Failing Successfully

Failing successfully is how I want to conclude our series on success in your life and new horizons in 2019 .  It's the elephant in the room for all this talk of reaching your dreams… failure!

If you start to move towards the dream God has for you, at some point you will fail. But successful people are always failing successfully…

No one likes to fail, but this morning I’m going to suggest to you that failure is not you’re enemy, it’s your friend!  John Maxwell tells us that, on average, successful people fail two out of every five times they attempt something and unsuccessful people fail three out of five times. So failure is something we all experience, and it’s not final until you decide it is, until you give up. Instead, failing successfully is a learning tool for the wise!

 

Everybody fails, not once, over and over again until the day we die. So why does failure destroy some and seem to build others up? It comes down to what we talked about last week, looking at the giant instead of the solution, our God! Remember,

 

1 John 4:4 (ESV Strong's)

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

 

NOT WHAT YOU SEE, HOW YOU SEE IT!

 

With failure, it’s not what you see, it’s how you see it. Your perspective is what counts. Here’s Paul,

 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV Strong's)

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

 

For Paul, who was beaten, rejected, stoned, shipwrecked and betrayed, perspective was everything. Even when failure and defeat, pain and abuse were seemingly on top of him, he said,

 

Romans 8:18 (ESV Strong's)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

 

What a perspective on what the rest of the world calls hardship and failure! It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it... that's failing successfully. Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times in his attempts to invent the light globe. When challenged he said, “I have not failed, I have just found 1,000 ways it won’t work!”

 

If you look at it right, a problem is not really your problem, it’s your opportunity to shine. Christians should be like teabags… our true colour should come out in hot water. But often, we fall apart when we fail, just like everyone else.  Why is it that we don’t see failure or failing successfully correctly?

 

1.      OUR PAST

 

What we have experienced in our past colours how we see our current problems. If we have failed before, especially it is was often, or very public, unless we change our mindset we are likely to fail again. If we have succeeded, it gives us confidence even if we face failure.

 

It’s time today to make the past past at last. Whatever you’ve done, however you’ve failed, whatever sin has previously controlled you, take your eyes off that and look to what God has for you. Failing successfully is what is required!

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong's)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

2.      OUR PRESENT

 

Sometimes we look at our current circumstances and they convince us that we will fail. Listen, circumstances do not determine destiny… decisions do. Whatever giant you face today can and will be subdued and even destroyed if you see him in God’s perspective. Heres Paul again…

 

Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV Strong's)

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

3.      OUR PERSON

 

How you see yourself determines how you will triumph over failure. If you see yourself as a big person, you will tackle big problems. If you think you’re a small person, you’ll only tackle small problems.  Failing successfully might stop you temporarily, but only you can stop you permanently.

 

So how do you see yourself? Successful? Pretty? Strong? Kind? This morning, why not step outside of yourself and see yourself as God sees you…. David wrote,

 

Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV Strong's)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

 

You are not an accident and you are not a failure. God chose you, yes you, from before you were born, and His hand is upon you. In His power you can move into His destiny for you. You are a winner, so start acting like it!

 

Without God we have no purpose and without purpose we are destined to fail in life. But your perspective changes when you stop and realise that the creator of the universe, the one who spoke and planets and stars sprang into being, this same creator made you, loves you, and He has a plan for you!

 

CHANGING PERSPECTIVE

 

Perspective is how we choose to see things, and it is affected by other things. What you see is not always what’s real, because sight is affected by so many other inputs that make it surreal.

 

The world in which we live tries to manipulate and squeeze us into what it wants, and it wants us to fail in life, it wants us to aim low, to follow the trends, to be part of the masses! The enemy wants failure to rule your life, he wants relationships to fail, marriages to fail, he wants kids to stumble into drugs and illicit sex and mess their lives up. Look around, he’s doing a pretty good job, right? Why, because people disobey the one who loves them and they let the devil squeeze them into his mould. I mean, everyone’s doing it, so should I, right?

 

Romans 12:2 (ESV Strong's)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,

 

Renewing you mind involves you tossing out the bad stuff and filling it with good stuff, and this changes your perspective on everything… then suddenly failing successfully is a comma instead of a full stop!

 

Philippians 4:8 (ESV Strong's)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

So what are some of the areas we need to change perspective in?

 

1.      LOOK FOR LEARNING INSTEAD OF LEISURE

 

Our modern world is on a quest to eliminate or numb pain, we don’t like it, and will do anything to avoid it. We take pills to numb it, we watch movies to escape it, we get drunk to avoid it, we get high to ignore it. We want a life of leisure, with zero pain and zero strain. But the Bible says,

 

James 1:2-4 (ESV Strong's)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

Growth without pain is an oxymoron… not an idiot with a blow torch, it means you cannot have one without the other. Benjamin Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.”

 

The Bible does not call us to kick back, relax and have a comfortable life until we die. The symbol for Christianity is a cross, not a cushion. James calls us to embrace and be joyful in pain rather than avoiding it, failing successfully if you will, because pain, hurt and even failure can grow fruit that lasts for eternity!

 

 

2.      LOOK FOR HOLINESS INSTEAD OF HAPPINESS

 

Our society is completely obsessed with happiness. We strive for it, we pay for it, we seemingly will give up anything to just be happy! But success, fame, money or power does not make you happy.

 

In a secular society happiness is the aim of living. In a spiritual society, holiness is. Australia needs people who seek holiness, not just our own happiness.  People who stand for what is right is this corrupt, sin soaked, depraved world. Our society says it values the rights of kids to be happy. But today, kids don’t know what sex they want to be, they are encouraged to try everything and anything out and experiment with sex and drugs, and we murder 70,000 children a year under Medicare. This nation desperately needs holiness in us!

 

Philippians 2:15 (ESV Strong's)

be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

 

Today God is calling for you to shine in this crooked and perverse world, and when you fail to be failing successfully!

