There are no Steps to Success or Happiness


As with most people, I like clear directions. Tell me the steps to take and the boxes to check in order to achieve success and happiness and I will follow them. Unfortunately for me (and everyone else) life does not work that way.

This has not stopped people from trying. A quick search on Amazon for “steps to a happy marriage” results in books declaring marital bliss can be achieved in 4,5,7,8,9,10,12 or 50 steps. (Why would anyone would pick the 50 step process over the 4 step process?). Christian pastors have apparently imbibed the same Kool-Aid, as a Google search for “Sermon steps to a happy marriage” yielded links to sermons declaring 4,5,7,8,10,12, and 17 steps to happiness.

The tendency to search for a secret formula, the hidden recipe, or the magic steps seems to be deeply ingrained into human nature. Which is what made our study of Matthew 9 this last week so surprising. As we reviewed the actions of Jesus described in the passage it became clear to us- Jesus did not follow a process, He did not check boxes. He had a clear mission, but he did not have a set process for carrying it out.

Several healings are described in the passage. A paralyzed man, a dead girl, a hemorrhaging woman, two blind men and a demon oppressed mute boy. For two of them, Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well”, for the other three, no reference is made to their faith at all. Three of them are healed with a touch, the other two are not. Two of the healings occurred because the sick ones personally sought Jesus out, the other two the seeking was done by someone else on their behalf.

This seems to be characteristic of Jesus. There are several instances in which Jesus is described as healing blindness. In Matthew 9, the blind men called out to Jesus, and followed him, calling out to Him and asking for mercy. It seems that Jesus just kept walking, and that the men ultimately followed Jesus into the house where he was staying. It was only then and there that the men were healed. On another occasion, a blind man called out in the same fashion as Jesus passed by. That time Jesus stopped, acknowledged the man, spoke to him and healed him on the spot.

Similar examples abound in the New Testament. As we discussed the lack of pattern in Jesus’ actions we came to the conclusion that it seemed Jesus was intentionally varying his approach. In so doing he made it impossible for people to put their faith in a process. There is no set behavior that resulted in Jesus responding. The gospel accounts make it clear, it is the person, Jesus, who matters, not a process.

This is a lesson we all need to learn. We need to focus on Jesus, not on process. As my friend John joked Tuesday morning. “If we took away of the books in the Christian bookstore that offered check boxes and processes, the only book left would be the Bible!”


This is the third post in a series based on insights from my weekly Men’s Bible Study group. Faith based posts are typically shared midweek (this one was a little late), non-religious posts on the weekend. If you want to receive these posts in your email, click on the subscribe link on the page. Comments are always welcomed.