Posts Tagged 'Success'

How To Succeed in Life

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Let’s be completely honest: Moses must have been a hard act to follow! Here’s how Deuteronomy records his epitaph:

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10 – 12 NIV)

How would you like to be the guy to succeed such a national treasure? We know the story of Israel didn’t end with the death of Moses atop Mount Pisgah. We also know that Joshua, a man who faithfully remained in Moses’ shadow for four decades, was the one who took his place. The book that bears his name was, in all probability, written in the main by Joshua himself. Both ancient and modern Jewish tradition, as well as much of conservative Christian opinion, attests to this.

The book is part autobiography and part history. As to the book of Joshua’s place in Hebrew history, here’s a bird’s eye-view. In Genesis, God gives birth to Israel and promises to give to it the land of Canaan. In Exodus, He delivers His people from oppression in a foreign land and starts them on their journey to the Promised Land. It is during this journey that He gave them His Law to live by. The book of Numbers records Israel’s wanderings through the desert right up to the gate of Canaan. Deuteronomy outlines final preparations for entering the land. It is here that Moses fades out and Joshua fades in. His book outlines the conquest of Canaan and the division of its territories to the various tribes of Israel. As noted by Irving Jensen:

Joshua is the climax of a progressive history as well as the commencement of a new experience for Israel. Thus its historical nexus gives it a strategic place in the Old Testament Scriptures.

Joshua the man was a man of faith. In fact, he was one of the very few men of faith who left Egypt, remaining absolutely faithful to God and to Moses. He trained diligently under Moses for some 40 years. Numbers 27:18 – 23 records Joshua’s divine calling:

So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.” Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses. (NIV)

Godly leaders are commissioned

For Joshua, it all began back in Deuteronomy 31:7, 8 –

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (NIV)

Man’s time on earth is limited, but God’s plan never ends. Man’s abilities and opportunities are painfully limited to his time and the circumstances he finds himself in. God, however, continues to do His work through the changing times and generations. He never stops working. Moses’ life was almost over; his part in God’s plan was drawing to a close and it was time for someone else to step in and take over.

Up till now, Moses had been the most important man in Israel. He was the one to whom God had spoken. He was the one who did the leading. His word was the law of the land. At 120, he was still doing what he did best, but the end was in sight. And, truth be told, as important and indispensible as Moses may have been, he was not irreplaceable. He may well have been the key man in Israelite politics and religion, but in God’s estimation, Moses was just one spoke in the wheel of His will. It was never the presence of Moses that made kept Israel together all those years, it was the presence of God in Moses’ life. It was time for another to lead God’s people.

Joshua was the man God chose to succeed Moses. He was the one who would lead the people into the Promised Land. Joshua would be the leader who would set the example of being fearless and courageous. The words of Moses are not insignificant. They are not just words of encouragement, but words of experience and promise. And they are words that the Israelites – and we – should take to heart. It’s all well and good to have a godly man in leadership, but that godly man should be trusting in God and so should the people. The people’s trust should be in God, not in the leader God has appointed.

This could be called “Leadership 101.” Human leadership is important, but regardless of who the human leader is our faith should be vested in God for it is He who enables and empowers. Leaders are expected to set the example of trusting God. This takes two character traits sorely missing in our culture today: humility and integrity. Moses had both by the bucketful. Joshua did, too. John MacArthur wrote:

According to Scripture, virtually everything that truly qualifies a person for leadership is directly related to character. It’s not about style, status, personal charisma, clout, or worldly measurements of success. Integrity is the main issue that makes the difference between a good leader and a bad one.

And so Moses commissioned Joshua in front of Israel, then the Lord inaugurates him:

The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.” (Deuteronomy 31:23 NIV)

Joshua needed to be as certain that God had called him as Moses had been. God had spoken to Moses regarding Joshua, and then the Lord Himself spoke to Joshua. Those are wonderful words of encouragement that would be repeated again and again. And they needed to be. Joshua would need to be reminded many times to be “strong and courageous” and that God was with him because the words the Lord spoke this day weren’t all sunshine and buttercups. The God who knows the future shared that future with Moses just prior to his death:

“When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” (Deuteronomy 31:20, 21 NIV)

More than ever, Joshua would need to have faith in God’s words to Moses and to him. He had a commission to fulfill and a job to do, regardless of the circumstances now or in the future.

