For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Measure of Success

There are some common definitions of success:
"Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill
"The more you're actively and practically engaged, the more successful you will feel." - Sir Richard Branson, Virgin founder
"Success is not having to describe what's been accomplished...others do it for you." - Deborah Hopkins, Chief Innovation Officer, Citibank
“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” - Bob Dylan

Browse any bookstore or newsstand and you will see books telling you how to be successful. They feature smiling authors who have become successful and want to share their secrets with you so you can be successful, too. Many have become wealthy by selling being successful! The quotes and books and seminars about being successful all tug at our desire to succeed. When you look up the word success in the dictionary you will find this definition: "the attainment of wealth, power, or fame." Each of these authors as achieved one or more of these things. 

Our culture and family can put different spins on what success looks like. But they almost always are simply variations of the wealth, power, or fame theme. Even in the the Christian subculture we can have variations of these themes. What does it mean to be a successful Christian?

For some, it is being an active and wealthy follower of Jesus. So they set their hearts on earning as much money as possible while being busy with church things. Often they will give generously. But the words of Jesus are clear: You cannot serve God and money. Pursuing wealth is not compatible with following Jesus (Matthew 6:24). Yes, I checked the Greek. "Cannot" means "cannot", as in "not possible to". 

For others, it is the Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit manifest in their lives. Miracles, words of knowledge and prophecy are the goals that are pursued. Often these things are also gained. But Jesus is clear once again: "On that day, many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness" (Matthew 7:22-23).

Moses was a mighty man of God. Raised in Pharaoh's household, he fled for his life and lived in obscurity for years before God called him to lead the children of Abraham out of Egypt. Incredible miracles accompanied his life (just think of the plagues in Exodus 7-12!). He met with God with such intimacy that his face shone (Exodus 34:34-35). He wrote five books of the Bible (Genesis-Deuteronomy). Talk about a leader! It would be intimidating to be his replacement.

Joshua was that man. Leadership can look easy until its mantle falls on your shoulders. Joshua would be faced with leading the people into the Promised Land and conquering the people who lived there. His mentor was dead and could not give advice any longer. He was on his own.

It was at this moment that God spoke to him and revealed to him the secret of success.

"Be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful 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 1:7-8)

The Lord told Joshua that the Bible was essential to his success. He needed to be continually meditating on its truths. Day and night the words of the Bible needed to fill his thoughts. Then he needed to be careful to do what it said. This would be the key to his success.

And it is the key to our success as well. Our culture teaches us that we can be successful by pursuing career, family, fortune, and fame. God says the way to be successful is by continual meditation on his Word and then putting it into practice in our lives. In fact, he says that doing anything else is like building a house without a foundation. Foundations are boring. It is tempting to overlook them and concentrate on the things that are above the ground. Skimp on the foundation and we can afford to put in a swimming pool! A swimming pool seems like a sign of success until the storm comes and reveals that our house lacked a foundation (Matthew 7:24-27).

The key to success is mediation on the Bible and putting its truths into practice. We cannot just pick things that we like to do and ignore other things. We need to allow the Bible to shape and mold our thinking and behaviour. We will learn to pray, and work, and give, and worship, and will discover the joy of serving Christ. We will be filled with a peace that passes all human understanding. We will be blessed beyond measure. We will have built a house that cannot be shaken regardless of the strength of the storm. 

We need to understand that the people around us are not the judges of our success. Nor are we the judge. Instead, the Bible tells us that there is coming a day when each of us will stand before a God. He will judge whether we have been successful or not. The standard will be the Word that he has given us. Have we meditated on it and obeyed it? If so, we will hear "well done, good and faithful servant." On that day we will be able to say, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will award to me on that Day" (2 Timothy 4:7).

So today I urge you to begin the the journey toward a successful life. Pick up the Bible. Read and meditate on its truths. Then obey it. You will be amazed at what happens.

Warning: It may be that you think that this does not apply to you because you are not a pastor. 
You are a student, a business executive, a lawyer, or a diplomat. Your life is busy and the Bible seems unimportant to what you have going on this week. Please remember: Joshua was not a priest. He was the leader of several million people. The demands on his time were overwhelming, yet God insisted that the key to success was continual meditation on the Word and obedience to what it says. If it was true for Joshua, it is true for you.

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