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Sermon No: 1220-Success or Faithfulness



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SERMON TOPIC: Success or Faithfulness

Speaker: Ken Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 17 August 2013

Topic Groups: FAITHFULNESS, SUCCESS, PROSPERITY

Sermon synopsis: It seems like every time I flip through the channels on the TV, I come across endless numbers of 'preachers' with the same old 'health and wealth' message. It’s sad. They convince people that worldly success is the goal and result (or at least the indicator) of being a good Christian. This could not be further from the authentic Christian message - yet this is what many people see and believe. It just sets them up for disappointment and ends up undermining what faith they do have. I love how this quote keeps that in perspective. Our primary goal should not be to have success - whatever form that might take. It should be to remain faithful throughout.

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Success or faithfulness.

One day, God spoke to an ordinary man and asked him to do something. God showed the man a huge rock and told him to push against it. And so the man did. Every day, the man would push and strain and exert himself against the rock. The rock would remain still. At the end of the day, the man would go home and recover, and then get back to pushing the rock again in the morning. After many weeks of this, the man started to feel discouraged. What was he accomplishing? The rock was too big and heavy! How could he ever move it? The devil took this chance to stir up the man’s doubts. What was God up to, giving the man an impossible task that was difficult, futile and worthless? Why was God wasting the man’s time, energy and talents on this fool’s errand? But the man kept on pushing and pushing, every day. Until one day when he couldn’t take it anymore, he cried out in despair to God: “God! Why did you ask me to push this rock? It’s too big, I can’t move it!”

Success or faithfulness.

And God spoke: “My son, I never asked you to move the rock. I only asked you to push against it.

And look at what’s it’s accomplished: Your shoulders have grown broad and your muscles strong. Your stamina and endurance have increased and most important of all, you have learnt patience and perseverance. All of these are to prepare you for the tasks I have for you to accomplish.”

“All that I wanted from you is your obedience. And now, I Myself will move this rock.”

And with that, God flung away the rock with a single command. And the man went on to carry out God’s purposes for him

Success or faithfulness.

Oxford dictionary:

Success: Favourable outcome, attainment of wealth, fame or position.

Faithful: Loyal, trustworthy.

Someone recently said in ministry that I was listening to, that simply put, being faithful is saying “you can count on me”

Success or faithfulness.

Called to Be Faithful, Not Successful by http://www.thehighcalling.org/ users/ mark-d-roberts

Ezekiel 3:10-11.

He said to me: Human one, listen closely, and take to heart every word I say to you. Then go to the exiles, to your people’s children. Whether they listen or not, speak to them and say: The LORD God proclaims!

Most Christians know that they should be sharing their faith with others, that this is part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. But, most Christians feel very uneasy about this duty. Many, if not most, rarely share their faith with others. Some refrain because they don’t want to look foolish in the eyes of their co-workers. Some hold back because they don’t want to offend anyone. In my experience as a pastor, I’ve found that many strong believers choose not to share their faith because their afraid they won’t do it right. They fear they’ll mess up the message or be unable to answer unexpected questions, so they don’t talk about it.

Success or faithfulness.

In this passage, the Lord told Ezekiel to take his word to heart and then to share it with the Jewish exiles in Babylon, where Ezekiel was himself an exile. God told him to speak, (3:11). “whether they listen or not” In other words, Ezekiel’s calling was to be faithful, not successful. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with success, whether in life or in serving the Lord. But our chief calling as God’s people is to be faithful to him, to serve him with excellence, to obey him wholeheartedly. If God chooses to bless our efforts with success, that’s great. But many times we cannot guarantee success. We can choose to be faithful, however, to do as well as we can that which God has set before us.

So, when it comes to sharing your faith with others, your job is similar to that of Ezekiel. You are to take to heart God’s Word and then share it with others as truthfully and honestly as you can. To be sure, you should do so in ways that are appropriate and respectful. Yet, you do not have to worry about whether or not you will succeed. That’s God’s business. Yours is to be faithful.

Success or faithfulness.

God’s Word not returning void does not mean that everyone hearing it will be saved.

Isaiah 55:11.

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

John 12:47-48.

If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.

Success or faithfulness.

1 Corinthians 4:1-7.

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.”

Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Success or faithfulness.

God doesn’t ask that we succeed in everything, but that we are faithful. Mother Teresa

It seems like every time I flip through the channels on the TV, I come across endless numbers of “preachers” with the same old “health and wealth” message. It’s sad. They convince people that worldly success is the goal and result (or at least the indicator) of being a good Christian. This could not be further from the authentic Christian message – yet this is what many people see and believe. It just sets them up for disappointment and ends up undermining what faith they do have. I love how this quote keeps that in perspective. Our primary goal should not be to have success – whatever form that might take. It should be to remain faithful throughout.

