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Category Archives: Spirit of Excellence

Spiritual Warfare – Battle Tested

I’m taking a few posts to talk about the example Christ is to us as we fight this spiritual battle.  I believe that the church needs to develop a warrior mentality.  In the natural world, soldiers don’t live with civilians.  They live set apart, and they see themselves as set apart.

By looking at the example of Christ, we can see what this battle is all about.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4:1

In my last post, we saw that we’re to fight this spiritual battle with all persistency and petition around all the saints.  The fight is not in the center of the saints where the “praise party” is going on.  It’s on the edges – in the prayer closet – in the private places.

Notice that Jesus was not in the city or with His disciples when the devil attacked.  It was in the place of prayer and fasting.  That’s the true place of warfare.

So often I’ve heard worship leaders, in the midst of a great time of praise and worship, proclaim, “We’ve got the enemy on the run!”  Far from it.  During those times the church is in the mess hall, far from the battle.  Warfare occurs when we’re in private.

The Scripture is clear that Jesus was tempted by the devil.  It’s important to know what this means.  We think of tempting as Satan trying to get us to fail.  The actual Greek word means a test, proof, or examination.

The temptation is merely asking, “Are you the real thing?”  When you pick up the shield of faith, are you for real?  Are you just repeating something you heard, or does it come from your heart?

This is important for believers to understand. Whenever we grasp a new concept in Christ it must be added to our faith. It can’t simply be something we give lip service to.  We have to be willing to live it out.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:3-4

We need to see that the first attack is personal.  Who are you in Christ?  Are you going to cater to your flesh or to the spirit?

This is why you need your helmet and sword.  You have to walk in the authority of your position in Christ.  You must understand the power of the Word of God in you.  That’s the only thing that will counter this attack.

That’s why you need to know who you are in Christ.  What’s your calling in the kingdom of God?  The battle is all about who you’re going to trust for your needs.  Of course, that means we know the difference between wants and needs.

Jesus could have answered “Yes” to the devil’s challenge.  The question is; where did the Lord’s response come from?  Was it the Bible that said “no”?  Was Jesus merely quoting Scripture?

No, this came up from His Spirit.  It was the overflow of a heart that was full of God’s Word.  That’s where we get the strength for overcoming the enemy’s schemes.

The fact is the Word is more important than bread.  We have to come to grips with this.  What’s the Word more important than in your life?  It might not be a bad thing that you have to push aside in place of the Word of God to you.  It’s this response from our heart that proves we’re the “real thing” during the times of testing.

Question: How have you been tested lately?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Fasting and Victory over the Flesh

I’m posting about how to win the war against the flesh.  There’s one more battleground that we need to talk about.  It’s illustrated in something that happened with Christ and His disciples.

The disciples had tried and failed, to cast a demon out of a young man.  After Jesus was able to do it, the disciples asked Him privately why they were unable to.

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew 17:20-21, NKJV

The disciples’ problem was unbelief.  Jesus explains to them that faith as small as a mustard seed, working all by itself, can move a mountain.  Nothing would be impossible for us if faith was the only issue.

If it were only about faith, then America should have the most miracles of any country on earth.  We know that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  In America, we have access to more of the Word than in any other country.

The problem is that we have unbelief alongside that faith.  The U.S. is also one of the most flesh-driven countries on earth.

Just driving down the street I can see a billboard that feeds my flesh.  Standing in a checkout counter, listening to the news on the radio, almost everything I do causes me to access food for my flesh.  Even though I try to filter it by “taking every thought captive,” some of this trash still gets through.

So the stronger my spirit is built up by the Word of God, the more my flesh is built up just by living in this society.  It’s the presence of these two powerful forces in my life – faith and unbelief – side-by-side, that’s watering down my spiritual strength.  What can I do about it?

The key is the statement made by the boy’s father.

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

We have plenty of faith, but how do we overcome our unbelief?  There is a solution.  Jesus tells the disciples, “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting.”

The question is; this kind of what?  Most people say He was talking about the demon.  I don’t believe it.  A demon couldn’t care less whether you’ve fasted or not.  Look at the emphasis of the verse.  It’s the disciples who were talking about the demon.

