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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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What You Really Lack

Question MarkI’ve been looking at the path to maturity in the book of James. I want to talk in a little more detail about the result.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4

This is obviously something that James believes that we can attain to. But in understanding the words that he uses, it goes against what many people preach.

I believe that God’s Word is truth. That means that no matter what people say, I have to trust that God’s way is correct.

What do I mean by all this? Simply that the word James uses for complete is a compound word. It means having your whole allotment. It speaks about everything that God has for us.

God wants us to be mature, receiving everything that Jesus paid for on the cross. But James doesn’t leave it at that. He goes on to repeat himself by coming at it from the opposite direction.

He says that as a mature believer you lack nothing. That literally means that there is not even one thing missing.

As I said in the first post of this series, the Book of James was the first Scripture that the Holy Spirit gave to the church. I find this amazing. The very first thing that the Spirit reveals to His church is that He wants us mature…AND…that there’s no lack in the walk of maturity.

Why is it that so many Christians seem to be missing out on God’s best? I think that it’s because we don’t know what we’re really lacking. We’re under the impression that we need things, or money. But that’s not the lack – according to Scripture.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5

Immediately after telling us that we should lack nothing, James tells us what to pray for. If there’s an area of need in our lives, then the deficiency is in our wisdom. At the point where we lack wisdom, there will be a material need.

This is clear from what Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote.

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
Proverbs 3:13-16

You can sum up this passage by saying that if you possess Godly wisdom, then you don’t need anything else. Finances, a home, a good job, friends, and much more will be available to you if you can walk in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

The reason should be obvious. Wisdom is the ability to make the right choices based upon the knowledge you’ve received.

We live in an age where we have all the knowledge we need, right at our fingertips. We can search out any answer we require on Google. The problem is that knowledge by itself doesn’t guarantee our success. You need to know what to do with it. That’s why God promises us His wisdom.

I’m so glad that there’s no qualification on the Lord’s promise of wisdom. Anytime, anywhere, I can ask Him and receive the wisdom I need.

If you lack anything, then it’s time for a new strategy. Instead of praying for “stuff”, ask God for the wisdom you need. Then be listening for His voice to guide you in the right paths.

Question: How has God’s wisdom helped you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2017 in God's Provision, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Passing Down the Blessing

FallenI’m posting about our call to be a blessing to those around us. I started by looking at this verse in Hebrews…

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
Hebrews 11:20

This is an interesting verse because in actuality Esau was Isaac’s favorite. He was the one that Isaac wanted to give the family blessing to. But in the final analysis, it was Jacob who went further with God and His plan.

When you talk to someone; do you know their heart? That’s why we want to be a blessing to everyone around us. We have no way of knowing what it could mean in their lives.

There is, however, another aspect of blessing that we sometimes miss. It’s a very important concept for us to understand.

And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater.
Hebrews 7:7

The phrase without doubt means that this truth is absolute under all conditions. We need to realize that a true blessing can only travel down-line. It could pass from a parent to a child, a teacher to a student, or a pastor to a church. That means that a true blessing is only a part of a relationship where there is submission and obedience.

It’s very important that we understand that the blessing is passed through lines of authority. Even though we may say in church-speak , “he blesses me,” we really only means that he makes me happy.

A true blessing, the endowment with power for success, must come from an authority. And that brings us to the other side of the coin – cursing. By curse, I’m not talking about using foul language. Cursing is the opposite of blessing; it’s the endowment of power for destruction in a situation.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
James 3:9-10

What’s true for the blessing is also true for the curse. It can only travel down-line through lines of authority. That’s why I’m not worried about what people say to me…or about me.

Some people get all upset and anxious over the careless words of others. Someone might say something like, “You look like you’re coming down with something.”

I’ve heard people get very upset and respond, “Don’t speak death over me!”

The fact is that I don’t have to worry. Only my authority can curse me, and I’m confident that they won’t.

Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
Proverbs 26:2

I don’t have anything to fear from the curse. I’ve been set free in Christ. Anybody can say what they want to me or about me – my life is under God’s protection.

Enough about the curse. The point is that as far as we’re concerned we should be speaking blessing and life into the people God has placed us over.

This includes the unbelievers around us. You do realize that in Christ, we’re in a higher place than they are. If we spoke more blessings into them, they would probably be more open to the Gospel of Christ.

As believers, we should be a people who are known for the blessings that come from being around us.

Question: What was the last blessing that you spoke into the life of someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2016 in Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Effective Leadership = Clear Vision

transportIn my last post I talked about the need for leaders to have God’s vision for their ministries. This is not just a game we’re playing. It’s the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It can’t be broken down into rules and formulas. Eighty percent of it is relationship. We must be able to communicate and hear from Christ, the Head. Good leadership means hearing from God, and knowing the direction to be heading into.

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Proverbs 29:18

When the leader has no vision, no clear revelation from God, then there’s no clear direction in which the church should travel. At that point it becomes “every man for himself.” There’s no force holding the church together as a unit. There’s no goal ordering the people to march together in one direction.

When there’s a clear plan from God, the people are restrained from running off in all directions. Your resources can be targeted at the specific task ahead.