Success or faithfulness.

Whether we succeed or fail on a particular task is often times out of our control. That’s why, no matter how much we succeed, there is ultimately no peace in it. In fact, often times with great success we are less peaceful. We come to rely on our success so much that we live in fear of it being taken away at any moment. On the other hand, our faithfulness is totally under our control. No matter what happens in this world – who becomes president, whether or not I have a job, if I lose my entire savings in an economic crisis, if something I’ve been working towards my entire life ultimately fails in the end – I can still remain faithful. That is always under my control. And that is all that God asks. That is the ultimate peace in life. That’s what we were made to do -

Success or faithfulness.

EXCERPT FROM (Mother Teresa’s lessons of love and secrets of sanctity) http:// catalog.osv.com

SOME PEOPLE WHO VISIT THE HOME FOR THE DYING NATURALLY ARE UPSET ABOUT THE WAY THIS PLACE IS RUN, THE QUALITY OF MEDICAL ATTENTION, AND THE OVERALL CONDITIONS. I WAS NOT AT ISSUE WITH THE GOINGS-ON, BECAUSE I WAS MORE ATTUNED TO THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING THERE. THE LOVE, THE PEACE, THE JOY, THE TENDERNESS WITH WHICH THE PATIENTS WERE CARED FOR. MORE THAN THE MEDICAL SIDE, WHICH WAS NOT THE LEAST BIT “HIGH TECH,” BUT NEITHER WAS IT MEANT TO BE.

AS MOTHER TERESA HAS SAID IN THE PAST, “GOD HAS NOT CALLED ME TO BE SUCCESSFUL; HE HAS CALLED ME TO BE FAITHFUL.” TO ME, IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE, A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE DIED IN PEACE WITH GOD AFTER BEING LOVED AND CARED FOR LIKE ANGELS. “I DON’T WANT THE WORK TO BECOME A BUSINESS, BUT TO REMAIN A WORK OF LOVE,” MOTHER TERESA SAID. AND THAT IS WHAT HER WORK WAS AND CONTINUES TO BE.

Success or faithfulness.

Mother Teresa was once asked:

“Why do you give them fish to eat? Why don’t you give them a rod to catch the fish?” She responded: “But my people can’t even stand. They’re sick, crippled, demented. When I have given them fish to eat and they can stand, I’ll turn them over and you give them the rod to catch the fish!”

She felt that we each have a role to play in serving those in need. She understood that there many different levels of service, each of them important. Mother Teresa personally was called to serve at the level where people could not even help themselves; she was called to do work that was essential, and to do work that most of us would never care to do.

Success or faithfulness.

One of the most difficult criticisms for a Christian to handle, is that from their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who instead of helping and encouraging comment on how things should be done and why you shouldn’t be doing what you are doing. This is why it is vital to know that you are doing what God wants you to do or else lack of success and support together with opposition will cause you to give up and throw in the towel.

Success or faithfulness.

Successful people are going to hell”

Matthew 7:21-23.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’

Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Success or faithfulness.

Jesus has not called us to build His Church. Matthew 16:18.

“on this rock I will build my church”

1 Corinthians 3:5-7.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

People who want to be successful are tempted to resort to worldly methods. Church growth that is focussed on drawing man’s heart and not God’s heart will not result in true revival. True revival starts when Jesus is lifted up and He draws people to Himself.

Success means getting noticed.

Jesus was tempted to be spectacular by Satan.

Matthew 4:5-6.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, he said, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Jesus was tempted to be spectacular by man.

Jesus was mockingly told by the Pharisees that if he was the Christ he must come down from the cross.

The “Seeker sensitive” success model.

The early church was birthed in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The book of Acts is loaded with historic descriptions of the church and evangelism: signs, wonders, tongues, prophecy, healings, and the casting out of devils.

The church grew greatly as the power of the Spirit was welcomed and celebrated. The gatherings of the believers was for encouragement, discipleship, and corporate worship. You see the majority of evangelism happening outside of the temple and synagogue. That was the model then and still is the model today. It was a church that I call “Jesus Sensitive”.

John 4:23

says that the Father is seeking someone to worship Him.

The “Seeker sensitive” success model.

However, there is a gospel today that is stripping Jesus of His power.

