A Lesson from Mother Teresa

“God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.” – Mother Teresa

In the space of these 15 words, Mother Teresa has done it again. This godly woman, known throughout the world for her sincerity of faith, love for the poorest of the poor, and acts of radical love in the midst of suffering and poverty, has long inspired me by her rejection of wordly values and abandonment to serve the least of these. Her simplicity, her devotion to Jesus, her passion for walking as He did — she really lived what she believed.

Over the years I’ve read her books. I’ve watched videos of her speeches. I’ve copied her quotes onto a computer document that I pulled up when I needed encouragement in my spiritual walk. The Church is truly blessed to have her as yet another saintly example of both the beauty and radical nature of living out its teachings to be totally committed to the person of Jesus Christ.

But this quote of hers always jumps out at me. It has spoken to my heart in times of uncertainty, doubt and confusion; times when I was at a loss as to which decision to make or direction to turn. Back in January of this year I experienced so many unknowns. I had finished my Fall internship in mid-December and was looking for a job and applying for graduate school, all while living in a friend’s family friends’ spare bedroom. I had no immediate plans, no long-term future plans. Everything was up in the air.

Feelings of anxiety overwhelmed me. My past work experiences weren’t helping me much, although I applied for a few positions almost every day. I stayed busy applying to graduate school, and then waited to see how that would play out.

During that season of having nothing planned for my life, I was somewhere I had never been before. There had always been something; another semester to look forward to, a summer job, an internship. But it all just, stopped. As I sought to follow Jesus through the not-knowing of employment and school, Mother Teresa’s simple but profound words helped me to realize a few things about success and faithfulness.

Success. Uninformed by the teachings of the Church, the definition of success becomes subject to the world’s standards: How much job growth we have; our employment; our relationships; our possessions; our reputations. Power, prosperity and position, all focused on what we can attain or accomplish for ourselves.

Paul gives a great example of how to think of success. In Philippians 3, he describes what he had once perceived of as success before he became a Christian: his Jewish heritage, his observance of the Mosaic Law, his reputation among the Jewish community as a persecutor of Christians. Then he writes, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” When we experience Christ’s love and our acceptance is found by virtue of faith in Him, we can be freed from the things of this world to cherish Him above all else.

Faithfulness. A fruit of the Spirit. God called me when I was dead in my sins into union with Him out of the most incomprehensible love. He has freely adopted me to participate in His divine life by His grace, a gift of which I am so undeserving. He has rescued me out of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son; redeemed and set me free from slavery to sin and eternal death. He has replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh and placed within me a new spirit, His Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling and supernatural power I can love Him and bear fruit pleasing to Him (Romans 8:1-4). He has cleansed me of my original sin and offers merciful forgiveness of my daily sins when I confess them. And He does all this because He is love and He loves me. What else can I do but be faithful to Him? He who was so faithful to be crucified for me.

He is a faithful God; He does what He promises to do. Because of His faithfulness to us, we can rely on Him and His promises. “He who promised is faithful”, so I can hold onto the confession of my hope without wavering (Hebrews 10:23). God has called me as His adopted daughter to be faithful to Him until the end, where He promises to give me the crown of eternal life as a reward. And He is my greatest reward. (Hebrews 3:14, Revelation 2:10).

In the parable of the talents, Jesus rewards those who are faithful and trustworthy in cultivating the free gift of grace He has given them: “His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). This is my faithfulness to Jesus; that I hold fast to my faith in Christ and by the power of His Spirit love Him by loving others as He has loved me. Jesus gave everything He had for me; all He desires is for me to depend on Him as Savior and give myself to Him.

Through those few months of waiting, Jesus showed me that He hasn’t called me to be successful according to the world’s standards, but to trust Him where He’s placed me. Mother Teresa’s wisdom helped me to believe that I’m not called to find value in the successes of this world, but in God’s call to be faithful to Christ. I am called to ground my identity in Him and not in myself or the world; to turn to Him with my doubts and to learn to trust in His goodness; to rely on His truths that He has a perfect plan and a love for me that never fails.

As I reread this quote today, it proved to be a helpful reminder yet again. With a lot of discernment and God’s guidance, I’ve left behind that season of unknowns and entered into a completely new stage of life. Law school will inevitably be filled with its own unique uncertainties and trials, some of which I’ve already experienced in the first week of classes. There’s a really big emphasis placed on worldly success in my chosen profession! I just hope that what God taught to Mother Teresa and through her to me will ground itself deep in my soul as I seek to be faithful to Him in my pursuit of this law degree; that I will aim to do my best and to do it well, but to do so for His glory and not for my own success.

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