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Category Archives: Spiritual Walk

True Success

How do you measure success or failure? Is it based upon your obvious victories and accomplishments? What about some things that aren’t so readily apparent?

Paul made some observations about this to the Thessalonian church.

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.
1 Thessalonians 2:1

Paul makes this simple, clear statement of fact. But what was he talking about? Surely the great Apostle Paul didn’t have any major setbacks in his ministry.

Fortunately for us, the people recorded in the Bible had the same types of challenges that we face. That way we can see how they trusted God to bring them through victoriously. It turns out that Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was a major temptation for him to feel like a failure.

In order to see the whole story, you can read Acts 17:1-10. But I’ll review the basic story line here.

Paul was on one of his missionary trips. He had just left Philippi, where he was temporarily thrown in jail. He arrives at Thessalonica, and is allowed to teach in the synagogue for three Sabbaths in a row.

Of course, he preaches Jesus Christ as Messiah. He talks about the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection.

As a result, some of the Jews and a large number of Gentiles trust in Jesus for their salvation. Because the number of Christians was increasing, the Jews started to become jealous. They wanted to shut down Paul’s ministry.

So, what these hateful people did was to round up some unsavory characters from the marketplace. The Jews then paid them to start trouble and cause a riot. They tried to find Paul and his team, but weren’t able to locate them.

Instead, they grabbed some of the new believers, and dragged them off to the magistrates. They then began to accuse them of criminal activity. The city was in an uproar.

Fearing for Paul’s life, the believers made him leave the city immediately. Because of this, Paul and Silas, his partner in ministry, were not able to fully establish this church in the usual way. They had to trust God for the church’s continued survival.

It wasn’t until months later that Paul sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians. Not only did they survive, they were flourishing as followers of Christ.

We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
1 Thessalonians 2:2

When it came to evangelizing the Thessalonians, Paul went from one trouble to the next. Yet in spite of it all, he could boldly declare that his visit was not a failure.

We need to learn that lesson. It would go a long way to giving us a better attitude.

Remember this – Just because things don’t go according to our plan, doesn’t mean it’s a failure. The fact is that we rarely ever see everything that God is doing behind the scenes. He sees the end from the beginning, we only see the surface.

Paul only knew that it was God’s plan to bring the Gospel to this region. He did his part, and then he had to trust the Lord for the results.

Many were saved. The church was established on a firm foundation. And – miracle of miracles – the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish it without all of Paul’s expertise.

Do what God has called you to do. Then leave the results in His hands. That’s the basis of true success.

Question: What is something you originally thought was a failure; but God turned it into a success?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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What Are You Known For?

In my last post I talked about the way the Thessalonian believers imitated Paul’s lifestyle. They were commended for it.

But as we read further in Paul’s letter to them, we find out even more. This lifestyle, living for God, wasn’t a private thing. They weren’t just “closet Christians”. Here’s what Paul said about them.

And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:7-10

All over the region, people were talking about how the Thessalonians had received the Gospel. Of course, it was a Gospel that included a demonstration of God’s power. They allowed it to get into their hearts and change their lives.

The first thing that we see is that they were turned around. They had formerly been worshipping idols, but now they are servants of God. It takes the power of God to make that kind of change.

Serving idols is easy. As a matter of fact, our culture is full of idolatry. No, not the carved images, but we serve man-made idols. There are those who worship the gods of education, finance, entertainment, or sports.

The thing about idolatry is that it makes you feel good about what you can do. You can compare yourself to those around you.

“Look at me! I’m smarter than you.” “I’m more athletic than you.” “I’ve got more money than you.”

The reason it’s hard to turn to God from this is because it requires a whole new mindset. Once I turn to Christ, it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. It’s not about what I can do, but what the Lord is doing in me.

When we serve idols, we’re actually serving ourselves. In the kingdom of God we serve Him. God sets the agenda for us.