That’s where the spirit of excellence is born; in the realm of vision. Vision, knowing God’s strategy for your life and your ministry, is the deciding factor in whether or not you walk in excellence. Most of the ministries that are a part of the “normal pack” are just going by trial and error, hoping that someday they’ll stumble over the secret to success.

They look around for a ministry that’s growing and try to incorporate those methods into their own schedule. Most of the time, it simply turns the ministry into a conglomeration of disjointed programs with no clear goal in view. Personally, I would much rather know the direction of success before I start out.

Once I know God’s plan for my ministry, then I can see where my personal life vision fits into it. The Holy Spirit will see to it that the vision of the local church will be completed in the sum total of each individual vision of the members. Excellence must work on both levels.

Without knowing the overriding vision of the church, there’s no clear direction. But the church is the people. Without a people who know their personal vision, then the church can never move forward into the excellence God has prepared for it. Vision is required on both the corporate and individual level.

Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2:2-3

Vision is something that must be plain and clear. It can’t be so general that no one understands how he or she fits into it. Some will say, “The vision of our church is to win the lost.” That’s great, but how do you intend to do that?

Is there a specific group of “lost people” that you’re called to win? What are you going to do with these lost people once they’re found? The vision needs to be clear and specific. It needs to be personally tailored for your life and ministry. It needs to show what makes you unique and different from everyone else who’s serving the Lord.

This is important because it’s only after you have a clear vision from God that you can focus your efforts. You won’t be distracted by other activities which are good, yet don’t bring about God’s plan in your life.

Questions: Do you know God’s vision for your life? What is it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 

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Is the Word of God Your Obsession?

Lion2I’ve been talking about the three levels of Scriptural meditation. It’s something that the body of Christ needs to once again focus on. In my last post I talked about the first level.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
Psalm 63:6

The next step takes the thinking process deeper into your heart. In the above verse think of is the Hebrew word Hagah. This word is a strengthened form of the verb Hagag. It means to intensely think about.

Meditation at this level requires memorization of the Scripture. You have to become intimate with the Word of God.

At this level you begin to obsess on the Scripture. You dwell on it. You imagine the sights, the smells, and the textures. If it’s a teaching Scripture, then you imagine yourself obeying it. Get inside the Word. See it as written in you and about you. This starts to give you a deeper understanding of the application.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Joshua 1:8

We all want prosperity and success. But are we willing to do what it takes to achieve the level of excellence necessary to lay hold of them? In order to develop a spirit of excellence, it will require you to use at least this level of meditation.

This is what the LORD says to me: “As a lion growls, a great lion over his prey – and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against him, he is not frightened by their shouts or disturbed by their clamor – so the LORD Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.”
Isaiah 31:4

You may wonder what this verse has to do with meditating on the Word of God. Scripture describes it as a lion meditating on its prey. Hagah is the word growl in the above verse.

It doesn’t matter that a band of shepherds are trying to distract this lion. His focus remains fixed and unbroken. He has one thing in mind – lamb chops!

We need to obsess over the Word of the Lord the way a lion does over his prey. Don’t let the devil or the world distract you from your objective.

The question isn’t whether or not you have to do this. You can get by in your Christian walk without meditating on the Word of God. Even if you’re in the full-time ministry, there are enough books and tapes around to keep you in sermons and Bible studies for the rest of your life.

We should always desire something fresh from the Word. A major portion of what you’re preaching and teaching must come from your walk with the Lord. You can’t build a ministry of excellence if all you do is rehash what everyone else is saying.

When you allow the Holy Spirit to meet with you in the place of meditation, you’re in communication with the Author, Himself. In this way, you will gain insight you never thought possible.

This is something you must desire and go after. The choice is yours. You can stand before the people with a nice teaching; or you can come to them with a Word from God.

In my next post I’ll move on to the highest level of godly meditation.

Question: How often do you purpose to memorize Scripture?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

This series is adapted from my book, Breaking Free from the Pack – How to Develop a Spirit of Excellence.

 

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Proverb – Disgrace or Wisdom?

Proverbs 11:2
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

We all want to be a success.  Solomon, who wrote these nuggets of wisdom, understood what it took to be successful.  He gives us advice that is timeless – as true today as it was the day it was written.

In this proverb, he gives us two contrasting truths, one negative and one positive.  The first deals with pride.  Please understand, we all need a healthy amount of pride to be able to function correctly.  Taking pride in your work is what helps you to advance.  This is not the pride he is talking about here.

The pride that hurts me is the view that I’m better than everybody else.  I guess it could best be described as arrogance.  The rejection of any help from others is a symptom of this condition.  After all, why would we need help from this rabble – they all need our help.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it leads to disgrace.  What that word literally means is that your opinion is largely ignored.  Have you ever noticed that people who act like they know everything, are rarely gone to for advice.  Solomon tells us that quickest way to being ignored is through arrogance.

Humility is just the opposite.  It understands that there are people you need to go to for advice and help along the way.  There are those who know more than you on certain subjects.  As you listen to them and learn from their experience, you start to grow in wisdom and knowledge.

Eventually, people start seeing those same qualities in you.  They come to you for advice.  Humility is the road to advancement in the kingdom of God.

We all have the choice.  Do we want disgrace or wisdom?  The road we take determines our destination.  If you want to be a person who influences the lives of others, then choose the path that leads through humility – it reaps the best rewards.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Daily Thoughts

 

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