When Success Leads to Failure


“If our identity is in our work, rather than Christ, success will go to our heads, and failure will go to our hearts.”

Just last week we read about Gideon’s obedience and God’s miraculous defeat of the Midianites with a mere 300 men, torches in broken jars, and trumpets. 

This week, we see Gideon and Israel lose their way yet again…and it comes on the heels of success.

Initially, the Israelites want Gideon to serve as king…they tell him, “Rule over us!” And, quite humbly and quickly, he declines and says, “The Lord will be your ruler.”

Alright! Go Gideon! Right?

Well…not so fast. 

Though he rejects this acclaim and misplaced worship in the moment, some part of it seeps into his heart. 

We see evidence of this shortly thereafter in his responses to two situations that don’t go according to his liking. His authority and success are maligned and questioned, and suddenly the humble demeanor is gone. Instead he responds defensively, angrily, and vengefully.

Later, he creates a robe reserved for priests for himself out of the spoils of victory and turns his home essentially into a house of worship...of himself. Though it takes time, in many ways, he grants the Israelites their initial request. They are no longer worshipping God. They are worshipping Gideon.

Success, it seems, has gone to his head. 

The oft-quoted Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” 

This happened to Gideon, and it can so easily happen to us as well.

When our identity is in anything other than Christ - our work, our relationships, our marriages, our kids, our appearance, our homes, our possessions, even our religiosity - we are tethered to their rise and downfall! Success does indeed go to our heads, and failure does indeed go to our hearts. It’s such an exhausting cycle.

Gideon was faithful and then messed up, because he was but a shadow of the Messiah to come. 

May we be daily anchored to Christ -abiding in Him - so that as our lives ebb and flow, we remain sure and steadfast, minds and hearts focused not on our success and failures, but on His success, in which we miraculously get to share.