Sunday, May 27, 2012

Are You Successful?

Achieving success is one of the most common goals people set for themselves today.  Our self-esteem and self-worth are most often directly linked with how successful we are in business, in status, in career and other achievements.

The Bible has a lot to say about success and prosperity, and it is true that God does want to bless us, just like any father does. 

The vast difference between the world’s way to success and God’s way to success is that the world’s way to success is all about self, and God’s way to success is all about God.

Worldly prosperity and success should not be an obsessive primary goal in the life of a Christian.  Jesus admonishes us not to gather ‘for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.’  (Matthew 6:19-20)  He continues on to say that we should not worry about our life and our basic needs, for God knows that we need all things, but ‘seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:25-34)

The biblical view of success and prosperity goes far beyond financial and material success.   The Word of God speaks of success for the Christian, however success is defined as a progressive process of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.  Paul says,  “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  (2 Corinthians 3:18)   As we stand before the mirror of God’s Word, we see the habits and sin in our lives that need to change in order for us to become more and more like Jesus Christ.  Some habits will disappear immediately, as we delve into the Word and begin to apply God’s principles for a successful life, others may take time.

The Bible is a guidebook containing principles which God expects you to follow.  If you saturate yourself with scriptural principles, you will be able to live within His framework.  ~Elmer L. Towns, The Successful Christian Life

What should be our primary goals be?
(1)   Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  (Matthew 6:33)
(2)   I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me. (Proverbs 8:17) 
(3)   This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  (Joshua 1:8)

King Uzziah of Judah became king when he was sixteen years old.  He reigned for fifty-two years in Jerusalem and ‘as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.’  (2 Chronicles 26:5)

Let us all put success in its proper place.  No matter what our financial net worth or our station in life might be, we CAN be successful as Christians if we use biblical principles as the way to measure our success.

My son, do not forget My law, but let your heart keep My commands;
For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.
Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.
- Proverbs 3:1-4

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Point To Ponder

Do you ever wonder if there is more than one God in this world, or many ways to reach Him?

"Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God." (Isaiah 44:6)

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)

When Critics Come Calling

When others, especially the people we hold most dear, launch criticism at us, it can easily destabilize our world, and in many cases even be hurtful.

1. Keep in mind that the only approval you should ever seek, is that of the Lord our God, Creator of the Universe.  Ultimately you will not stand in front of the judgment seat of the critic, but the judgment seat of God.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.“
(Psalm 139:23-24, NLT)

2.  Evaluate the content of the criticism, the authority and good model of the source, and measure it against the Word of God.   If the criticism is valid, embrace it.

“Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart
unless it passes through the filter of Scripture.”  ~Erwin McManus

3.  There is no need to go on the offense or defense.  When you enter into an argument with a fool, you run the risk of being foolish yourself  (Proverbs 26:4)

4.  What kind of a critic are you yourself?  Do you focus on the excellences and good character of others, providing heartfelt, uplifting advice and guidance?

A true critic ought to dwell upon excellences rather than imperfections.
~Joseph Addison

There are two kinds of people in this world:  
Those who DO, and those who CRITICIZE those who do. 
Which would you rather be, a doer or a critic?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Under Attack

As I read the Psalms I’m reminded again of the valuable lesson we can learn from King David’s example. So often in his life people, even close friends and family, were against him, falsely accusing him, not giving him an opportunity to defend himself.

Vile and hateful verbal attacks, false accusations and a refusal to give one an opportunity to respond, can hurt much deeper than a physical blow, however, we learn from David’s life that he turned to the Lord in times like these. “He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.” (Psalm 62:2)

When someone throws thorns at you, you can choose to catch them and bleed, or you can choose to put up a shield causing those hurtful thorns to fall to the ground without doing any harm. The Word of God is our shield. When indecent and hateful words, and even lies, are spoken against us, we can turn to His Word, and meditate on it, giving us the strength to not respond in kind, but rather in love.

“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

“Avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

It is also important to realize that it is not worth it to entertain other people’s hateful tirades at the expense of your own soul. We do not have to sit silently and take the verbal and emotional abuse of others, nor do we have to seek its presence. It is futile and even dangerous to willfully hang around hateful people, listen to their irrational attacks, and run the risk of getting drawn into an ugly dispute, especially if the person is unwilling to have a calm conversation about the issues and unwilling to listen.

“If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them.” (Titus 3:10, ESV)

“Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

“He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20)

Ultimately we must be able to forgive. God promises that when we come to Him asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it (1 John 1:9). The forgiveness we extend should know no limits, in the same way that God's forgiveness is limitless (Luke 17:3-4). Even if the other person does not come to repentance and ask us for forgiveness, we can come to a place where we sincerely forgive the offender in our heart.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

What should our verbal response be? Jesus gave clear instruction in this matter when He said, “Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you .” (Matthew 5:44)

In summary:
1.  Do not strive to defend yourself— God is your Vindicator and He knows the truth.
2,  Turn to the Word of God and meditate on it.
3.  Do not unnecessarily entertain the poisonous words of others—Your ear is not a trash can.
4.  Forgive as God forgives us.
5.  If you must speak, speak words of love, kindness, and blessing.