It is what I call

“The Seeker Sensitive” church. Now before I get into this, let me clarify: I am as conservative as they come, but I am not a legalistic person. I recognize preference. I am conservative in doctrine and practice, but I am not hung up on music styles, if you wear jeans or a suit, or if you have stage lights in your church.

This “Seeker Sensitive” model of church makes the Gospel palatable to the lost, trying to do everything they can to be non offensive”. Many churches don’t pass offering plates or teach on giving because they don’t want to be offensive. Many tiptoe around black and white areas such as homosexuality, divorce, adultery or sin in general to avoid running people off.

The “Seeker sensitive” success model.

Do we not realize that the Gospel in and of itself is always offensive to the flesh?

I believe we always ought to be and look the best for new people: Have good greeters. Have good children’s ministry. Have good ushers and greeters. Do we ever get to the point where we offend or grieve the one we are supposed to be worshiping?

The “Seeker Sensitive” model has even crept into our Pentecostal churches. I have heard of people forbidding the use of the gifts of the Spirit in public, because they don’t want to scare the visitors. I have heard of those who only pray for people to receive the Holy Spirit in a back room or on a separate night so that it doesn’t scare people.

All of this is done to have a big successful church.

Examples of faithfulness regardless of success.

Noah preached for 120 years without a single convert.

Genesis 6:9.

This is the account of Noah and his family.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

Genesis 6:22.

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

After 120 years of preaching, only Noah his 3 sons and their wives entered the ark.

Examples of faithfulness regardless of success.

John the Baptist.

John 10:40-42.

and went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. And many believed on him there.

It is interesting to note that in the requirements laid out for Overseers (Elders) and Deacons, no mention is made about how many converts they have made or miracles they have done, it is character that is important.

Qualifications of Overseers faithfulness not success.

1 Timothy 3:1-10.

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Qualifications of Overseers faithfulness not success.

1 Timothy 3:1-10.

In the same way,

deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

Examples of faithfulness regardless of success.

Would you class John as a success?

Matthew 11:2.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?

Jesus replied, Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.

Examples of faithfulness regardless of success.

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;

A Pastor’s resume.

A certain church somewhere was looking for a pastor. The search committee was reviewing resumes, and they came across one that said this: "I have many qualifications. I've been a preacher with much success, and also had some success as a writer. Some say I'm a good organizer. I've been a leader most places I've been. I am over 50 years of age. I have never preached in one place more than three years. In some places I have left town after my work has caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail three or four times, but not because of any wrongdoing.

A Pastor’s resume.

My health is not too good, though I still get a great deal done. The churches I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities. I've not got along too well with religious leaders in towns where I have preached. In fact, some have threatened me and even attacked me physically. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I have baptized. However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you." The chair of the committee addressed the others: "What do you think? Shall we consider him?" The others were aghast. Hire an unhealthy, trouble-making, absent-minded, ex-jailbird? Was the chair crazy? Who was this applicant anyway? Who would have such colossal nerve? The chair glanced down at the bottom of the page. It's signed, she said, "The Apostle Paul."

Examples of faithfulness regardless of success.

Would you consider the Apostle Paul a success?

2 Corinthians 11:23-28. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

Success or faithfulness.

In many of the big churches there is a personality ethic in the pulpit and not a character ethic.

Like 2nd hand car salesmen they have a good technique but their empty promises result in a lot of dissatisfied customers.

Philippians 1:15-18.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Success or faithfulness.

Beware!

Don’t judge by results. Moses disobeyed the Lord and struck the rock the 2nd time and the Lord still caused water to flow out for the thirsty Israelites.

Numbers 20:8-12.

Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink. So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock? Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.

Was Jesus successful?

He only left a group of 120 faithful believers who after His resurrection continued to pray in the upper room for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised. He ended off His ministry as a servant, washing His disciples feet.

But: The world measures greatness by how many people serve us. God measures greatness by how many people we serve.

Luke 22:24-26.

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.

Would you consider Elijah a success?

Elijah called down fire from heaven on an alter with water poured over it after the prophets of Baal failed.

He had the false prophets put to death but shortly afterwards ran for his life when threatened by Jezebel.

1 King 19:4.

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them. Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. I have had enough, Lord, he said. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.

The Faith-worthies Hebrews 11:35-39.

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about..; who shut the mouths of lions,

quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated, the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith.

Success or faithfulness.

Refrain of Hymn by F. Crosby.

Not to the strong is the battle, Not to the swift is the race, Yet to the true and the faithful Vict’ry is promised through grace.

Revelation:17,14.

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.

Jesus.

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book, or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.”

James Allan Francis

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)




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