was a judge, a ruler over all of Israel. As a woman, she would not have been the first choice for a leader in that culture. It is safe to assume that among all the men in Israel, not one was found to be worthy to lead the nation. Deborah was capable, smart, and connected with God. She was wise and decided disputes among the people. God used her to gain a military victory for his people. He gave her specific instructions to give to the military commander, Barak.
As part of the instructions, God assured Barak that he would have success on the battlefield. But Barak balked. He didn't want to do this alone and says he would go only if Deborah would come too. He was not satisfied that God had promised to be with him. He wanted Deborah’s presence too.
She agreed to go, but told him that he would miss out on all the glory that would come to the victor, and that, in fact, the glory would go to a woman. During the battle, she tells him exactly when to advance.
God had assured their victory. And, as promised, they were victorious. The rest of the story tells us how a pagan woman was used to take out the enemy leader, Sisera. She is the woman who gets the glory instead of Barak. (It’s a gnarly story to be sure!) Deborah and Barak’s story is told in Judges 4 and 5.
What was Barak’s mistake? He followed through on the instructions relayed by Deborah. But he didn’t want to be alone out there in case things went sideways. He didn’t trust God’s assurance of success. God’s assurance was for success in God’s eternal agenda. God’s assurance wasn’t necessarily for Barak to come away looking like a hero.
I am just like Barak. I know the next step God is leading me to take.
I may not know the whole path he is leading me on, but I can usually see the next step. However, before I take that step, I want assurance of success. I want to know all will go well and that the process will be easy. I want the success to look like my idea of success (money, prestige, accolades, awards, everyone telling me how great I am, flowers thrown in my direction, etc.)
Success is assured when we are following God’s path. But what that success looks like may surprise us.
Success for God often looks very different from success for the world.
Success for God is when he gets the glory.
Success for God is when the world starts to reflect him.
Success for God is my spiritual growth even if the situation makes me look like a failure to the rest of the world.
Success for God is not necessarily success for me. At least not the kind of success I want. And when I balk like Barak, I might miss out on seeing God’s handiwork in my life.
To think about: In what ways am I looking for a worldly definition of success in my life?
What might God’s version of success look like in my current situation?
Today, open your grasp on your idea of success just a little. Ask God to exchange it for his idea of success in your life.
How have you experienced success with God that didn’t look successful to the world?