 

 

3.      LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS INSTEAD OF SYMPATHY

 

So many in our society accept failure because they would rather have sympathy than solutions. When they fail, instead of getting up and trying again, they offer up excuses and beg for sympathy. Australia is a society of victims, and our bad behaviour and poor decisions are excused away by a victim mentality. Crimes, abuses, anger, and selfishness are all put down to a tough upbringing, the wrong influences and substance abuse.

 

I remember one of my daughters at the age of 3 being caught red handed, sitting in a sea of Easter egg pieces and foil, claiming that her naughty doll did it. Right from the start, we blame others!

 

Listen, I understand these things can affect you, but if you see yourself constantly as a victim, you will never be a victor!  Victims blame others, but victors accept responsibility and learn, they are failing successfully.The Bible says,

 

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV Strong's)

in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Victims looking for sympathy are always also looking for someone to blame. How often do you see it. People make bad decisions, people pursue their own selfish desires, people ignore God until their life falls apart, and then they blame Him!

 

Proverbs 19:3 (ESV Strong's)

When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.

 

Don’t look for people to blame and don’t look for sympathy, look for solutions, and they will be found in the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

 

MY FRIEND FAILURE... FAILING SUCCESSFULLY

 

What you focus on determines success and failure, as we saw last week when Kurt Wollander was so focussed on not falling that he fell to his death. If you treat failure as your foe, you take every mistake too seriously and will collapse under anxiety! Remember, successful people fail 2 times out of 2, and unsuccessful people fail 3 out of 5.

 

If you see failure as a friend, you can react positively to it, you can be honest and open about your mistakes, and you can learn from your failures. Seems a shame to waste them, right?

 

Psalms 37:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;

though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

 

I have failed in so many ways so often in my life. But I’m a tenacious sod, so I don’t easily give up! Fiona and I worked hard to make a lot of money, were advised to place it with a group called Storm Financial, and we lost the lot in a month.. everything, including our home. While others collapsed, gave up, got divorced or even took their own life, we decided to trust God. It was the most expensive education I have ever known, but now God is restoring our finances almost daily.

 

If you’ve failed, stop feeling like a victim and start feeling like a victor! Start changing how you see yourself, your failures and God, and realise that failure isn’t final, and a set back is just a set up for a come back! So how should you see failure you’ve suffered, either recently or in the past in the right way?

 

1.      SEE FAILURE AS A MOMENT IN TIME

 

Failure needs to be but a moment in time, not a monument you bow before for the rest of your life!

People build monuments to failure in their lives time and time again, and they inscribe words on the monument, words like, “I tried it, and it didn’t work. They said it couldn’t be done, and they were right.”

 

People are like that with Christianity. “Yeah, tried Christianity, didn’t work.” Could have been the wrong church, the wrong decision, but they tried once then gave up. It’s like a grown man refusing to walk because, “I tried that once and fell, so I’m not doing that again!” Anything worthwhile in life take a decision to keep trying until it works, not giving up at the first hurdle. Failure is giving up, building that monument and staying there for the rest of your life paying homage to it!

 

Other inscriptions on monuments to failure include things like, “I wish I’d never done that.” People spend their whole lives wishing they could redo a decision. Wish I never married him. Wish I never invested in that. You did it, it failed, it’s a moment… move on!

 

People often wrote on their monuments, “it’s the way I am, I cant change.” People who build great monuments to failure in their life refuse to take the blame for their construction. The insane blame game is alive and well in our society, but God says,

 

Proverbs 24:16 (ESV Strong's)

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

 

The righteous fall but rise again because they know failure is a moment, not a monument. It’s a moment in your life, don’t make it a monument. Shake the dust off and move into your destiny!

As Abraham Lincoln wisely stated, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

 

2.      SEE FAILURE AS INTERNAL, AND NOT FINAL

 

Many people see failure as something outward, something others will judge them by, but you wouldn’t judge a cake until it comes out of the oven, and neither should you judge anything as a failure until it is ready for public consumption.

 

Remember Thomas Edison and the 1,000 failed attempts for the light globe. He did not tell the world every time he failed, he told them of his failures once he succeeded. Sure, you fail and you might share it with a friend, but don’t shout it from the rooftops! Most failures should be internal.

 

Gideon had failures, he was from the lowest clan of the lowest tribe of Israel, threshing grain in secret because he was so fearful of the Amalekites. Yet an angel visited him and said,

 

Judges 6:12 (ESV Strong's)

“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

 

God did not see the failures as final, and when Gideon went public he was an awesome success for God!

 

Consider the record producer who told the Beatles that 4 piece bands were out of vogue. Or the Hollywood producer who scrawled Reject on the movie screenplay for Gone with the Wind;  Or how about Mr. Roebuck, who sold his part of the Sears-Roebuck department store firm for $25,000 because he thought the company would never fly. Sears now sells $25,000 worth of goods every sixteen seconds.

 

Fail, fail quietly, but keep going, because you can tell others about the failure when you succeed!

 

3.      SEE FAILURE AS A TEACHER

 

Failure is not a stone wall you cannot climb, it’s a stepping stone to greatness.  Most Biblical heroes failed at some point, but they didn’t stay there! Psalm 23 talks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and failure can feel like that. But hey, keep walking, don’t camp there!

 

Galatians 6:9 (ESV Strong's)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

 

You will reap rewards, including wisdom, and including your God given destiny, if you keep going, using your failures as stepping stones rather than barriers, using your failures as the rungs of a ladder reaching for the stars!

 

YOU MUST BECOME A SUCCESSFUL FAILURE

 

A farmer had a mule fall into a pit one day, and because he could not dig him out, he decided to just bury him. So he heaped a shovel full into the hole, and the mule shook it off his back. More and more shovelling and shaking happened, until ultimately the mule could step out of the hole. What was intended to bury him proved to be his salvation. He was failing successfully

 

Failure is only failure when you give up.  Keep going, see failure as a friend not an enemy, and you will reap a reward in due time.  But above all, be like Rocky was, “I ain’t goin’ down no more!”