Godly leaders are courageous

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7 – 9 NIV)

God definitely wanted Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” But notice the phrase “keep this Book of the Law.” That’s an important phrase. There were no written Scriptures before Moses. God had spoken to people, like the patriarchs, but they didn’t compile their various revelations. They were passed on from person to person verbally. God spoke to Moses face-to-face and he recorded the gist of those conversations and compiled the verbal history of Israel into what we call “The Pentateuch,” the first five books of the Bible. That was the “Book of Law” Joshua was to always remember and never forget. In those five books God had given the people all they needed to know in order to enter into the Promised Land and prosper. Joshua and the people were to read it, think about it, and observe it. The promise attached to obeying God on this point is glorious: They, the Israelites, would be prosperous and successful.

It’s important for us to understand exactly what God had promised to Joshua and the Israelites. All the promised success and properity would come from God. In other words, their source was God Himself. Without God, there would be defeat; with God there would be success and prosperity. That’s God’s soveriegnty at work. But mixed in with that sovereignty was the condition of their obedience. Faith without works is dead, James would write. This is certainly true in the case of Joshua and Israel. All the success and prosperity in the world would be theirs if they obeyed the Word of the Lord, part of which included being “strong and courageous.” The blessing of God would follow the obedience and work of the people.

But it would all start with Joshua and his example. God’s charge to Joshua is full of tremendous lessons for the Christian. We all want to enjoy the very best of God’s blessings. We want success and prosperity in life. And we need to understand that successful living is a promise – yes a promise – of God. It is also a gift from God that is available to all believers and attainable with the help of God. The enemies of our soul: Satan, the world, and our very flesh, need to be driven out just as the enemies of the Israelites needed to be driven out of the Promised Land. Those enemies would nullify God’s promises to Israel as surely as our spiritual enemies will do the same in our lives. But those enemies of ours are also God’s enemies, and so He promises help in conquering them. Success and prosperity can be yours, but they are costly, indeed. Believers are to live in constant and consistent obedience to God’s Word, never deviating from it or forgetting it or ignoring it. For too many Christians, that’s too high a price. Oh yes, we want success and prosperity in life but we stubbornly refuse to do what’s necessary to obtain those blessings! And when we fail, instead of placing the blame where it belongs, squarely on our shoulders, we blame God!

The blessings of victrorious Christian living come by invitation to the Christian, but the conditions for its fulfillment come by mandate. Believers, like Joshua, cannot afford to ignore God’s command:

“Have I not commanded you?” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

How To Guarantee Success

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As Christians, we should want to live the best life we can. That means glorifying God in everything we do, everywhere we go, every decision we make. That sounds like an impossibility. But if you are a serious Christian; if you are serious about your relationship with Jesus Christ, you should strive to achieve the impossible.

The good news is this: God has a way for you to never fail in your faith. If you follow these easy steps, you will always be a winner.

The bad news is this: Most of you won’t do anything to improve your life for Christ. That’s the cynic in me. I hope I’m wrong. We’ll see.

Confess your sins

The first step in living a successful Christian life is so simple, most of us miss it. If we have failed, the cause of that failure is always sin.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NKJV)

This seems to be a pretty simple, straight forward verse. But it’s a little deeper than it appears. There are three things going on in it.

First, the conditional part of the verse: If we confess our sins. Acknowledging our sins is something only we can do. It won’t work if somebody points them out to you. You must do the hard work of “confessing.” Without hiding them or covering them up, it is absolutely essential that Christians “fess up” to their sins. That means we don’t make excuses for them, we don’t try to justify our sinful behavior, and we don’t defend ourselves. We simply confess our sins to show repentance and to show that we have, in fact, received a new life. John doesn’t say how often we should do this or where, but if we repent daily, we should confess daily. In the original language, John’s admonition is a little clearer: “If we keep on confessing our sins,” he wrote.  Confessing, then, must be an ongoing thing.

Second: He is faithful and just. This is a statement of fact. We may be assured of forgiveness because God is “faithful and just.” God doesn’t scold you. He doesn’t chastise you when you come to Him confessing your sins. He’s not impatient with you. And He never, ever goes back on His word. There is no trick in gaining God’s forgiveness. He only requires our open, honest confession.