The secret to their faithfulness was that they kept their eyes on Jesus. Part of Paul’s testimony about them was that they were actively waiting for Jesus. With their focus on Him, they were able to serve with joy.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11

The word zeal means to be very eager to serve the Lord. I think that’s what’s missing in the lives of many believers. They have no eagerness to serve God. Why is that?

According to this verse, it requires spiritual fervor. The word translated as fervor literally means to be boiling over. It requires power to heat water to the boiling point. Left to itself it remains at room temperature – lukewarm.

If we will spend time with the Holy Spirit, then His power will be at work in our spirit. He can give us that spiritual fervor that we need to serve God with true zeal.

Then, just like the Thessalonian believers that Paul commended, our faith will become known to all those around us.

Question: How “hot” is your spiritual life right now? What can you do to increase it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Faith, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Imitation and Leadership

I’ve been sharing about First Thessalonians. In my last post we saw how the Gospel is more than just words. It’s the power of God demonstrated to those around us.

Paul made a statement that I want to go back to. It was at the end of the verse we looked at last time.

You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:5b

This verse shows us an important part of our spiritual growth. It’s something that we don’t think about too often these days. That is; how do my actions affect you?

Immaturity will say, “I don’t care what you think, I’m going to do what I want anyway.” But as we grow in Christ we realize that what we do has an effect upon those who see us.

Please understand that I’m not saying to compromise the Gospel in order not to offend. What I am saying is that in all my decisions I need to take into account the needs and understanding of those around me.

Paul’s reasoning is made clear in the next verse.

You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:6

What we need to be aware of, is the principle of imitation. A mature believer understands that they’re going to be an example to those who are younger in the faith.

Example and imitation is a big part of our growth in the Lord. According to Paul, by imitating him, they were actually imitating Christ – to the extent that Paul was following the Lord.

We should all aspire to leadership in the body of Christ. The role of a leader is, by its very nature, an example to others. This is found throughout the Scripture.

When Paul was preaching the Gospel in Thessalonica, he didn’t take up an offering for his expenses. He worked as a tent-maker to support himself. Listen to his reasoning.

We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.
2 Thessalonians 3:9

The word follow in this verse is the same word, imitate that we’ve been talking about. Paul wanted his life to accurately portray what it meant to live for Christ. In that way, those who were looking to him as a leader would be able to see the mature lifestyle lived out.

I need to live with this thought in mind. My actions are either spurring someone on to greater growth in Christ; or giving them permission to walk in the flesh. You may not like it, but that’s what leadership is all about.

It should be our goal, as godly leaders, to have the same mindset as Paul.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Be that mature role-model that others can look to and follow.

Question: How have you seen your example positively affecting the lives of others?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Walking in Faith, Hope & Love

In my last post we finished looking at the book of James, the first epistle given by the Holy Spirit to the church. During that time, a man named Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the believers.

After an encounter with Christ Himself, Saul became a Christian and his life was totally changed. He was eventually called to preach and became a missionary to the gentiles. The next revelation of God’s Word to the church was through this man, who changed his name to Paul.

On one of his journeys, Paul went to the city of Thessalonica and many were saved. (These events can be read in more detail in Acts 16-18.) Because of intense persecution, Paul had to leave quickly. This immediate exit caused him to be concerned about the health of the newly formed church.

Paul eventually traveled to Corinth, where he stayed for over a year. During that time, he sent Timothy to check-up on the church at Thessalonica. Timothy brought back a good report that the young believers were standing in the truth.

The letter of First Thessalonians was written to encourage this church, after Paul listened to Timothy’s report.

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Paul opens the letter by remembering their faith, hope, and love. These are the three things that the Bible says will be with us eternally. Too often we think about them only in spiritual terms.

We sometimes get the idea that they’re just good feelings that Christians should enjoy. Some believers act like they’re wonderful gifts that should be tucked quietly away in our hearts.

NO WAY!!! According to Paul, faith, hope, and love are the sparks that ignite our ministry before God. There are three different things that happen in us as a result of their influence upon us.