 

Tom Watson, Sr., who founded IBM, had a top junior executive who spent $12 million of the company’s money on an experiment that failed. The executive put his resignation on Watson’s desk, saying, “I’m sure that you want my resignation.” Watson said, “No, I don’t want your resignation. I’ve just spent $12 million educating you; it’s about time you tot back to work.”

 

Today, some of you here are haunted by failure. Maybe it’s a failed marriage, a failed business, a failed life. I promise you, God can restore. He promises…

 

Joel 2:25 (ESV Strong's)

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,

 

Today is the day that we change how we see failure, and we pick ourselves up and we start again, start failing successfully!

 

If your life has been significantly affected by failure, it’s time to start failing successfully, and to realise that a set back is just a set up for a come back! It's time to be failing successfully!

 

Bringing Down Goliath for Success

Bringing down Goliath is the next part of our New Horizons for Success series. Any time you pursue a dream, especially a God given dream, you will face at least one probably more giants in the way.

This giant is  big, he’s ugly and he’s in the way of your success. You have to be bringing down Goliath or he brings you down, He stands there, taunts you, mocks you and threatens you, jeopardising any  chance you have of success in your vision. Maybe a pain, a fear, a person, a sin, a huge stronghold of some sort in your life. We all have to deal with them, or they deal with us!

 

A giant is a seemingly insurmountable barrier or difficulty in your life, but you can win against your Goliath. Turn to 1 Samuel 17, and let me buzz through the story, much of which you would, know …

DAVID FACED A GIANT PROBLEM

 

According to the Bible, Goliath stood over 3.2m tall, and wore heavy armour and had a big, nasty spear.  He terrified everybody, but David was about bringing down Goliath …

 

1 Samuel 17:10-11 (ESV Strong's)

And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

 

David, a lad visiting his brothers at the front, refused to be scared and said,

 

1 Samuel 17:26 (ESV Strong's)

For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

 

David tried Saul’s armour on, rejected it and approached the giant with just 5 stones and a sling shot. You know the story. Then something entered Goliaths head that he never thought of before, and David defeated him.

 

What giant, what seemingly insurmountable problem do you face right now? A persistent sin is a giant, lack of faith could be a giant. Criticism, fear, depression, apathy, these can all be giants in your life. You’ll never walk into your destiny without defeating them, so today is the day we decide to take those suckers down.  Today is the day we are bringing down Goliath, the day we put our giants to the sword. Are you with me? Let hunt Orc!

 

ARE YOU POSITIVE ABOUT BRINING DOWN GOLIATH?

 

Many people think if you’re just positive you can beat these guys, but positive attitudes, positive thoughts or even positive confessions on their own are not enough to defeat the giants in your life. However, having the right, positive mindset is a great start.

 

Hidden within the vast resources of our minds is a tremendous ability to store and retrieve data, so complex that scientists still do not know all its capabilities. However, one thing is clear: we view ourselves in light of what we believe to be true. If we construct a negative belief system concerning who we are, then we will act negatively. If we keep God central, we will have an unbelievably positive mindset…

 

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV Strong's)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

 

I remember Fiona going to church one day and someone asked her how her week was, and she replied, “Do you want faith or positive confession?” Some people really believe in positive confession to the point where is becomes fake it til you make it. I believe there is a balance between positive words with a positive mindset and being real.

 

Facing a giant in your life and confessing it isn’t there is fake faith, it’s flawed faith and ultimately it will let you down! As I struggled to learn faith years ago God showed me Abraham…

 

Romans 4:19-21 (ESV Strong's)

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

 

Abraham didn’t wish away barrenness, he didn’t positively confess “I am virile,” he looked the facts straight in the eye and didn’t fake it or lie about it but acknowledged his body was as good as dead. But, and here’s the But, He then said my God is bigger than my old, dead body.

 

You won't be bringing down Goliath by wishing he wasn’t there, confessing he doesn’t exist or pretending he is smaller than he is. Look him straight in the eye and say, “I know you’re there, you’re mean and you’re out to kill me, but my God is bigger and stronger, and in His power I will defeat you!

 

David stayed positive as he approached this battle, and as he headed to the showdown with Goliath, the first thing he did was go to a brook and select 5 stones. As we face our giants this morning, whatever they are, here’s 5 stones you can pick up to defeat and be bringing down Goliath in your life, the ones that stand between you and greatness in God…

 

STONE 1- THE PURPOSE

 

The first stone to pick up is the purpose you are facing the giant. What’s your reason, what’s your motivation? Why bother facing Goliath at all? We said last week that a great cause, a great purpose, a great vision for success can hold your commitment straight and true, even under severe attack!

 

PURPOSE in bringing down Goliath will cause you to have:

 

PRAYER- those with purpose pray more because their purpose is bigger than they are.

 

UNITY- the right purpose will drive you into the arms of those with a similar purpose.

 

RISK- When you have a purpose, you’re suddenly prepared to risk more… we call it faith! Moving from this property is a risk for this church, but we have a purpose, we have a dream, and no risk, no reward!

 

PLANNING- Having purpose causes us to plan more, and plan more carefully and effectively.

 

OBSERVATION- A purpose makes you observe more around you. Ever decide you wanted a particular car, and from that point on you sees hundreds of them on the road?

 

SACRIFICE- A purpose drives you on more than others, and you will sacrifice more to achieve it.

 

EXPECTATION- A purpose causes your expectation to rise. It drives you to expect miracles, and expect success!

 

Your purpose is the first stone, the start of defeating giants in your life. So check your purpose. What is it that drives the dream you have? Find your purpose for living in God, and you will conquer giants.

