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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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Has Your Faith Been Approved?

ApproveStarting with this post, I’m going to do things a little differently. I usually talk about issues dealing with revival, church leadership, God’s power or the return of Christ. But up until now I haven’t really followed any plan.

Lately I’ve been feeling that I need to write in a more systematic way. Over the past couple of years the Holy Spirit has been teaching me a lot by having me read through the New Testament in the order that it was given to the church.

In that way you can see how some of these themes were expanded upon as the Spirit revealed more and more to His people. I want to take that same approach to the teachings in this blog.

Of course, if the Lord gives me a message to share that will benefit you; I can always follow His leading at any time. I can post it when I receive it and then pick right back up where I left off.

I believe that the book of James was the first Scripture to be recorded for the church. So that’s where I’ll begin.

It was written by a pastor to give his congregation the foundation they needed in serving Christ. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. His words are as applicable today as they were when he first wrote them.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time identifying with James when he equates trials with joy. And he’s not the only one. The Apostle Peter says the same thing in his letters. It’s not that I don’t want to grow, but I would prefer not going through trials – they just don’t feel good to me.

On the other hand, I realize that they’re a part of life. There’s never going to be a time when we’re not faced with something challenging. Nobody is exempt from this. The world is full of problems, and people who cause them. I’ve even been known to bring them upon myself from time to time.

The real issue is what I do with the trial once I’m in it. They can’t be avoided, so I might as well make the best of it. James is explaining to us the attitude best suited to overcome our trials. He doesn’t say to be joyful because you’re being tested. He says to count it pure joy because of what you know.

It’s our knowledge of what the trial produces the gives us joy during the hard times. What is it that I know? If you read this section in the original Greek, you find that James says that it’s the “approved part of our faith” that produces perseverance – the ability to come through a challenge victoriously.

Everyone says that they have faith. The question asked by this verse is – Is that faith approved? Has it been tested and found to be genuine? It’s easy to say that I trust God, yet give up in the hard times. It’s the genuine, approved faith that carries us through.

It’s like the song that says, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Well, I know that the Lord won’t allow the test to kill me. But as it tries my faith, it will strengthen me to trust God in a greater way.

So the joy is not that I’m being tried, but that I’m growing stronger. My faith is being proved, and I’ll be able to stand in it. I may never look forward to tests and hardships, but at least I know that they provide a vital part of my growth in Christ.

Question: What have you gone through that has increased your faith?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Giant Killers

stonesI’m posting about spiritual warfare and using David’s mighty men as our examples. Today I want to talk about someone named Benaiah.

Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab’s best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.
2 Samuel 23:20

Benaiah was special. He wasn’t like the others. He was at his best when the fight was one on one.

But when I read about his encounter with the lion, I don’t think that was planned. I think that it was simply a snowy day. He hit a patch of slippery ground and slid into the pit.

Did you ever have a day like that? It’s snowy, it’s cold, and just when you think it couldn’t get any worse you slide into pit. Then you look around only to find a mad lion at the bottom. It’s a day that just keeps going from bad to worse.

In our situation we know that the enemy roams around like a roaring lion. You need to understand what that means. When a pride of lions are hunting their prey, they have a system. The young, strong ones silently circle around in front of the intended victim.

But it’s the oldest one – not as strong and maybe missing some teeth – who stays in the rear. There’s one thing he can do, and that’s to let out a huge roar. That scares the prey so that they run straight to the waiting pack.

In Abishai’s case, if he had tried to run away he would have been dead. The only course open to him was to fight the lion.

In our struggles, it’s the same thing. Never run scared from the enemy’s roar. The name of Jesus is more than enough to bring about the victory.

This is how we’re to behave. The mighty never run from the enemy. They go on the offensive in a battle.

And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.
2 Samuel 23:21

Abishai was a giant killer just like David. We need to pick up that same spirit. One of the enemy’s most frequently used tactics is to make the problem look overwhelmingly large.

We look at the challenge ahead and compare it to our abilities and resources. We start to fear and get anxious over how we’re going to get through. That’s a certain recipe for disaster.

We have to come to the realization that Jesus Christ is bigger that any situation we’ll ever face. We must keep our eyes fixed on Him, knowing that all the resources of Heaven are there to back Him up.

Question: What are some giants that the Lord has helped you overcome?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Are You Comfortable?

HammockAre you comfortable where you are in life right now? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Too often we get comfortable and that turns into complacency. It’s never God’s plan for us remain at one level for very long.

We can see this illustrated in the lives of the Israelites. When they were on their way to the promised land, they stopped in the shade of a mountain as God directed. But not long after that, the Word of the Lord came to Moses.