First, faith produces our work. That word literally means your assignment. It’s the task that God has given you. As you go before God in faith, He gives you grace for the calling He’s placed upon your life. As I trust God more and more, I learn to follow His ways. Eventually I start to understand why He wanted me in His kingdom. Faith causes me to stand in my assignment.

Then comes love – it prompts us to labor. That word labor, means to use up your strength in performing a task. Without the love of God, we’ll never pour ourselves into the calling He’s placed upon us. We’re called to work with all of our strength. Without love, that will never happen.

Finally, hope inspires endurance. It’s easy to start out strong, but it’s how we finish that matters the most. Hope is the biblical word for expectation. If I do my part, then I can expect God to show up and do His part.

That’s what keeps me going even when I don’t feel like it. I know what God says in His Word. Because I place my expectation on Him, I can continue to live for the Lord. Hope gives you the endurance to persevere to the end.

Let faith, hope, and love give you more than just a warm feeling. Let them spur you on to accomplishing your destiny in the Lord’s Kingdom.

Question: How have you seen faith, hope and love at work in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are You Wandering?

The last exhortation from the book of James is very important. He deals with an issue that’s prevalent in our generation. It’s about those who wander from the truth.

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20

James is dealing with a number of issues in this passage. The first is the fact that a Christian can wander from the truth. The word, wander means to roam or rove around.

In the natural, wandering takes place when we get distracted by something. When I’ve gone hiking, there have been times when I’ve gotten distracted and missed a turn in the trail. A couple of times I had to do a fair amount of backtracking before I got to where I should have been.

That’s why this Greek word can also mean deception.   Deceit is when I knowingly try to distract you from the truth. The question is; how does this wandering manifest itself in a spiritual setting?

One day, Jesus explained this very concept to the Sadducees, who were trying to prove to the Lord that there would be no resurrection.

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
Matthew 22:29

The word, error, in this verse is the same word wander that James used. Jesus was telling these priests that they had wandered from the truth because of two problems. They’re the same two things that cause modern believers to miss out on God’s best.

The first, was not knowing the Scriptures. This was an interesting thing to say to the Sadducees, since they had huge portions of Scripture memorized. They had to know all the books of Moses by heart just to qualify for the priesthood.

The problem was that they only knew about the Scripture. The word that Jesus used was a knowing by experience. These priests knew what the Bible said, they just didn’t want to apply it to their lives. Without the application of Scripture, we’re merely wandering around hoping to stumble upon God’s best for us.

The second thing that causes us to wander is not knowing the power of God. That’s probably the greatest hindrance in our generation. In many church circles we’re relying upon secular corporate models or clever programming to grow our churches.

In many cases, if the Holy Spirit showed up on Sunday morning, we wouldn’t know what to do with Him. In some churches He’d be escorted out the door, in others He’d be told to sit quietly in the corner. The last thing they want is to see the power of God active in their services.

I believe that the goal of God’s people is to see, and experience the power of God actively in their lives. In my opinion, that’s what the world needs to see. More than structures or programs, it’s the power of God that will bring them to repentance and salvation.

I want to see a new move of God in my generation. But for that to happen, we need to stop being distracted by the world around us. In other words, we need to stop wandering from the truth.

By focusing on experiencing the truth of Scripture and experiencing the presence of God we can once again see the Lord’s best manifest in us. As a result, there will be a great harvest of souls when they see the hand of God actively working in our lives.

Question: How much time do you spend actively applying Scripture to your life and seeking God’s presence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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To Tell the Truth

We live in an age where we’re told that truth is relative. It’s not the same for everyone. When this is the norm, lies are a regular part of our society.

Think about the internet. Anyone can say whatever they want – about any subject they like. It can be true or untrue with seemingly no consequences.

“Of course it’s true; I read it on the internet.”

I’ve heard people say that; and maybe you have too. We laugh and roll our eyes, because we know that if it’s on the internet, you have to check it out from more than one source.