 

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV Strong's)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

 

The right purpose, God’s purpose, is the first stone to attack a giant with and be bringing down Goliath .

 

 

STONE 2- THE COST

 

Luke 14:27-29 (ESV Strong's)

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

 

People ask me how they can tell the difference between God’s voice, the devils and their own voice. Here’s a hint.. your own voice is always what you want, the devil always says, like Nike, “Just do it,” buy now pay later, and God always asks you to count the cost!

 

So before you charge in against this giant, step back, take a look at him and count the cost. Let’s look at any sin, say immorality. On one side of the ledger there’s a thrill, a risk and a few moments pleasure. On the other side is guilt, shame, loss of relationship with God, loss of reputation, loss of relationship with your spouse, your kids, your grandkids, your friends, venerial disease, unwanted pregnancy, losing your finances, destroying the trust people have in you. Count it.. it’s a no brainer!

 

To defeat a giant, especially a sinful giant in your life, step back and count the cost and suddenly you will see the consequences clearly. You’ve picked up the right stone! Weigh it carefully and realise that when you count the cost, when you weigh up the consequences of defeat by him, the resultant carnage makes you triumphing over him the only option.

 

And there will be costs to count along the way. There will be attack, there will be criticism at times, there will be people trying to undermine your faith as you reach for your dreams, but decide now that it is a price worth paying to defeat the giant, in bringing down Goliath .

 

 

STONE 3- THE COURSE

 

The 3rd stone to pick up is charting the right course to defeat the giant. Planning is not sinful, charting your course is smart, and if you fail to plan you plan to fail. However, in your plans, you need to seek God’s plans not your own, so read the Bible daily, get godly advice and be ever open and listening to His guidance.

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV Strong's)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

When you know God’s course, you need to chart it, move towards it and declare it. Sharing what you believe is God’s purpose for your life is scary, because now others can challenge you on it! I’ve declared to you that my dream for Ignite is for it to grow, and as such we need to move from this building. It’s scary, but unless I step out and believe, no one will follow in bringing down Goliath!

 

So if you have a vision for your life, chart it out and share it with others. Yes, it’s a risk, and yes , it’s terrifying, but you won’t be bringing down Goliath by running away! David said,

 

1 Samuel 17:31 (ESV Strong's)

David said to Saul, “Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

 

Every person who has achieved a great dream knows the trauma of first publicly declaring it. And when you do, get ready for a fair dose of criticism and even worse, advice!

 

You step out in faith to face the giant, and someone always says, “Hey, let me tell you how to do it!”

 

1 Samuel 17:38-39 (ESV Strong's)

Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off.

 

David found Saul’s armour too big, too bulky and ill fitting. He couldn’t  fight in that stuff! And you will find that when you declare your course, others will criticise and offer advice that is not God’s will for you.

 

I couldn’t tell you how much criticism I face as a pastor. Much of it is encapsulated in godly words, and often it comes from sincere hearts. “God told me to tell you to do what I want you to do.” As a pastor, even when I have a victory, someone feels compelled to tell me where I am wrong and how I should do it right, at least in their eyes.

 

My antidote to all of this confusing God Talk is to have a close, tight team I trust. I run everything by my wife, my team, my board, leaders and admin teams. That way I can stay on course and not be influenced by those who for whatever reason have an axe to grind about something. Ignite is going to stay the course and keep serving God as He leads us to.

 

Pick up that stone and chart your course with confidence, and listen for the Lord’s voice in His Word, in godly advice, closely following Him. But don’t listen to everybody! You will never kill giants in your life if you need everyone’s support. Give others time to understand and accept what you’re going to do, but don’t expect them to always agree with it. I’ve discovered that every person who has never killed a giant will tell you that it’s impossible. They will tell you it can’t happen. Stay the course and trust God, not man and not someone’s personal agenda nd soon you'll be bringing down Goliath.

 

 

STONE 4- THE CONCENTRATION

 

The 4th stone to pick up is concentration… what are you concentrating on, what are you focusing on? So many of us see the giant, and so we concentrate not on the solution, but on the giant himself!

 

Karl Wallenda was a world-famous tightrope walker, successful for many years. He died walking between 2 buildings in Puerto Rico in 1978, falling 75 m to his death.

 

His wife commented after his death, “All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to walking across the tightrope was falling. It was the first time he’d ever thought about that. And it seemed to me that he put all of his energies into not falling, rather than walking the tightrope.”

 

When he stepped onto the rope that day he was concentrating on not falling, so much so, that he did fall. When we focus on the pitfalls instead of the prize, we often fall. When we focus on the giant in front of us instead of the solution, we are destined to fall!

 

So what was David’s focus as he faced Goliath? What was he concentrating on when bringing down Goliath?

 

1 Samuel 17:45 (ESV Strong's)

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

 

Was David intimidated by Goliath? He possibly was, but was he overwhelmed? No chance! Why not? Because David was focussed on God, not the giant!

 

What you concentrate on, what you focus on is the difference between positive thinking and positive faith. And my Bible says,

 

1 John 4:4 (ESV Strong's)

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

 

Like Wallander, many people focus constantly on the problem, not the solution. They become obsessed by the giant, and the giant controls aspects of their life. Sickness is a classic example. You get seriously ill, and your whole life becomes a series of doctor’s appointments and taking drugs on time. It’s so hard to focus on Jesus when all that other stuff, none of it bad, demands constant attention.

 

So on the road to your destiny, giants will rise up. The giant of sickness, the giant of want, the giant of a persistent sin, or a demonisation or a loss, or an addiction, or a relationship collapse. These giants can be defeated, but not if you constantly centre on them! No, today it’s time to stop looking at that giant, shift your focus, move your concentration to Jesus, because He is greater and His power can break the bondage of those giants.