The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.”
Deuteronomy 1:6

Mountaintops are great! It’s one of my favorite parts of hiking. To stand on a mountain or ridge top and survey the vast beauty all around me makes the entire climb worth it. I wish I could stay there forever just taking in the scene before me.

It’s like that in our Christian walk as well. When we’re going through challenging times, we want to be done with it quickly. We have no problem moving on to an easier time of life.

But when we arrive at a spiritual high, we’d like it to go on forever. It’s easy to just sit back and enjoy the blessings of God. We’d like to just put our lives on “auto-pilot” and cruise along undisturbed.

One of the reasons I like mountains in the natural, is that the mountaintop brings a kind of clarity. You can see where you came from and where you’re going. This view gives you an understanding of the area that is unobtainable any other way.

Unfortunately, no matter how good the view is, there comes a time when I have to move on. Life is the same. There are events that you never want to stop. They’re like being up on a mountaintop.

What we have to learn is that the valleys of life are just as important. That’s why we need to regularly take stock of our lives. You need to ask yourself if it’s time to be moving on in some area.

God desires to see growth in His people. The accompanying truth is that growth means change. I can’t move on to the new places God wants to bring me, if I don’t leave the comfortable place I’m in now.

Every so often the Holy Spirit gives us a nudge. “You’ve been here long enough. It’s time to move on.”

It’s on the mountaintops of life that God gives clear vision and renewed strength for the valleys. But we need to cultivate an attitude that desires all that God has planned for us. That helps us to be ready when the call to move on comes our way.

Spend some time taking inventory of your life. Receive what God has for you today – and move on with His Spirit.

Question: What is the spiritual movement that God is working in you right now?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Our Living Hope

Cross SunsetI want to take a few posts to look at the hope we have that’s talked about in I Peter 1:6-9.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7

This truth is seen all through the Bible. It’s one of those teachings that we don’t want to hear. The fact of the matter is that we will all face trials and challenges.

Yet in spite of all this we can walk in the joy of the Lord. It’s also good to know that in those trials our faith being perfected.

In all of this, Peter understands that there’s a problem we face.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

The problem is that we don’t see the Lord. Because we can’t see Him we must operate by faith. We have to trust in His Word to us.

Of course faith always has a goal. Our goal is to see God’s life-changing power at work in us. Because we look to this goal by faith, it inspires hope – expectation – in our hearts.

As we continue to walk with Christ, we learn more about His ways. This causes us to love Him more and more.

So actually, the trials of life are foundational to our spiritual growth. They produce faith, hope and love in us as we continue to look to the Lord. These are the three essentials that we can’t live without if we want to live a life pleasing to God.

Of all the apostles, Peter had the best handle on this. When it came to persevering under trials, there was no one else like him. When Paul and Silas were in jail they had to start singing to keep their spirits up. When Peter was in prison, chained between two guards, he actually fell asleep!

The question is; how can I rejoice in trials? The secret is in the verses before these.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
1 Peter 1:3

We’ve been given a Living Hope, an expectation of what God’s going to accomplish in and through us. It’s this living hope that causes rejoicing in the trials. The prophet Jeremiah understood this truth.

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.
Jeremiah 17:13

He knew that the hope of Israel was the Lord, as the spring of living water. Israel missed it. I don’t want to miss it.

It’s clear from the above verse that the Lord’s mercy gives birth to a Living Hope. Hope is birthed in His mercy. In my next posts I’m going to expand on this thought.

Question: How has placing your hope in Christ changed your outlook?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Footsteps of Faith

Faith is not a one-time thing.  It is a way of living.

Romans 4:12
And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
(NIV)

The word footsteps in this passage actually means a path that was created by many people walking the same way over time.  Over and over again there were men and women who followed the same path of faith that Abraham used.

God is not a respecter of persons.  He doesn’t ask everybody to do something different.  He requires the same from all of us – faith.  We must learn to trust God in all things, just like Abraham had to.  Each new generation of believers can see where others have walked before.

Sure, the technology changes.  We use new words and have new concerns to deal with.  But our God doesn’t change.  The same God who took care of Abraham in the wilderness, is the God who will see us through the challenges of the times we live in.  Only He knows the end from the beginning and can safely take us through to an abundant life.

Think about it!  This path of faith that we are walking is the same path that Abraham trod thousands of years ago.  Over time, with each new believer adding their steps, the path has become clearer and clearer.  It led them to see the glory of God and it will take us to the same location.

How unfortunate that so many believers don’t look at the path in that way.  They think it is too narrow and constrictive.  They want to see more than just the view from this trail.  We must keep reminding ourselves that this path is the one that can truly lead us to the abundant life.  If it brought Abraham there, then with God’s help, I can reach that destination as well.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Daily Thoughts

 

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