Lastly, here is what God will do: He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. There is a finality to God’s forgiveness. There is no doubt He will do this. This forgiveness lasts for all eternity. The word John uses for “forgiveness” carries with it the idea of “cancelling a debt” or “dismissal of all charges.” When our sins are forgiven, they can never be recalled by God. The word for “cleanse” refers to a kind of purification process whereby the pollution of sin is wiped or washed away. That’s a pretty phenomenal thing to think about. The simple act of our confession results in not only our sins being forgiven and essentially forgotten, but God sees us completely clean and He is able to have fellowship with us and answer our prayers.

Surrender your will

These verses are like a snapshot of a sad period of Hebrew history:

O Israel, return to the Lord, your God, for you have been crushed by your sins. Bring your petition. Come to the Lord and say, “O Lord, take away our sins; be gracious to us and receive us, and we will offer you the sacrifice of praise. Assyria cannot save us, nor can our strength in battle; never again will we call the idols we have made ‘our gods’; for in you alone, O Lord, the fatherless find mercy.” “Then I will cure you of idolatry and faithlessness, and my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be forever gone! (Hosea 14:1 – 4 TLB)

Hosea had a long and frustrating career as a prophet. It was frustrating because he try as he might to help his people, they seemed forever destined to keep on failing. An old man by chapter 14, once again he called on Israel to “return.” That was his favorite word. That was all he wanted: for his people to return to the Lord. God was calling His people to repent and return. Words must be followed by a corresponding action. A sinner repents (words) and he must return (action) to the Lord. Part of returning to the Lord means changing behavior. Specifically, Israel had to repent of three continual sins of failure: they relied on Assyria for salvation, they depended on Egypt for military aid, and, maybe worst of all, they depended on man-made idols for spiritual guidance and blessing. Each of these sins caused Israel to fail and fall further and further away from their God.

Imagine making something with your very own hands and then bowing down to worship it. Many Christians are doing just that. They worship their own talents and abilities. They worship their intelligence. They worship what they are doing and what they are able to do. Trouble is, they lose every time. If we as Christians want to be winners, we have to learn to surrender our wills to God. That’s not an easy thing to do. We want to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. But that’s a recipe for failure. Surrendering your will is difficult, but if you want to win, you’ll have to figure out how to do it.

Consecrate your life

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1, 2 NIV)

“Consecration” is linked to sanctification – the process of becoming holy. Consecration an old fashioned word most of us have heard but don’t know what it means. Very simply, we consecrate ourselves to God by separating ourselves from the world. By virtue of our association with a Holy God, we are to become holy. Romans 12:1, 2 tells us how to do that. If you want to win at life as a Christian, you have to do what these two verses say. A lot of Christians don’t. And a lot Christians fail because they compromise instead of consecrate.

Just look at what Paul is saying here. True and proper worship has nothing to do with singing songs or clapping your hands. It’s living the consecrated life. It’s how you live your life – the things you do, the places you go. And it all starts in your head. It’s changing your habitual way(s) of thinking. When you do that, your actions will follow. That’s what consecration is all about. It’s seeing the world from a different perspective. When a Christian does that, he starts winning. He starts loosing when he starts thinking like the world, then acting like it.

Lay aside every weight

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

Living a God-glorifying life isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes in living right, you feel like you’re living alone. But you are never alone because you are promised the enduring presence of God Himself. He promised to never leave or forsake one of His own.

Not only that, we’re in good company. Luther, Calvin, Knox, Moody, Spurgeon, and the countless believers – some with names most without – listed in Hebrews 11 serve as inspirations. They were men just like we are, subject to the same ups and downs we are. We are one with them – we are part of that group of saints from all the ages. That’s what the writer of Hebrews was trying to get across to his readers. Lord knows all believers need that kind of encouragement.

Very often in the New Testament, the Christian life is compared to a race – a foot race. Here, the athletes (Christians) are told to get rid of all the excess baggage of life that can slow us down. That sin keeps us from winning. It causes us to run slower, to stumble, to trip.

A lot of us Christians are weighed down with the baggage of the past. Old thoughts and attitudes. Old habits. Old associations. If we want to be winners, we have to get rid of those things.

In a race everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around. (1 Corinthians 9:24 – 26 TLB)

That was written by a serious Christian. Are you as serious? If you are, you’ll run with perseverance or patience. As Christians, the need for effort and hard work and patience cannot be understated. The people to whom this letter was written were suffering and growing impatient. They probably wondered why God wasn’t doing anything for them. Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing. Maybe, in your discouragement and frustration, you’ve lost patience with yourself, your church, or your God. You’ll never win if you harbor those kinds of thoughts and emotions. If you want to increase your odds of winning, you need to be patient and you need to stick to it. You can’t give up the race. You need to trust the Lord.