 

 

STONE 5- THE CHARGE

 

James 2:17 (ESV Strong's)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

 

You can prepare, you can stare down the giants, you can plan and you can scream at them, but ultimately until you actually charge them, you will never defeat them. The 5th stone is to charge. In Hebrews 11, every example of faith given involves action. Faith is nothing without action. So don’t run away, don’t wait for them to bring you down, go get them and show them that the Lord is boss!

 

1 Samuel 17:47-48 (ESV Strong's)

all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand.” When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.

 

David ran towards the giant, when everyone else had run away. Why did he run? Because he was so confident of victory, he charged! I’m believing that today you get so charged up that you decide to charge the giants you face.

 

So there’s 5 stones you can pick up like David to face your giant.  The purpose, the cost, the course, the concentration and the charge! David had no sword, no shield, no armour, just 5 stones and a slingshot. Someone suggested that taking 5 stones instead of just one could be lack of faith on David’s part, but I don’t believe so. According to 2 Samuel 21:22, Goliath had 4 brothers, all giants. David was going to take out the whole family!

 

BREAKTHROUGH IN THE LAND OF THE GIANTS?

 

I remember watching a TV show years ago called, “Land of the Giants.” In it all the people were little and they faced giant people everywhere they went. Sometimes in your life, that’s what it feels like. Sometimes everywhere you turn has a giant on the road, not the jolly green variety, but the big, ugly, nasty and intimidating kind, and you need to be bringing down Goliath.

 

Ignite is here as a church to point you to Jesus. We are people who have walked the road, faced the same giants and seen our God triumph over said giants! Been there, done that, got the T Shirt. And many here have faced and defeated the same guy you face today. They want to stand with you as you face your own personal Goliaths. Today is the today of breakthrough for you, for bringing down Goliath in your life.

 

Psalms 27:1 (ESV Strong's)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

 

In 1954, there were medical articles that said that the human body can’t run a four-minute mile, that it was physically impossible for the body to withstand that much pressure. But in 1954, Roger Bannister, a young medical student, went out and ran a mile in under four minutes, and once he did that, in the next 2 years 213 men ran under four minutes… all because one guy broke the barrier.

 

One guy was bringing down Goliath, and then everybody did it! We are better together, and as believers, we are better together, conquering giants together!

 

Whatever your giant, people here have faced and beaten him, and they can help you do the same!

 

Have you been abused? People here have beaten that. Are you facing a persistent sin? People here have beaten that too. Fearful? Yep, some here have faced that. Bankruptcy, marital breakdown, loss of job, sickness, feeling hurt, all these have been conquered.

 

So today, what giants do you face? What major obstacle on the road to your dreams do you need to defeat? As believers, we are stronger when we stand together. It’s time to conquer your giant! It's time to be bringing down Goliath in your life!

Vision for Success

Vision for success is the next area I want to talk about for this year as we move towards the New Horizons God has for us.

HELEN KELLER WAS ASKED ONE TIME WHAT would be worse than being born blind. She quickly replied, “To have sight and no vision.” Yet look around, our world is full of people who lack vision, who are stuck in the mundane with no hope and no vision for the future.

John Maxwell said, “The poorest person in the world is not the person who doesn’t have a nickel. The poorest person in the world is the one who doesn’t have a vision.”

 

Without a vision the people perish… the Hebrew word for perish means to self destruct by cutting loose or going off the rails if you like. Hence the ESV translates it as…

 

Proverbs 29:18 (ESV Strong's)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

 

THE FOLLY OF FATALISM

 

So people without a vision for success just self destruct. It is pure fatalism, whatever happen just happens, and I might as well enjoy what I can while I can.  They work in a mundane job, or not at all, and then when the weekend comes they turn to cheap thrills like sex, drugs and drink because it’s the only joy they can find, and they have no dream, no vision for success for their future.  As Paul says,

 

1 Corinthians 15:32 (ESV Strong's)

If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

 

But without hope, without a vision for success, you’re dying already! Successful people are motivated by a dream beyond what they currently see, unsuccessful people are only motivated by the here and now! They live for the next paycheque, the next holiday, the next Saturday night clubbing. They think they’re alive, but they are really dead inside.

 

Leonard Ravenhill wrote, “The two prerequisites to successful Christian living are vision and passion, both of which are born in and maintained by prayer.” Today I want to ignite, or Re ignite, the vision and passion within you. We're not here to play church, we're here to seek God, reach for our dreams and save the world!

 

THE STEPS TOWARDS A VISION FOR SUCCESS

 

Psalms 37:23 (ESV Strong's)

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;

 

I can tell you that if you ask the Lord for a vision, He delights in that, and He can and will order your steps in a way beyond anything you have ever experienced. So what are these steps towards a vision for success?

 

1.      I THOUGHT IT

 

Everybody dreams, and we all start here. Something flashes across your mind and you say, “I wonder if,” or “Wouldn’t it be great if…” we all dream dreams. Some of our dreams are worldly or selfish, like getting that guy or girl, or buying that house, but I want to talk about dreams you have of doing something great for God. Leading people to Christ, praying for the sick and seeing healing, traveling to missions, preaching, building a connect group or team, running seminars, giving millions away, whatever.

 

We all experience this. I speak to Christians all the time who tell me they have no vision for their life, for their future. But they can see vision, they can dream dreams and it starts here. The trick is, what is your mind full of?

 

Colossians 3:2 (ESV Strong's)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

 

If you don’t read the Bible and pray, you simply won’t know His voice as He speaks to you.  Read the Bible Reading Plan daily and watch your mind be set on Him, and then the right dreams and a vision for success will begin to flow across your mind all the time.

 

2.      I CAUGHT IT

 

The next stage is when one of those visions captures our attention and gets us excited. It doesn’t just fly across your consciousness, you start to imagine what it would be like for this dream to become reality.

 

3.      I BOUGHT IT

 

This is the turning point, because this is when you couple actions and faith to begin to reach for your dream. It takes risk, it takes courage, but at this point you buy into it, and you put some kind of deposit down on the vision for success becoming true!