Jesus never once mentioned the demon.  He spent the whole time talking about the problem – unbelief.  What Jesus wants you to get rid of is unbelief.  It’s this kind of unbelief that blocks the working of your faith to the point where nothing happens, even though you believe the Word of God.

Where does fasting come into the picture?  Fasting is a way to forcefully and supernaturally win a major victory against your flesh.  You’re telling it, “I don’t care what you say – I’m not listening to you today.”

When you fast, it’s as if you’re turning down the volume control to the voice of your flesh.  This allows the faith that you have to effectively become stronger.  Without the voice of your flesh talking so loud, you will be better able to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to your spirit.

This is why I often tell believers that if they want to see a great change in their lives, they need to fast regularly and consistently.

Question: How well do you hear from God presently?  Would you like to increase your spiritual sensitivity?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Encouraged to Grow

As Paul nears the end of his first letter to the Corinthian church, he gives a series of exhortations.  I think that we would do well to live by them.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

These five simple statements are the foundation for a growing walk with the Lord.  If we would make it a point to see these activated in our lives, we’d be a lot better off.

Be on your guard.  This literally means to stay awake.  I think that too many Christians are spiritually asleep in this generation.  What do I mean by this?

When you’re asleep, you’re unaware of what’s happening around you.  Spiritual sleep is the same.  There are Christians who are totally unaware of the spiritual aspects of their life.

They think that everything revolves around what they see in the natural.  It’s all about satisfying their wants and desires.  They never ask, “What’s God’s will for my life?”

I need to seek what God has destined me for.  Then, with His strength, I can start heading in that direction.  I want my spiritual eyes to be open.

Stand firm in the faith.  This simply means that once you know what God’s Word says, you don’t waver or move from believing it.

Believing means taking action.  If I believe something is true, then I’ll act on it.  If I believe that a chair is strong enough to hold me, then I’ll sit on it.  If I believe that God’s my Provider, then I’ll move forward in what He’s called me to do.

Be men of courage.  This is the second step of faith.  If I believe that something’s true, then I won’t be afraid to let people know that I believe it.  I think that all too often, courage is the missing ingredient in many of our lives.

We are a part of a culture that tells us that it’s offensive to believe in Jesus Christ as a Savior.  So in order to accommodate them, we keep silent.  At the same time, every other belief is allowed to take center stage.

We need to be vocal about what we believe, while at the same time being sensitive to walk in love.

Be strong.  This actually means to be strengthened.  We shouldn’t be stagnant in our spiritual growth.  There are things we can be doing to build ourselves up.

Prayer in the spirit, meditation on the Word, and fasting are just a few ways to become stronger.  Just like in the physical, we can’t neglect our spiritual health.  If we do, then the consequences could be devastating.

Do everything in love.  This is the one that ties everything else together.  Our lives should reflect the love of Christ in all that we do.

This is the agape-love.  It’s the non-emotional desire to treat others as if you like them, no matter how you actually feel about them.  And also, whether you know them or not.

This love is a choice that we make to walk like Jesus did.  Our love is what will draw people to the cross.  That should be the goal of all that we do.

Question: How well is each of these characteristics visible in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Developing an Addiction for Christ

In my last post, I talked about the 5 symptoms of being addicted to the ministry for Christ.  It was based upon the KJV translation of a verse in I Corinthians.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
1 Corinthians 16:15

Today I want to talk about the steps that it takes to become addicted.  Again, I took them from a pamphlet that I got from the American medical community.

Curiosity causes you to check it out.  Sometimes seeing what someone else is doing for Christ will cause you to ask if you’re able to do something similar.  You step out in faith and see what happens.  After all, we’re encouraged in the Scripture to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Comparing your life with Christ to your life without Him.  How has the Lord changed you?  If you’re like most people, then you can look back on a life of death, sorrow, worry, and guilt.  Now, in Christ, your path should be marked with life, joy, faith, and freedom.

You develop a taste for it.  Most of the things that cause addictions start out tasting horrible.  It’s only after people get used to it that they get “hooked.”  It’s the same with the ministry.

Sometimes it’s hard working with people.  But as you get used to it, and especially the rewards of seeing changed lives, it gets better.  Pretty soon it becomes normal.  Experts tell us that it takes about a month for a habit to develop.