During our time on earth, many things will happen that we don’t understand. There will be questions that have elusive answers or answers we won’t like. If you want to be a winner, you need to know that God knows the beginning from the end. It should be enough to know that He has all the knowledge and power we need and that He is the God of all grace. God doesn’t want you to lose. He’s made it possible for you win. Accept His help and start winning.

What Failure Does to a Christian

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From time to time in our Christian lives, we may fail. Thankfully, we have an Intercessor in Heaven who pleads our case before God. When we fail, as long as we own up to that failure, ask for forgiveness, and ask for the strength to not fail again, we’ll be all right. We’re not all right when we live in a state of continual failure. That just isn’t acceptable to God. Constant failure is more than just rebelling against God. It actually implies a number of other things.

A life of disappointment

For my people have done two evil things: They have forsaken me, the Fountain of living waters; and they have built for themselves broken cisterns that can’t hold water! (Jeremiah 2:13 TLB)

This verse is a picture of Israel’s ingratitude toward the God who had done so much for them. How much did He love them? Here is the Lord speaking:

But I will not give you up—I will plead for you to return to me and will keep on pleading; yes, even with your children’s children in the years to come! (Jeremiah 2:9 TLB)

Israel’s continual backsliding – failures – made no sense at all in light of all God had done for the nation in the past.

Look around you and see if you can find another nation anywhere that has traded in its old gods for new ones—even though their gods are nothing. Send to the west to the island of Cyprus; send to the east to the deserts of Kedar. See if anyone there has ever heard so strange a thing as this. And yet my people have given up their glorious God for silly idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay. (Jeremiah 2:10 – 12 TLB)

In human terms, God was bewildered at how Israel was acting. It was not only rebellious and wrong, it was a strange thing for Israel to do. They literally gave up on God – the living and fresh water – to drink the stagnant, poisoned waters that flowed from the broken cisterns they themselves built. That kind of behavior was unthinkable. Yet Israel behaved unthinkably. In seeking to “build their own cisterns” – that is, provide for themselves without God’s help – they always settled for second best; for left overs; for whatever “blessings” they could muster and scrape together for themselves.

We may sneer and chuckle at the Israelites for their demented behavior, but are Christians any different? Look at those Israelites. They attempted to get along without God, and they did after a fashion. They limped along for a time, making cisterns that sort of held some water. But hey never had enough. Their water was never good enough. It always needed to be rationed. Naturally there was more to it than cisterns and water. The Lord’s point in bringing up the broken cisterns was to show how inadequate even their best efforts were. How many Christians are living the same way? They love the Lord. They’re born again. But they foolishly think they can “got it alone.” They think hat they can live according to their own set of their rules. They may experience some success along the way from time to time, and no doubt they “give God the glory,” not realizing that if they actually lived HIS WAY instead of their way, their success wouldn’t be adequate, it would be abundant and overflowing.

There are a lot disappointed Christians out there; Christians whose view of God is completely warped. Their God is fickle. Sometimes He answers prayers, sometimes not. He blesses, but never quite enough. He does one good thing but then two other things go wrong. The Christian life is a disappointing mystery to believers who are trying to live it according to their way.

A life of discouragement

Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.” (Deuteronomy 1:28 NKJV)

Most of us know the background of this verse. Moses and Israel had left Egypt and were standing on the very border of the Promised Land, the land God had given them. Before entering, though, Moses sent out spies to go in and spy out the land. When the spies came back, they gave a good news/bad news report. The land was bountiful, they said, but there were giants in the land. The report discouraged the people.

Dr McGee points out that establishing what amounted to a board or committee to go in and examine the land was where the failure began. It was completely unnecessary for the Israelites to spy out the land. God had already done that and decided it was perfect for His people to live in. But the people needed to figure it out for themselves. They needed to do it their way. They decided they needed a committee.

The good Doctor was on to something. The people, Moses included, just didn’t have enough faith in the Word of the Lord! Unbelief was their problem. God said it was a good land, but that good word wasn’t enough. Moses and his people felt they needed to do “do something.” And they did, and they failed. That failure led to an unnecessary addition of 40 more years of wandering around the desert, just outside the Promised Land.