 

James 2:17 (ESV Strong's)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

 

So many people stop here. They are not prepared to buy in, to invest effort, time or money to see the dream become reality.

 

In my life I’ve had to invest time at University to become qualified. I’ve had to invest money to buy a car or house. I’ve had to invest time to become a pastor. No one gets anywhere without buying in, so whatever the dream in your heart, don’t just sit there and look at it… buy in and go for it.

 

I want to lose weight and become fit. I bought an exercise DVD, but it doesn’t work… I’ve watched it ten times already and feel no fitter. What’s the problem?

 

4.      I SOUGHT IT

 

The next stage is when you don’t just invest in it, you begin to become desperate for it. You seek it, and you start to want that vision for success to come true with all your heart.

 

Half hearted, half baked, double minded commitment to Christ and His vision for your life will never cut it! So many people dabble in Christianity, just attend church with no dream for what God has for their future, no hope in their heart to become someone great for Jesus.

 

James 1:5-8 (ESV Strong's)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

Every single one of you has greatness within. If you have a dream or vision in your heart to do something for the Lord, seek it with all your heart. To become pastor here, I had to buy in by giving up some lucrative jobs in my profession. We took a financial hit, but we are prepared to do this because we trust that the Lord will not let us fall, and He has not! But now, it’s not just about paying the price, it’s being whole hearted, totally committed to seeing God’s work here at Ignite grow and become all He has destined it to be.

 

People tell me to calm down, play it cool, I mean, how much do you want this church to grow. But I will not calm down, and even now I’m getting fired up! You can criticise me all you like, but hey, why not join me?

 

5.      I FOUGHT FOR IT

 

Whenever you have a dream in your heart for your life, someone will try and discourage you from achieving it, especially if is it taking some time to come to pass. Delay is not a death sentence for a dream!

 

Habakkuk 2:3 (ESV Strong's)

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.

If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

 

This is the point you need to step up and fight for the vision for success.  King Jehoshaphat, facing a vast, overwhelming army felt fear, but God said…

 

2 Chronicles 20:15 (ESV Strong's)

Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's.

 

Yes you have to fight for your dreams to come true, but not alone, because when you step up to fight God fights for you!

 

Romans 8:37 (ESV Strong's)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 

So if you are discouraged, wondering if your God given vision for your life was a mistake, or you misheard, or if God maybe has changed His mind, then today is the day you say, “I’m stepping up to fight for my vision for success!”

 

 

6.      I GOT IT

 

The final stage is when you’ve got the dream, you’re living the dream, you can touch it and feel it. This is where you can rejoice in the Lord because He brought this dream to pass, not you and your ability, God and His calling, anointing and strength. Never believe it’s all about you!

 

Now once you are at this point, it is not time to stop. This is the moment you seek God and ask Him for another, bigger, wider, deeper, more amazing vision of what you can do in and through Him!

 

The day I started as pastor of this church 3 1/2  years ago, there was 42 people in the room, and 7 told me it was their last day. Inauspicious start, right? Now almost every week the room is filled to capacity, so much so that we have to do 2 services. Have I arrived as a pastor? Nope, Ignite has only just begun!

 

Next we look to moving to a larger, better building, with more room and more toilets. Then we look towards planting churches in communities without a strong church, and even then, there is still far more in God for us as part of our vision for success.

 

Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

 

Once you have your dream, dream bigger! Everything else is not worth it, seek God and His dream for your life!

 

THE POWER OF A VISION

 

A vision for success from God might stop you self destructing, but it can also empower you and guide you as you go on in life. Remember, delay is not death for a dream, and God has perfect timing because He sees the entirety of life, not just the immediate. God’s perception is greater and His timing is different, right? Pretty much always longer too…

 

A man was praying and he said, “Lord, if it is true that to you a minute is like a thousand years, then a penny is like a million dollars. Lord, can I have a penny please?”

 

Sure says the Lord… in a minute!

 

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV Strong's)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

 

Don’t get mad when God takes longer than you want, because He’s not being slow to annoy you, He has a plan you cannot comprehend. If you trust Him and move towards His vision for you, He can and will guide you. If you give up or stand still it’s harder for Him to lead you. The rudder works only when the boat is moving, not when it is becalmed, so start moving towards that dream today! Here’s what vision can do…

 

1.      VISION CAN STOP YOU

 

Paul was zealously persecuting Christians until he had a profound vision on the road to Damascus

 

(ESV Strong's) And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

 

This turned his entire life around, so if your life is not where you want to be right now, the right vision can completely transform your life. Maybe you’re stuck in or coming out of a horrible situation, broken relationship, abusive home or lousy job. Maybe you’ve been away from God or away from church, and have lost your vision for greatness in God. Let God speak to you today and you will kickstart the greatest adventure of all towards the plans God has for your life!

 

However, you will not achieve your dreams in life by half hearted commitment. Paul gave up everything to pursue his dream. There is always a price, but God is looking right now around this room for those willing to step up and reach for their dreams…

 

2 Chronicles 16:9 (ESV Strong's)

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

 

2.      VISION CAN GUIDE YOU

 

Paul, intending to go to Rome, until he saw a vision of a Macedonian man in Acts 16 and it changed the direction he was heading. As you pursue your vision, always stay flexible and be listening to the Lord, because very often your vision for success will change and develop as you are open to Him.

 

Isaiah 30:21 (ESV Strong's)

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

 

Having your vision for success change is not a sin. Failing to pursue it is. So go for it, but listen and be ready to change and develop what God has placed before you.

 

3.      VISION CAN STRENGTHEN YOU

 

Paul faced many hardships, but what kept him focussed and moving forward was the vision he had to reach the world for Christ. Stoned, shipwrecked, beaten up, scorned. Why did he keep going? Then he writes this…

 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV Strong's)

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

 

God’s vision for your life will strengthen you in adversity and keep you keeping on.