That makes for a very skeptical society. It makes me wonder how we, as believers, need to handle the truth. James had something to say about it almost 2000 years ago.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear — not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
James 5:12

It seems that every day we have to sift through lies and half-truths. It’s like the call I get regularly to inform me that my name was selected to receive a free vacation. Even though I know that I didn’t enter any drawing. The good news is that it would have only cost me $600 to claim my “free” vacation. Lucky me!

Even the media is falling into this type of hype. The accusations of “fake news” seem to be a regular occurrence. Personally, I like watching the weather reports. People laugh at me because I’ll keep one of the weather networks on in the background sometimes.

You would think that weather reporting is above this type of accusation. Not anymore. Throughout the evening, the teaser for the nightly news is, “Can we be expecting another big blizzard?” So I watch the news only to find out that the answer is, “No, the storm’s going out to sea.”

Why am I saying all of this? Am I just some old guy complaining about society? Absolutely not! It’s a warning to us that we can’t let these types of lies, half-truths, and hype be a part of our walk with God.

When we speak, it needs to be the truth. So much so, that we don’t feel the need to convince others to trust us. God’s people should have a reputation of speaking the truth.

Jesus said the same thing to His followers.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Matthew 5:33-37

The enemy has to go to great lengths to convince people to believe a lie. When we do the same with the truth, it makes people question whether they should believe us or not.

Don’t make the truth you’re speaking sound like a lie. Testify for Christ honestly, and with integrity. Then allow the Holy Spirit to do the convincing and convicting. I’ve found that this is the best way to present the truth.

Question: How have you seen people present the truth in a form that sounds untrue?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Knowing and Doing

I’ve been posting about how James exhorts us to keep watch over our speaking. Today we will deal with how submitted we are to God. It’s a passage of Scripture that, I think, is usually misunderstood.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James 4:13-14

In order to understand this passage, you need to see the assumptions that James is making. He’s speaking to believers who have no care about God’s will for their life. How do I know this?

First of all, they say “we will” go there, we will buy and sell, and we will make money. They’re saying all of this without ever knowing what’s really going to happen. They didn’t go on this trip because they felt the Lord impressing them to go. It was all about their desire.

This is clear from the next verses.

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
James 4:15-17

When James says that you boast and brag, it literally means that you rejoice in your self-confidence. That’s the key to what he’s speaking of; SELF confidence. When we’re confident in what we can achieve, we usually forget about God and His desire for our lives.

One of the problems in translating is that there’s not much punctuation in the original Greek. There’s sometimes more than one way to read a verse depending on which word you emphasize. I believe that, in the context of what James is saying here, a better way of reading the first line is, “Instead, you ought to speak if it’s the Lord’s will, and live, and do this or that.”

It’s all about spending time with the Lord, knowing His will, and then speaking about what He’s told us to do. If you’re going to do something, do it because you feel led of the Holy Spirit.

I think that makes more sense in light of the last sentence in the above passage. I don’t believe that James is just adding some random thought about doing good. It’s all a part of the same exhortation.

You need to know that you’re in the center of God’s will. Of course, that’s why many choose not to seek God’s will. They’re afraid that it won’t agree with what they want to do.

Once you’ve spent the time and effort to know God’s plan for your life, you can’t simply ignore it. The Holy Spirit would continue to remind you and draw to complete your calling. Some people feel that it’s better just to do what they want and never ask God.

Many people make doing their own thing sound holy. They say, “I’m going to do this, God willing.” What they mean is, “This is what I want to do and I hope God doesn’t stop me from doing it.” At least that’s what I meant when I used to say that.

The key is that we need to know what God wants us to do before we start doing it. If God wants it accomplished, then it’s blessed without me even asking for a blessing. If it’s not God’s will, it won’t be blessed no matter how hard I pray for it.

Spend quality time in God’s presence. In that way you’ll know that what you’re doing is of God. You can then walk in the assurance that everything you put your hand to will be blessed.

Question: What has the Lord called you to accomplish for Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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