The Taste of Ashes

Date: February 29, 2016

Bible Text: Psalm 40:8 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. Psalm 40:8

“Success,” wrote J. Robert Oppenheimer, “has as many different meanings as there are human beings. Each man must define it for himself–and succeeds or fails only in respect to his own definition….” According to the standards of most men, J. Robert Oppenheimer was a successful edition of an outstanding man.

Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22, 1904. He was the son of an immigrant German textile merchant. His brilliant mind won him a scholarship to Harvard. Three years later he completed work on a four- year degree, and graduated with honors. After a year’s graduate study at Cambridge, he went to Goettingen University, where he received his Ph.D. Oppenheimer was brilliant and his grasp of physics soon won him renown as one of the outstanding physicists of our time.

During World War 2, he was director of the Los Alamos Project, which produced the atomic bomb; hence, his name has gone down in the history books with the dubious distinction of being the Father of the Atomic Bomb. In 1963 the Atomic Energy Commission gave to Oppenheimer its highest honor–the $50,000.00 Enrico Fermi Award, presented personally by the President of the United States.

The last few years of his life were spent at Princeton where Oppenheimer served as director of Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Study. In February 1967 cancer claimed the life of the eminent scientist. From around the world, tributes poured in. Oppenheimer was one of the few men whose genius was recognized by his contemporaries.

Undoubtedly Oppenheimer’s achievements in nuclear physics changed the course of world history, but how did Oppenheimer view his meteoric career? One year before his death Oppenheimer said, “I am a complete failure.” His greatest accomplishments did not spell success in the terms he desired. Of his achievements Oppenheimer said, “They leave on the tongue only the taste of ashes.” Seemingly the destructive powers of the A Bomb always laid heavily on his heart. The scientist used to recall a Hindu writing which said, “I am become death, the shatterer of worlds.” After the A Bomb was dropped he said, “Men of our times will never have a sense of security again.”

It is strange that a man with such genius should view his life as a failure. Undoubtedly his words are true, “Success has as many different meanings as there are human beings.”

How would you describe your life in relationship to his concept of success? Oppenheimer demonstrated that there is more to success than simply seeing your name being written on the pages of history.

John Foster Dulles, a former U.S. Secretary of State, once said, “The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”

Success is more than accomplishments–it is what you really are. It is what is left of life apart from the glitter of popularity. In the final analysis–success is finding the will of God for your life, and then doing it. Should you give a personal account of your life in the presence of God, would you think of your life as successful? I mean in the terms of what really counts in life?

Every man can find God’s will for his life if he sincerely seeks it. Christ came to give purpose and meaning to your life, and the beginning is a personal relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.

Dr. Charles Malik put it, “Success is neither fame nor wealth nor power. Success is seeking and knowing and loving and obeying God; and if you seek you will find, and if you find, you will love, and if you love, you will obey.”

Resource reading: Psalm 40