Talk about discouraging! But Christians experience the same kind of discouragement when they do the same thing. God was with the Israelites out in the desert; He never abandoned them even though that forty-year sojourn was a kind of punishment for their failure in not going in a taking the land as they were supposed to. He still blessed them. He still provided for their needs. He still spoke to them. But it could have been so much better for everybody if Moses had just obeyed the Lord without question. So it is with us. We may be disobedient, but God is still with us. He still works with us. But even so, a disobedient Christian will always be a discouraged Christian because he will always have the knowledge that life didn’t have to turn out this way. If only he’d just believed, trusted, and obeyed.

A selfish life

How prosperous Israel is—a luxuriant vine all filled with fruit! But the more wealth I give her, the more she pours it on the altars of her heathen gods; the richer the harvests I give her, the more beautiful the statues and idols she erects. (Hosea 10:1 TLB)

How God had blessed Israel! And why wouldn’t He? He called her into existence. He loved her with an unending love. The blessings of the Lord literally overflowed. The psalmist knew how much God had done for the nation:

You brought us from Egypt as though we were a tender vine and drove away the heathen from your land and planted us. You cleared the ground and tilled the soil, and we took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with our shadow; we were like the mighty cedar trees, covering the entire land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River. (Psalm 80:8 – 11 TLB)

The psalmist knew it, but the nation didn’t. Israel refused to acknowledge the blessings that had come from God. They took His blessings and used them for their own immoral and corrupt purposes rather than for the Lord. The more He blessed them, the more they took advantage of those blessings. Verse two tells us the root problem with Israel:

Their heart is divided… (Hosea 10:2a NKJV)

What is a “divided heart?” It’s a heart not completely devoted to God. It’s a heart that loves God but is having an affair with the world. It’s a heart that wants it all: it wants God and it wants the world. The problem with a “divided heart” is that it’s really a misnomer. There really isn’t such a thing. If God doesn’t have your whole heart, He really doesn’t have any of it.

The “divided heart” was Israel’s fatal flaw. It could also be yours. The prophet Elijah, a hundred years before Hosea, made the diagnosis when he asked this question of the people:

Then Elijah talked to them. “How long are you going to waver between two opinions?” he asked the people. “If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” (1 Kings 18:21 TLB)

This is a huge problem in the church today. It has always been a huge problem n the church. James encountered it and wrote about it:

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6 – 8 NKJV)

The “divided heart” way of living is the way of a failure. That kind of fence-walking leads only to instability and ruin. It did for Israel. It will for you, if you have a “divided heart” and “double mind.”

An unfruitful life

Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me. (John 15:4 TLB)

When a Christian is out of fellowship with Christ, his life will be unproductive and barren. It is possible for a Christian to straddle that fence between the kingdom and world and still be concerned about living for God; and following His will even while he isn’t. That kind of Christian will never accomplish anything of lasting value for the kingdom as long as his heart is in the world. It must be frustrating for a lukewarm believer – not feeling at home in the Kingdom and not really belonging to the world, either. It’s a fruitless existence.

A lukewarm life

Speaking of lukewarm, Revelation talks about what happens to a believer like that:

But this is what I have against you: you do not love me now as you did at first. (Revelation 2:4 GNB)

But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth! (Revelation 3:16 GNB)

That’s a message to Christians! A lukewarm Christian is sickening to the Lord. Yet lukewarmness is plaguing the church. It’s a plague worse than Ebola. How many Christians are infected with it? Those who are not in fellowship with the Body of Christ; those who aren’t sharing their faith with the lost; those who think their secret sins go unnoticed; those who think they can play both sides; those who aren’t interested in the things of God,those are believers who have become lukewarm. They’re in a perilous condition. They need to set things right with God before He takes drastic action!

A life of defeat

Constant failure in the Christian life leads inexorably to defeat after defeat after defeat.

But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up off your face! Israel has sinned and disobeyed my commandment and has taken loot when I said it was not to be taken; and they have not only taken it, they have lied about it and have hidden it among their belongings. That is why the people of Israel are being defeated. That is why your men are running from their enemies—for they are cursed. I will not stay with you any longer unless you completely rid yourselves of this sin.” (Joshua 7:10 – 12 TLB)

There are Christians who pray like Joshua. They whine and pray and plead and maybe shed a tear or two, and they may be as sincere as the day is long, but praying like that won’t do them any good.  Why?  Because God will not answer a prayer prayed by someone who has a problem that comes between them and Himself. Root out the problem and God will once again be accessible. In Joshua’s case, he was unaware of a problem; Joshua didn’t know that Israel had sinned. But what he didn’t know greatly effected his prayers. God told him what the root of the problem was and that problem was why he was experiencing defeat.

