Monday, July 27, 2009

Failure (Part 2)

Success or Failure: God's View

Intro.: Last week we started to look at what is meant by success and failure. 
  1. We began by looking at two very faulty statements that too many people believe – (1) you must be perfect and (2) I must be perfect. Nowhere in scripture is there any reference to a human being perfect – except for Jesus.
  2. And that leads us to the second point of last weeks message – Only God is perfect. Whether we are talking about the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit – each is called “perfect” in the scriptures. No man or woman, except Jesus, but each person of the God head is called perfect.
  3. And that leads to the third point of last week's sermon – once we recognize that there is no way for us to get into heaven ourselves, and then place our faith in Christ, God begins the process of perfecting us. Scripture calls this “sanctification” - as He re builds us from the inside, we are better prepared to serve Him.
  4. Someplace in all this, I made the point that part of our problem is that we define success and failure in human term or with our own criteria. Knowing that is incorrect, raises an important question – How does God measure “success” and “failure”?
  5. During the next few minutes I would like to suggest four principles that we will help understand how God defines success and failure.

Read: II Corinthians 13:5-7

Trans: God's expectations for each of us is different.
  1. But there are principles that serve as the foundation for understanding when we “pass the test”, as suggested by Paul.
  2. In the next few minutes I will examine four questions that will allow us to know how we are doing in our walk with God.


  1. Principle #1: How well do I know God?

(Ill.)  One of the things I like about e-mail is the ability to add what is called a signature to the end of an e-mail. Now, normally that signature is two or three lines containing the senders name, the organization he or she is associated with and maybe a webpage or additional contact information. But you all know that I am not normal. So – I included a quote along with the details that would normally be included. Sadly, I do not know the source of one of the quotes that I liked the most. It went something like this, “If you think you understand Him, you really don't know Him.”

    1. Knowing God – it has been a familiar theme in the last ten years. Christian Book Distributers, the largest on-line bookstore specializing in Christian books, lists over 1900 books with this theme. The Experiencing God Bible picks up the theme and is among those listed titles at CBD. J. I. Packer's book Knowing God and Henry and Richard Blackaby's book Experiencing God have both had the place on the best seller list. The point is this, Christians do want to know God or experience God.
    2. It will usually start by someone searching – wanting to know more because they know a Christian, they read something that intrigues them, or they may come across some media – TV, Radio, or on the internet. But they want to know more.
    3. At some point they realize that something has to change – like any other person that they want to know, to really know them, they have got to meet them. They want to meet God – we Christians call that being born again. It is not a Methodist thing, a Catholic thing, a Baptist thing – it is a Christian thing. Christ said in John 3, when asked a similar question by a friend, he said, “You must be born again.
    4. We come to the point where we say “YES – I cannot be everything God wants me to be.” “YES – I can only be what God wants when I place my life in God's hands and I can only do that because Christ died on the cross instead of me.” 'Yes – I will trust God to do in me what He needs to do to truly make me His.”
    5. We have come to the point where we can say, “I know God.”
    6. I may not, I will never, understand Him, but I now know Him.
  1. Question #2: Do I know what God wants of me?
    1. There is a simple answer to this question:

      Do I know what God wants of me? NO

    2. If I knew all that God wants of me, I would be overwhelmed. I would see the impossibility of never being what he wanted, and I would be tempted to give up before I started.
    3. Though I may not know what God wants of me – I can know some of what God wants of me. The question becomes “How do I know what God wants?”
      1. Be in God's word. Paul reminds us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. If I am not reading my Bible, how can I know what God wants. If I am not reading my Bible, I am making my own rules – rather than listening to God's word.
      2. Be praying. Paul again writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.

(Ill.) When I meet someone new, I want to get to know them. I suppose I could learn something by sitting in a corner and watching them. I could talk to those who knew him or her. I could perhaps read something about the person if anyone had written something. But in reality, there is no way that I could get to really know someone if I never communicated with them. Prayer is the tool that God provides for us to communicate with Him – if I want to know God, I will spend time praying.

      1. Be with God's people. People who know me may see things I do not see. It is not just to worship – listen to the author of Hebrews, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.The author is not focusing on worship – but members of the church building themselves up. Gathering is about relationships – not worship. We can worship God anywhere. But encouragement can only occur when we meet together.
      2. Listen to the Holy Spirit. When we make that initial decision to follow Christ, something happens. Not only do we become members of Christ's body, we also find the Holy Spirit becomes a part of our life. Theologically this is called the “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit. Every believer will experience the Holy Spirit. We will learn over time to listen to the Holy Spirit's voice in our lives. Not our broken conscience – but the holy voice of the Holy spirit guiding and directing us.
  1. Question #3:  Whose in control of your life?
    1. A related question is “How obedient are you?”
    2. Every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But, as we saw a week or two ago, we are commanded to be “filled” with the Spirit. It was Paul who said it, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.

(Ill.) “Filled” is a word that is the one used to describe the person who has eaten too much. You are full, you are satisfied, content. God is in control.

    1. What do you want to fill your life today – the world, the neighborhood, the job – or the Holy Spirit. God wants you – he wants all of you. He wants to fill your life, whatever may come. But God will not force himself on you – you need to be willing to submit to the Spirit's guidance. And once you have done that, then you are filled with the Spirit. It is a matter of faith – believing what God has said.
      1. God commanded it
      2. You asked for it
      3. God answers prayer
      4. You are filled -
    2. Begin each day - “Take control of my life. Fill me with your Spirit. Guide me throughout the day.”
    3. The question is – who is in control. Are you allowing God to control you.


