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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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Double Minded

WaveIn my last post we saw that maturity requires the wisdom of God. Without His wisdom, there will be areas of lack in our lives.

James tells us that all we need to do is ask God, and He’ll give us His wisdom in abundance. But there’s a requirement for us to receive it.

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
James 1:6-8

According to Scripture, there must not be any doubt that God will provide. This passage is actually a very detailed look at what doubt is and how it functions.

First, the word doubt in the Greek actually means to thoroughly judge, discern or discriminate in the decision making process. As a matter of fact, this word could be good or bad in Scripture, depending upon the context.

Jesus said that we should discern the signs of the times (Matthew 16:2-3). We should be able to judge disputes between believers (1 Corinthians 6:5). We must discern the Lord’s body during communion (1 Corinthians 11:29). Prophecy should be judged by the listeners (1 Corinthians 14:29).

The problem comes in when we try to judge God’s Word. It’s not up to us to decide whether God means what He says or not. His Word is truth. It doesn’t matter what things look like from our perspective.

The next thing I see is that the person who doubts is like a wave on the ocean. But it’s not just any wave. It’s a wave that’s specifically formed by the wind blowing across the water. That kind of wave only moves in the direction that the wind is blowing.

If I only trust God when the wind of circumstance is blowing in a favorable direction, that’s a very shallow faith. It’s up to random chance whether it will take me to God’s best or not. Most likely, you’ll never get there.

This person is also called double-minded, or literally double souled. It’s like you have a split personality. When you’re around God’s people it seems like nothing’s impossible. But in the middle of the struggle, you lose all hope.

According to James, this person is unstable in all he does. That literally means that the road he’s taking has no permanent direction.

Think about it. What if the road I took to work each day comes out at a different place each time I drove on it. That’s what life is like as a doubter. You never know where you’re going to end up, spiritually speaking.

We need to trust God’s Word no matter what things look like around us. Abraham learned this lesson, and he saw God’s power at work.

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
Romans 4:20-21

So if you need God’s wisdom – if you lack in any area of your life – then you can trust Him for it with all your heart. Don’t try to decide whether it’s for you or not. Jesus Christ already paid the price for it. Receive God’s wisdom without any doubt.

Question: What are some doubts that you’ve had to overcome in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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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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Short-Lived Champions

TrophyI live in the Boston area. I have to admit that I was excited when the New England Patriots won the Superbowl. That probably doesn’t sound very spiritual.

A couple of days ago the Patriots celebrated their victory with a parade in Boston. Everybody seems to be feeling good about it.

Actually there’s a truth here that we need to understand. It hurts me to tell you this, but now that the Superbowl is over, both the Patriots and the Falcons are tied for last place. (Along with every other team.)

When you look at the world of sports, the game gets reset every year. What you did last year doesn’t mean anything during the next season.

From this point on it’s all about winning next year. In our society, championships are a temporary thing. You can be a world champion today and scraping the bottom the next season.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.
1 Peter 3:18

I’m glad Jesus wasn’t this kind of champion. The victory that He won was once and for all. There will be no rematch, no do overs, and no replays. It is finished.

Under the Old Covenant it was much different. The death of a bull or goat today had no power to help you a year later. The sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again.

The work that Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross will never lose its effectiveness. It will never fade or wear out. The Lord is eternally victorious.

But there’s more to the story. Christ has passed this victory on to all who will trust in Him.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

As I said before – I’m glad the Patriots won. The problem is that their victory didn’t do anything for me. After the Superbowl, my health, finances, and attitudes were the same as they were before. They got the glory, and I got to watch.

Christ, on the other hand, allowed me to share in His victory. Even though there was nothing I could to do to help, I benefit from all that He did. All I had to do was to trust in Him as my Lord and Savior.

…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1 John 5:4

In one decisive act, Jesus Christ accomplished freedom, salvation, healing, and restoration for all. We just need to get in on it by faith in Him.

Spend some time with the Lord today. Let His victory spill over into your life. Don’t walk around as if you’re defeated, hoping to win the next round. You can walk in his freedom right now.

Question: How has the victory of Christ been effective in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Warfare, The Gospel

 

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Jesus Describes Himself

JesusJesus reveals Himself to the church in many different ways. It all depends upon what we need to see. Look at how He describes Himself to the pastor (angel, messenger) of a church in a town called Laodicea.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”
Revelation 3:14

The Lord reveals Himself in three ways. First, He shows Himself as the Amen. The literal translation of that word throughout the New Testament is so be it.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
II Corinthians 1:19-20

It’s through Christ that the Amen is spoken to all the promises of God. So many times we don’t understand why promises seem to be delayed.

Our first response is, “Well, maybe it’s not God’s will for me.” Scripture is clear. If you’re in Christ you already have the yes and the so be it.

It’s no longer a matter of if, but of God’s timing – which, by the way, seems to be on a different level than our timing. Just remember, when it comes to His revealed will as recorded in His Word, we need unwavering faith to trust in Him no matter what the situation looks like.

He also reveals Himself as the Faithful and True Witness. He’s the One we can totally rely upon. He’s the only One worthy of putting your complete faith and trust in.