You may be experiencing defeats like that and you don’t know why. It’s possible to be unaware of the things in your life shielding you from God. It’s possible to be just far enough from God that you are unable to discern the sin in your life that is causing you defeat. You blame God, your circumstances, or other people when it’s your fault that you’re failing. When you’re close enough to God, the Holy Spirit will help you discern what’s wrong. He did it in the early church with the sad case of Ananias and Sapphira and He’ll do it for you,too. Just ask and wait for Him to show you what’s wrong. He will.

A life of dishonor

Living a life of constant failure does terrible things to you. It’s disheartening, it’s depressing, it’s discouraging, it makes you miserable. But worst of all, when you fail the Lord you bring dishonor upon Him. Your failures make Him look bad. Your failures do serious damage to His reputation in the world.

God doesn’t want you to fail and He guarantees your success when you play by His rules and live according to His will. You don’t have to fail.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56 TLB)

You Can’t Lose!

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If you are a Christian, you are not a failure!  You may fail occasionally, but you are not a failure.  Non-believers, however, are complete and utter failures no matter how successful they seem to be.  That’s because in the end, regardless of their successes in life, they will lose the crown of eternal life.  A Christian always wins in the end.

But even in everyday life, no Christian need fail in their service to God.  Why do some Christians feel like they are failing?  God has made no provision for failure, so why do we sometimes fail?

Think about the advantages Christians have and why they should never fail in living the Christian life.

We have God’s nature in us. 

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  (2 Peter 1:2 – 4  NKJV)

These are some extraordinary claims Peter is making in these verses, and they deserve a moment of our time and consideration.  Those two things he mentions at the beginning of verse two, “grace” and “peace,” are two graces everybody wants and needs but can’t seem to find.  Non-Christians want them so that they may live a better quality of life, sleep at night, and get along with other people.  Christians know they need more grace and peace, but they end up looking for them in the same places non-Christians are looking for them. We look for “grace” and “peace” in counseling, in the latest Oprah-recommended self-help book, in pills, in entertainment, in things, and in relationships.  But Peter matter-of-factly tells us precisely where “grace” and “peace” comes from:

in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord… 

Those two in-demand graces come from an ever-expanding knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ.  The Christian life is not a static life; we must always be growing and learning and delving deeper into the spiritual life we have in Christ.

“Knowledge” comes from the Greek gnosis, but Peter adds a tiny prefix to it, epi, which means “additional, full, certain, sure, and personal.”  True Christianity, then, is a continually growing, personal knowledge of God through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  This knowledge is not merely “head knowledge” of facts and dates or speculations about God.  It’s a deep knowing; an inner conviction of the certainty of who God is.

How does one gain this kind of special knowledge?  Certainly from reading and studying the Word of God, and certainly from prayer, yet according to Peter, there is way more to it than that!

Everything we need to know to live a righteous, God-pleasing life, has been given to us by the power of Christ.  Peter knew all about that awesome power.  He saw Jesus calm stormy sees.  That power enabled Peter to take a few steps on top of the water.  He heard Jesus personally say this:

All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  (Matthew 28:28  KJV)

Peter and the other apostles received the Power of Christ when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.  So Peter knew all about the power of Christ, and he, as Wesley wrote, cheerfully reminded his readers that what they needed, they already had.

Christ’s power, dynamis, is within Himself. His power is the dynamic energy of His Person.  Christ’s power doesn’t come from something outside Himself.  He IS power in the purest sense of the word.  And Christians, simply by virtue of the fact that they are in possession of the abiding presence of Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit, have the dynamis inside them!

That incredible power, though, is inside believers for a specific reason.  It’s not to help you read minds or get ahead in your job.  The power of Christ is not for the purpose of making you smarter or more cunning than your friends or co-workers.  His gift of power is given to Christians for the sole purpose of helping us live Godly lives; lives that please God and move us closer to Him.

It is only through the knowledge of Christ that we can get a handle on how to live in the here-and-now.  The only way you can become the kind of person God wants you to become is through Christ’s power, which is activated in you through knowing more and more about Jesus Christ.