      1. How well do you know God?
      2. Do I know what God wants of me?
      3. Who is in control of my life?

If I ask myself those questions each day, I will know whether I am a success or failure. You will know if you passed the test.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Failure (Part 1)

 Failure: A New Perspective

Intro.: I thought that Failure would be easy to talk about.

  1. But as soon as I began to gather material, I found myself overwhelmed. You see there are plenty of examples of failure in the scriptures.
  2. Our first example of failure is found in the opening chapters of Genesis – Adam and Eve disobeying God and eating from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil”.
  3. In fact there is hardly a character in scripture – both Godly men and otherwise – who failed. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Moses, the prophets, the apostles and early disciples.
  4. If we look at the central figure of OT history, David, we see a failure. And if we walked with the disciples in the first century, they might be tempted to remind you that Jesus' life was a failure as well.
  5. But in the end they would remind you of Proverbs 24:16


Read: “for the righteous fall seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”


T.S. In the next few minutes, I want to look at the lives of three failures that we find in scripture.


  1. The first failure I want to look at is David
    1. Most of us would look at David and say how he was a failure.
    2. Here was a poor shepherd's son – destined to be a shepherd himself. But God sought him out, not to be a preacher, not to be a godly father, not to merely an ambassador to his broken world. God sought him out to be Israel's king.
    3. Saul had truly failed as a King – he had abused is privilege. God had appointed him the political leader of Israel – but he took a step too fare and acted as their spiritual leader as well. He had offered a sacrifice that only Priests were allowed to offer. He had over stepped his authority – and he was to be replaced. By a shepherd.
    4. David was to be God's man. He would rule Israel – and why would anyone saw he was a failure.
    5. But, though no one knew, David knew. David knew that Bathsheba was married. David knew that it was wrong to look at this woman – she was not available.
    6. But that did not stop him

(Appl.) Temptation comes in at least two forms. Sometimes it is there, right in front of our face. We givn in without thinking – driving too fast, anger that seems to comes from nowhere. But there are also temptations that seem to just hang there in front of us. “Take me, take me.” And sometimes we do. That is what David did.

    1. David saw Bathsheba. He knew that he should not – but he did. And he suffered for it. When he was confronted with his son by Nathan all he could say was “I am the man”
    2. David had failed. But he was willing to confess his failings.

(Ill.)  Every so often I pick up the readings from the Moravian Church. It is the same readings that John Wesley used when the leader of the Moravian Church in the 1700's first show him the way to Christ. Yesterday's reading (Saturday, July 11, 2009) very quickly hit home when I read it. Yesterday's  (July 11, 2009) reading began with a quote from Deuteronomy 5:21:

‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

    It was followed by words from the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged;

take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful

who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness;

take it to the Lord in prayer.

     Next came Jesus' words from Matthew 5:28:

              But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

     This was followed by the third verse of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”

Are we weak and heavy laden,

cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge;

take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

In his arms he'll take and shield thee;

thou wilt find a solace there.

      The reading ended with a prayer:

Precious Savior: forgive us when we yield to the temptations that surround us. You are our comfort, refuge, and source of strength because you have defeated death, which comes with our sin. We thank you for hearing us as we cry out to you from our weakness. We praise you Lord, our crucified, risen, an ascended redeemer. Amen.


    1. The songs may have changed, the prayers may have changed, but these were the same words that Jesus read as he used the Moravian Daily Texts.
    2. Why are they there – because temptation is common to all eras. It was not unique to David, it is not unique to us. But temptation must be addressed by each generation. The Moravians knew it, God knew it, and David knew it.
    3. And we, too, must learn to avoid temptation as we live our lives.
    4. Temptation leads to failure – but David was not a failure. Why? Because he confessed his sin and rebuilt the faith he had in God.

(Appl.) Failing does not make us a failure. It means we failed – but we, like David, will need to rebuild our lives so we can serve God.

  1. The second failure that I want to look at is Jesus.
    1. On that Friday as Jesus hung on the cross, I expect most of Jesus' followers thought he was a failure. They had just wasted three years of their lives following a has been, a no body.
    2. These friends hid, they denied Jesus, some stood around the cross but in no way claimed that they were connected with Jesus. As some have termed it, it was a Black Friday.
    3. Saturday would have been no better – they had lost their friend, their leader, the one who had showed them a whole new way to live. He was gone.
    4. But on Sunday, word began to arrive. First from the women, then from a few of the other disciples. The tomb was empty, some had spoken to an angel, others had met Jesus along side the road.
    5. Forty days later, they were there when Jesus did go home to be with the Father. Ten days later they experience the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit.
    6. What was different? What had changed? Let me suggest one answer – On Friday and Saturday they looked at the crucifixion as men. Beginning that first Easter Sunday they began to see what happened on the cross as God saw it.

(Appl.) Failure is too often seen from our human perspective – not from God's perspective. When we use a human perspective, we get caught up in our feelings, in our doubts, in our hopes.  As we seek to see our failings from God's perspective, we find that we can set those things aside for the moment and focus on God's larger perspective.

    1. As the disciples spent time with Jesus after the resurrection, they were able to see the cross from God's perspective, rather than their own. It left an unexpected transformation in their lives. As it will in ours.

Conclusion: We began our discussion a short while ago looking at Proverbs 24:16, “for the righteous fall seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”

Failure is not the end of our lives – rather it can be the beginning of God's grace in our lives and for those around us. We like David, we like Jesus and His disciples, will see failure as an opportunity for God to work anew in our lives.