 

4.      VISION CAN STRETCH YOU

 

Last week we saw that God often stretches us. When you’re stretched, as so many of us are right now, knowing we are moving towards a great vision and destiny that God is preparing for us encourages us to stretch even more for our vision for success.

 

Philippians 3:13-15 (ESV Strong's)

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

 

Mature Christians stretch, and what keeps you stretching, what keeps you reaching for the prize is the vision in your heart.  Look at your life and ministry. You haven’t arrived, and either have I, there is so much more to reach for in Christ!

 

Let me finish by asking…

CAN YOU BE HAPPILY DISCONTENTED?

 

Who are the happiest people? Young people? The wealthy? The famous? No, the happiest people are the ones pursuing their dreams. They discover that by giving themselves to something bigger than they are, they’re giving themselves the drive to rise above their daily problems. If you want to know real happiness, dream a dream that is bigger than you are; find something you can lose your life in.

 

Luke 9:24 (ESV Strong's)

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

 

Listen, God has a destiny for you, and it is not to just squeak by in life until they put you in the ground. God’s not saying “hold the fort for I am coming,” He’s saying, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus!”

 

God’s destiny is one of greatness for you, not barely hanging on until you get to heaven, and it’s there for you if you would only take your eyes off what you see around you and place them on Christ! Take your eyes off your daily troubles, your petty squabbles and your mental wobbles and focus them on Jesus!

 

You’re not too young, God raised David and Samuel as kids. You’re never too old, God gave Abraham a son at 100, and used Moses to set His people free at the age of 80, and at 85 Caleb said, “Give me that mountain!”

 

Even today you’re never too old to pursue your dream.  Colonel Sanders, discovered “finger lickin’ good” chicken at 70, the same age that Ray Kroc introduced a Big Mac to the world. Picasso was still painting at eighty-eight, and Thomas Edison was 85 when he invented the mimeograph machine. At 88, John Wesley was still traveling on horseback and preaching. Why? Because he had a dream!

 

Every one of should have a vision for success of something great you can do for the Lord. My job, my privilege, Ignite’s privilege is to encourage you and give you the opportunity to live that dream! You might not think your dream fancy or profound. It might be just to serve in the kitchen, or go to the Philippines on missions, or lead a class in kids church, but all of these are dreams God can answer. So what’s your dream?

 

You might say, pastor, I don’t even have a dream. I have no clue. That’s ok, you know, because if you seek God you will get a vision for your life in Him. But until them, if you haven’t got your own dream, come and join us in ours. Come share the journey and watch your dream bud out of our dreams here at Ignite.

 

Please, don’t waste your one and only life wishing it away or settling for second best. Don’t float through your one life wasting it, trying to feel better about yourself. No, you are worth more than that! God says that and I say that!

 

Remember the stages of your dream… I thought it, I caught it, I bought it, I sought it, I fought for it and I got!

 

If you have a dream in your heart of something you want to do for Christ in your lifetime, stand up now.

 

If you don’t have a dream, I want you to come to the front and let us pray with you. Even if you don’t attend this church, I can’t just let you walk away without a vision for your life.

Stretch to Success

Stretch to success in the next in our series on success in 2019, I want to talk about stretching, which is always painful, never comfortable but always productive and useful unless you overstretch. If you grab a rubber band and place it around, say, some pens, if it is loose it is not effectively holding them together. A rubber band is only useful when stretched, and so are Christians... we stretch to success.

James 1:2-4 (ESV Strong's)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But can we really experience joy in trials, in tests when we stretch to success?

 

THE BORN IDENTITY

 

Leonard Ravenhill relates that a group of tourists were in a village in Europe, and one of them asked an elderly villager, “Have any great men been born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”

 

We are all born the same… as babies… Different opportunities, Different personalities, different hopes and dreams, Different potentials… But every person who has ever achieved anything in life has had to stretch to success.

 

Success is due to our stretching to the challenges life throws at us. Failure comes when we shrink from them. There’s no such thing as a man who was born great. We were all once babies, but God sees His unlimited potential within you. He sees what you could be if you obey Him. When Jeremiah was a child God said this…

 

Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV Strong's)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

 

WHY DON’T WE WANT TO STRETCH TO SUCCESS?

 

If stretching is going to make us great, why do we resist it when we stretch to success? What stops us from stepping out and stretching towards greatness. Here’s the top 4 reasons why people, perhaps even you, don’t stretch (Other than the pain).

 

1.      FEAR

 

The biggest deterrent is without doubt fear. We don’t know the end result, and fear of the unknown is what often stops us when we stretch to success towards greatness.

 

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV Strong's)

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

2.      SATISFACTION

 

Sometimes we are just too satisfied with life. Too comfortable, too complacent, too attached to what we see and experience around us. Stretching is painful, so we wouldn’t want that! Yet trust me, if you think you’re satisfied now, then you ain’t seen nothing yet, because the Bible says…

 

Psalms 107:9 (ESV Strong's)

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

 

Don’t be satisfied with less than what God has for your life... stretch to success!

 

3.      LAZINESS

 

Sometimes we know we should stretch, but we just cannot be bothered. Me in the gym.

 

The man told his doctor that he wasn't able to do all the things around the house that he used to do. When the examination was complete, he said: "Now, Doc, I can take it. Tell me in plain English what is wrong with me." "Well, in plain English," the doctor replied, "you're just lazy."

"Okay," said the man. "Now give me the medical term so I can tell my wife.”