You start to become uncomfortable when it’s taken away (withdrawal).  Being a blessing to others causes you to become a giver.  When that happens, you have to draw on the sufficiency of Christ.  If something happens to stop the process, you feel like something’s missing.

As problems increase, your usage increases.  It’s easy to tell when someone is in the final stages of a “Christ addiction.”  When the normal believer faces a crisis – the loss of a job or a loved one – you don’t see them around for a while.  After all, they need time to sort things out.

Addicted people are different.  During times of crisis or turmoil, you find them seeking more fellowship, prayer, or worship.  Their goal is to use the strength of the Lord and His church to get them through the tough times.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?
Psalms 42:1-2

David understood the concept.  In my estimation, an addiction to Christ is the best thing you could ever experience.  It becomes your strength in weakness and your channel of blessing.  It will keep your walk with God from becoming stale or stagnant.

Cultivate this holy addiction!

Question: What’s your strategy for developing an addiction to Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Are You Addicted to Ministry?

I normally don’t use the KJV in my posts, but this verse from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church gives me a lot to think about.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
1 Corinthians 16:15

Stephanus and his family were a great help to Paul as he preached the Word of God.  He goes on to tell a little more about them.  He tells the church…

…to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.  I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you.  For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.  Such men deserve recognition.
1 Corinthians 16:16-18

What was it about Stephanas and his family that caused Paul to describe them as addicted?

I looked up some facts, not from Christian sources, but from the American medical community.  How do they describe addiction?  You may think you’re “all in” for the Lord.  How does what these doctors say stack up to your experience?

You need an increased level to maintain the feeling.  Are you feeling tired and burned out by what you do for God?  Or are you hungering to go deeper with Him?  Addiction means that the amount you’re doing now doesn’t satisfy you the way it used to.  You want more, greater, and higher dosages in order to stay fulfilled.  I believe that’s the excitement of the ministry.

You are obsessed with the ministry.  What’s your thought life like?  When you’re not actively involved in your calling, are you still thinking about it?  Addiction means that it’s constantly in the back of your mind.  You continually think about ways to improve and increase what you’re doing for the Lord.

Even in recreation times, a thought, word, or something you see will trigger an image of what you could be doing to further the Kingdom.  Thinking about it is uncontrollable.

You are continually sneaking “quickies” throughout the day.  Addiction to the ministry is a lifestyle.  Do you find yourself sharing about Jesus at the mall, school or workplace?  Are you prone to spontaneously be a blessing to people around you, simply for the enjoyment of it?  Maybe you find yourself praying for people as soon as you hear about their need.  This is a sign of an addiction to Christ and His ministry.

You undergo a change in your appearance.  Does the knowledge that you represent Christ change how you present yourself to others?  Does the fact that you’re God’s ambassador to the world make a difference in how you live?  The more we become addicted, the more radical the change.  How much has your ministry affected you?

You are in “denial” – you continue deeper even though others may argue against it.  Some people may say that you’re doing too much for God.  After all, look at the lifestyle of most believers.  “God will let you get away with a lot less commitment.”  Arguments like these don’t even faze you.  You want to touch as many people as you can for the Gospel.

You may like to think that you’re addicted – after all, it sounds good.  But the truth is unless you’ve come to the place I’ve just described, it’s only wishful thinking.  Hey, don’t get mad at me – this is what the American medical community says about it.

If you find that you’re not addicted and you want to be – my next post will be about the 5 steps to becoming addicted!

Question: How has an addiction to the ministry affected your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Love Defined

In my last post, we saw that ministry without love, no matter how powerful, is not up to God’s standards.  Love must play a major role in all that we do.

But do we really understand what love is?  People have so many ideas.  Let’s see what God has to say.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Think about what this verse says – patient, kind, not rude, and not easily angered.  Are there any times during which we have a better chance of doing this – times when it feels more natural?

Of course, it’s when we’re around people that we like; when we’re with our friends.  I was first able to grasp this concept while reading the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.

Remember, this type of love carries with it no emotional attachment.  It’s purely based on decision and will.  True love cannot be based on emotion, it must be my choice.

I find that it’s easiest for me to treat people I like in this way.  Sometimes I choose to treat them correctly even if I don’t feel like it, simply because I like them.  This brings us to the definition of love that I first heard from C.S. Lewis.