But how is all this possible?  It all comes down to this:

you may be partakers of the divine nature…

You and I as Christians have a precious faith.  We have also been given some precious promises.  Some, though by no means all, of those promise include:

  • But some will come to me—those the Father has given me—and I will never, never reject them.  (John 6:37  TLB)
  • Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke.  (Matthew 11:28  TLB)
  • So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son, does not have life.  (1 John 5:12  TLB)
  • For you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from Christ, God’s ever-living Message to men.  (1 Peter 1:23  TLB)

These are precious promises, given to you by God through your knowledge of Jesus Christ.  They have been given to you so that you may “partake of the divine nature.”  What does that mean?  By accepting the precious promises of God in Christ, you become a child of God; you are given the nature of God.  The Christian life cannot be reduced to long lists of do’s and don’ts.  Because you now have God’s nature inside you, you should want to live as He would live.  His nature working in you means that you should be wanting the things He wants, thinking the thoughts He thinks;  it means that gradually you begin to take on the very character of God the longer you live and the more you learn about Him.

The divine nature is a powerful thing.  It’s so powerful that through it you have escaped corruption of the world all around you.  Sin and the pollution of sin may be swirling all around you as you walk through the world, but because you have accepted God’s precious promises, and because you have God’s nature working in you, that pollution can’t harm you; it can’t stick to you.

God’s provision is enough 

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  (2 Corinthians 9:8  ESV)

Earlier in this chapter, we learn that God is love.  Here we learn that God is all powerful.  In fact, this verse tells us that, literally, God is ALL.  Five times in all, the word “all” is used by Paul to teach us something of God and His power.

God has enough power to bless us abundantly.  Most of the time, we take this to mean “lots and lots of blessings.”  But it means more than that.  God is involved in all the twists and turns of our lives.  He knows what’s going on.  God is able to bless us accordingly.  He knows just what we need, when we need it.  A great example of this kind of abundant blessing is seen in how the Lord used the Macedonian church –

Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, they have mixed their wonderful joy with their deep poverty, and the result has been an overflow of giving to others.  (2 Corinthians 8:2  TLB)

The Macedonians were in rough shape financially, but they received God’s grace so that they were able to “mix their wonderful joy with their deep poverty” so that they were able to turn around to bless others!   The Macedonians were broke.  Somebody should have been taking up an offering for them.  But they had been blessed by God, and what did they do with that much-needed blessing?  They gave it, or some of it, to another needy church!  Kistemaker’s observation is priceless –

In the service of the Lord grace begets grace, although the believer’s grace in joyful giving can hardly be compared with God’s abounding grace to the believer. 

In other words, God blesses us in a huge way, so much so we are able to bless others with the overflow of the blessing we received.  Even the most generous among us can never match the generosity of God.   However, God’s provision to individual believers is more than enough so that the needs of all believers should be met.

And it is he who will supply all your needs from his riches in glory because of what Christ Jesus has done for us.  (Philippians 4:19  TLB) 

No Christian needs to be a failure because God has the game is fixed in favor of the Christian.  He makes sure we’ll receive what we need.  God gives us incredible blessings of salvation, spiritual gifts, the fruit of the Spirit, and often unnoticed material blessings.  All of what we need is wrapped up in that one word: GRACE.

Here’s a phrase that seems too good to be true –

so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 

If we take it literally, and we should, Paul is teaching that God will meet the needs of every cheerful, devoted Christian.  God’s grace is more than enough to meet the needs of every single Christian in the world any time.  But, there is a caveat:  God’s provision of grace is meant to glorify Him in His church and kingdom on earth.

A Christian is blessed by God within the framework of loving God and his neighbor.  God’s blessings – spiritual or material – are never meant to stop at the original recipient.  God’s blessings are meant to be passed on by everyone of receives them, either first hand or from the overflow of another.

That’s why whenever we can we should always be kind to everyone, and especially to our Christian brothers.  (Galatians 6:10  TLB)

Tell those who are rich not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone, but their pride and trust should be in the living God who always richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.  Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them.  (1Timothy 6:17, 18  TLB)

It is impossible for a Christian to fail in his service to God.  At least from God’s perspective.  We are blessed to –

abound in every good work.

God makes His grace abound so that we may abound in “every good work.” Do you know what that means? It means that you may serve the Lord – whether you are intending to share your faith with the lost in an act of personal evangelism or write a check to some missionary – in faith knowing that God WILL provide the necessary gifts or means for you to succeed.  You will never fail in your service to the Lord because God has made it possible for you not to.

But, we do fail sometimes, don’t we?  We’ll discuss that next time.

 


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