Was Hosea Successful? How About Me?

August 31, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement


I have often wondered how the prophets of the Old Testament understood “success.” How did they define success? How did they measure success? How could they know if they were successful or not?

Take Hosea as an example. His ministry spanned a period of 20-30 years in the middle of the 8th century BC. We have 14 chapters recorded of his message to the northern kingdom of Israel. The center of his message was a call to repentance from spiritual idolatry. We know from biblical history that Israel, as a nation, never repented. The warnings of Hosea came to fruition. The Assyrian Empire destroyed the nation and scattered the people in exile.

Was Hosea’s ministry successful?

For better or for worse, we typically think of success in terms of measurable results. “Was the business quarter successful” is asking whether a profit can be measured. This understanding of success has influenced how we evaluate ministry as well. “Was the [church event] successful?” is usually answered by speaking about numbers… how many people attended? How did people respond? How many people were “impacted”? Etc.

So, was Hosea’s ministry successful? If we’re looking for measurable results, we would have to say no. The people of Israel did not respond to his message. He did not start a revival. The nation was destroyed.

I believe most of us would have the sense to feel that this isn’t right. Hosea’s ministry success cannot be evaluated based upon how the people of Israel responded to his preaching. So how can we evaluate success? What else can be used to make that measurement?

David Fitch, in his book The Great Giveaway, argues that we need to shift from defining success in terms of quantity and begin using quality measurements for success. Regarding the church, the quality aimed for is what Paul calls “the body of Christ” (see Eph. 4:11-16, particularly verse 12). Fitch writes:

“Such critique [of quantity defined success] points us to another version of success, one built on faithfulness to being the body of Christ in the world. This vision for success aims toward the building of his body and the sanctification of believers via the body…The goal is to inflame the inner workings of his body… We measure [success] in ways that are inextricably tied to what it means to be faithful to being Christ’s body” (p. 43).

So faithfulness becomes the measuring bar of success. For the church, it’s faithfulness to the calling to be Christ’s body. For individual believers, it’s faithfulness to being a member of Christ’s body, who serves and gives and loves and shares, etc. (think of all the NT one another commands).

What about an Old Testament prophet? Success has to be measured by his faithfulness to his calling as one who speaks forth God’s message. In this regard, Hosea was highly successful. He was called to a difficult marriage, to say the least. He was faithful in that calling. He was called to present a difficult message to an obstinate people. He was faithful in the calling. Faithfulness is the measure of success.

How about you? By what means do you measure success in your spiritual life? Are you successful?


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