The way of love is to treat people as if you like them – whether you do or not.  Also, I would add, whether you know them or not and whether you’re in their presence or not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13:7

This is the atmosphere that should surround a ministry of excellence.  When you’re ministering to people, all these aspects should be evident in your work.  Too often, we’re guilty of loving our ministry more than the people we’re called to perfect.  This verse tells us that we’re to always protect, trust in, hope for and persevere for THE PEOPLE.

The ministry is a good thing.  But it’s still a thing.  Things can never be more important than people.  Excellence will never develop in an atmosphere where you love what you’re doing to the extent that you don’t care for the people.

You’re not their Lord, Jesus is.  Your ministry is never more important than God’s plan for their individual lives.  If you’re walking in excellence, in the way of love, you’ll be able to balance the two.

Love for people must start with your family.  Too many Christians think that it’s noble to give up their family for “God’s work.”

I even heard a guest minister once prove how devoted he was to the ministry by saying that his children were not walking with the Lord.  It was a sacrifice he had to make for the ministry.  I never let him preach at our church again.  God has never accepted child sacrifice.  The Bible is clear that ministry begins at home.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

It’s clear from the life of Christ (and we probably don’t want to hear it) that the way of love sees everyone as our friends.  Jesus even laid down His life for those who were His sworn enemies.

If so, then He included the whole race of mankind into His list of “friends.”  We cannot use this verse for an excuse not to love.  Christ’s example stops us from doing this.

He laid down His life for the Pharisee and the Atheist, as well as the disciples.  When you walk in the love of Christ, you exhibit the same evidence of love that He did.

Question: What is the evidence of the love that can be seen in your life and ministry?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

<Note – This post was an excerpt from my book, Breaking Free from the Pack – How to Develop a Spirit of Excellence available on Amazon>

 

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Useless Without Love

How do you rate churches or ministries?  What criteria do you use in determining their impact or effectiveness?  Let’s see what the Scripture uses as a standard.

In my last post, the Apostle Paul introduced what he called a more excellent way of ministry.  That brings us to First Corinthians, chapter 13 – the Love Chapter.

The word used for love, is the Greek word, agape.  This word is very significant.

Agape-love has no emotion attached to its definition.  It’s purely an act of your will.  It’s a choice that you make in how you treat others.

We know that Jesus Christ, Himself, commanded us to love each other.  If it were based upon feelings, then He could never make such a request.

Keep this in mind as we go through this chapter over the next few posts.  It’s up to you how you choose to treat people.  You’ll either walk in love or choose to follow the leading of your flesh.

The first thing we see in this chapter, are three things that human religion would point to as excellence in ministry.  Unfortunately, they’re not what God’s rating system includes.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1

The first area is that of your preaching and teaching ministry.  What if I had the command of every language on earth?  I could preach the Gospel anywhere I wanted to.

I could stand before thousands and proclaim Christ.  I could be God’s messenger to the world.  After all, that’s what the word, angel, means (messenger).

According to this verse, without love, I’m not ministering.  I’m simply making a noise that gets people’s attention.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2

What about the flow of supernatural power.  Certainly, that would mean my ministry is on track with God’s plan.  Not necessarily.

Signs, wonders, and miracles are things that we point to as indicators of success.

“Look at my ministry.  The miracles are proof that I’m in the center of God’s will.  Send me your offering.”

We think the supernatural move of God is an indication that we’re someone special.  On the contrary, it only proves that we serve a great God.  Paul makes it clear that no matter how many miracles in my ministry, without love I’m a nobody in God’s kingdom.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3

The third area is one we’d probably never think of.  Self-sacrifice for others.

The word for flames is actually the Greek word, glory.  In other words, I use up every ounce of my physical strength for the benefit of others.

We sometimes think that we’ll give to the poor because God wants us to.  Or maybe because we see it as sowing seeds for God’s blessing.

The problem is that if I don’t give out of love…a desire to see the recipient blessed by my giving, then I’ve gained nothing.  There’s no profit, physically or spiritually.

Love is the determining factor in how God rates a ministry.  Keep that in mind as you work for the Lord.

Question: How can you tell if love plays a role in what you do for Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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