Not only is He true and genuine, the Lord is truth, the Word of God made flesh. It’s important, however, to understand how He’s a witness. What is it that the Lord is a witness to? The answer to that question makes all the difference.

God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
Romans 1:9-10

Over and over again in the New Testament we’re told that God is a witness to all that we do. We may be able to hide our activities from other people, but not from God. This should give us a motive to serve God with all of our hearts.

This is because the Lord is our attorney at the judgment seat. Granted, that in Christ we will not be in danger of Hell, but our rewards are dependent upon His testimony. Remember this – He is the faithful and true Witness. He will not whitewash your actions or cover up your wrong doings.

The testimony of Christ will be perfectly correct and accurate. If you want your rewards to be great, then you must live your life at the highest level for the Lord.

Finally, He shows Himself to be the Ruler of God’s creation. Everything was made by Him and for Him. He is the Origin and Source of the universe.

Therefore, the Lord is also the Owner. He has complete sovereignty over all there is. We must acknowledge that He’s in charge and we are not. It’s God’s plan that we follow His lead and not seek after our own petty desires.

Question: What are the ways in which Christ revealed Himself to you in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2016 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Faith Installments

ProfitThe phrase “nobody likes a quitter” is true throughout our society. I enjoy watching some reality TV shows such as Survivor and The Amazing Race. I have yet to see someone quit that was praised for what they did.

It’s the same in the Kingdom of God. Quitting and living by faith are never compatible. The Scripture is clear on that point.

For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
Hebrews 10:37-39

That phrase I will not be pleased with him literally means I will not think well or approve of him. We must all be striving for a life that’s approved by God. I want to please Him in all that I do.

You cannot live the abundant life and shrink back. It says that those who hold back themselves will suffer ruin or loss. Whenever you quit, something is lost. That’s no way to live. Moving backwards only leads to failure.

Even though it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, trusting the Lord is moving forward. It’s bringing you to the place where you can receive what God has promised you.

When this translation says that we believe and are saved, the Greek word is not the normal word for salvation. This word is actually a phrase that means we are making an acquisition or purchasing our souls.

When we trust God in spite of the circumstances we’re taking a step forward. We’re actually making installments into our soul. You can look at it this way; each step of faith is an upgrade for our soul.

We’re not where we need to be yet. But we’re making progress, step by step. That’s what the verse means by quoting that the righteous one will live by faith. That’s a quote from the prophet Habakkuk in the following context.

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 2:3

This verse literally says that God’s revelation waits for its appointment. The good thing about it – the Lord’s promise is never late for its appointment!

The problem is on our end. Will we be at the appointed place, standing in faith, when the promise arrives?

So many times God’s people give up before the fulfillment takes place. We miss out on God’s best because we don’t continue in our faith.

Don’t be a quitter. Don’t give up a couple of steps before the promise arrives. Hold your ground in the spirit. We are not those who shrink back. We are those who obtain the promises by faith.

Question: What was the hardest thing that you’ve had to trust God for?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2016 in Encouragement, Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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Wilderness Provisions

Water JugsHow far can you trust God? Are you willing to place your complete confidence in Him? Or is there a point where you’ll “cut your losses” and try to get by on your own?

These are questions we all need to deal with as believers. The Lord has promised to be our everything. All we need for life and godliness is wrapped up in Him. But we have to be willing to surrender totally to His will.

The prophet Elijah had to learn this lesson.

Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.”
So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
I Kings 17:2-6

I’ve heard it said, and have found it to be true, that where God calls, He also equips. We sometimes seem to be under the impression that there are places that God can’t get to. We can also think that there are situations that are beyond His control.

After all, how can God provide if you’re out in the wilderness, far away from any human assistance? The above event in Elijah’s life makes it abundantly clear that God can and does provide even in the desert places.

You’re never beyond God’s reach. If you’re doing His will, then He promises that He’ll watch over you, caring and providing for your needs.

I recently had an encounter with God’s goodness in this way. A couple of weeks ago I went out to hike and pray on the Appalachian Trail in New York. My intent was to be out for over a week.

The hike was one of the worse struggles I’ve ever had in the woods. This was due to the drought that the Northeast is currently experiencing. Most of the places where you would expect to find water – springs and brooks – had dried up.

I found myself having to conserve water and was close to dehydration. But the fact is that even in the wilderness God had my back.

I was approaching a particularly tough climb, one the hikers call Agony Grind. I was badly in need of water. As I crossed a road and re-entered the woods at the foot of this steep section, I was totally amazed. A local “angel” had placed about 25 gallon jugs on the trail for hikers to enjoy (the above photo).

I took this as a blessing from God. He knew what I needed, and when I needed it the most. This proves to me once more that I can trust the Lord completely with my future.

Strive to be in the center of God’s will for your life, as Elijah was. That’s the place of abundance in Christ. Remember not to put the cart before the horse. Seek first to be in His will, then the rest will follow.

Spend time in His presence and meditate on what you know of God’s plan for your life. Seek to enter closer and closer to the heart of what God desires for you. This could mean the difference between an empty life and a life of abundance.

Question: What is an example of God’s faithfulness that you’ve experienced?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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