 

Proverbs 13:4 (ESV Strong's)

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

 

4.      LOW SELF WORTH

 

Some people just think they are not worthy enough to attempt or stretch towards greatness. They say, “I’m no good, useless, I can’t do anything.” But David writes,

 

Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV Strong's)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

 

5.      NOT WANTING TO BE DIFFERENT

 

Conformity is such a part of our modern world, many are afraid to stretch and be different! If you stretch, you’re no longer ordinary, if you stand up for what you believe, you are out of sync with many of your friends and associates. Your destiny is not to conform to their pattern (Romans 12:2)! You’re not ordinary, you can stretch to success, because God says,

 

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV Strong's)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

 

These are many of the reasons we resist time when we stretch to success, but if we truly want to serve the Lord, if we really want to become someone great for Him, we cannot stay as we are! It’s time to stretch to success church!

 

THAT’S A BIT OF A STRETCH

 

Stretching is always painful, so here are 3 common areas of pain you might encounter when you stretch.

 

1.      CRITICISM

 

Every one of us has stretched in the past, and have discovered that this position leaves you open to attack and criticism. So, you stop stretching and start withdrawing to a position of safety. Every person soon realises that stretching equates with pain, and so before too long many stop stretching.  Those who continue to stretch will find themselves vulnerable to criticism. About Jesus Peter said…

 

1 Peter 2:23 (ESV Strong's)

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

 

When stretching you will be criticised, sometimes by people close to you whom you love. But don’t stop stretching to answer critics, but rather, as they say in football, answer your critics on the pitch. The best reply to their criticism is to play great, keep going and produce fruit, good fruit and lots of it!

 

2.      MISUNDERSTANDING

 

Often people whose own motives might be wrong will feel threatened by us if we are stretching to be our best or become greater. They react by questioning the validity of our motives, accusing us of doing our best for some impure purpose. Listen, don’t let the dissenters be the deciders!

 

Proverbs 16:2 (ESV Strong's)

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.

 

I recently faced this, being accused of impure motives by a leader outside our church. I knew it wasn’t true, and perhaps it said more about him than me, but when your motives are pure it still hurts! I had to believe that my team here and God know my motives for serving you as the pastor of Ignite. They can think what they like, I know what motivates me when  stretch to success!

 

3.      FAILURE AND DISCOURAGEMENT

 

The reason we often refuse to step out and stretch for the Lord is the fear of failure. We all have it. I’m worried half the church will leave because we are changing the times and doubling services. But if we don’t stretch, we won’t grow, and I am committed to growth in this church.

 

Don’t ever let failure become final. Be aware that discouragement is failure’s partner. The best way to pull yourself out of discouragement is to surround yourself by people who are encouragers. That’s what this church is about… building up and encouraging you to greatness…

 

Proverbs 24:16 (ESV Strong's)

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

 

Failure is never permanent until you make it so. So lock in here at Ignite and keep getting up and stretch to success!

 

WHEN TO STRETCH AND WHEN TO REST

 

Athletes will tell you that you cannot stretch all the time, lest you cause injury. You stretch, you strive, and then you rest. Trouble is, most of us stretch a little and rest a lot, because the stretch hurts and the rest doesn’t!

 

Rest is needed to recover, and get ready for the next stretch to success. But why do so many people stretch, then rest, but decide to stay in the rest position for years? Here’s four reasons.

 

1.      SURROUNDED BY TURKEYS

 

It’s often said, how can I fly with the eagles when I’m surrounded by turkeys? If you surround yourself with boring people who never stretch, you go like the company you keep…

 

1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV Strong's)

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

 

This is why many elderly people decline when they enter care, because no one and nothing stimulates them. If you want to stretch towards greatness, surround yourself with exciting, vibrant and lively people, because they will keep challenging you to stretch to success (church should be this).

 

2.      STUCK IN A RUT

 

We can get stuck in a rut, which is only a grave with the sides knocked out. We all face boring tasks, but for some people, their whole life is boring and mundane, and they go through life on autopilot, unmotivated and disengaged. That’s why we always need new goals, new visions, or new dreams.

 

For many people church is a mindless thing they attend each week, because that’s what they do. I’m a pastor that needs to stretch, and if you attend here I’m going to stretch you too, but in the long run you will grow into all that God intends for you. Life in general and the Christian life in particular should never be boring, because there is always more in Christ to learn, to do, to grow into…

 

Philippians 3:14 (ESV Strong's)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

3.      WE TAKE SHORT CUTS TO SECOND BEST

 

So many stop trying to stretch to success because they have decided to take short cuts, even though they know the result is second best! They get use to settling for their lot in life, and the short cuts they take to achieve it. Short cuts can suck the desire to stretch out of you and ruin your potential.

 

Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

 

I want to stretch to success in everything God has for me, not get lost down some blind alley I thought was a shortcut. Ever taken a wrong turn and got lost?

 

Many people pursue get rich quick schemes thinking they will be rich in a few months, but find they do their doe. Lotteries are built around the quick path to success, but most lose their money, and for the few who win, they generally are broke again within 2 years. Some parents take the short cut easy road when it comes to disciplining their children, but they pay the price when their kids become teens.

 

Many times we under prepare then wing it. I could deliver a sermon where I quote one verse then wing it, but you’d probably detect this shortcut.  God has challenged me to prepare not only my heart but also to spend hours preparing the message, saturating it with scripture. I don’t want shortcuts in God’s Word, and neither do you! I want to make everything I do 100% devoted to serving Christ and stretch to success!

 

4.      WE THNK WE’VE ARRIVED

 

I noted recently that when people move from volunteer to paid employee their performance usually goes down! Why? Because they have achieved their goal and cease stretching.

 

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV Strong's)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

 

Marriage is like that. You go out of your way to look good and show your partner love, until you get married, and because you’ve arrived, you get slack! I heard about a couple in counselling and the wife said, “He never tells me he loves me.” The man replied, “I told her I loved her when I married her, and if I ever change my mind she’ll be the first to know.”

 

When you serve Jesus, you’ve never arrived, you need to keep stretching towards greatness!

 

THE GREAT HOPE IN THE STRETCH TO SUCCESS?

 

Many people pursue happiness as their ultimate goal, but what really makes you happy? Being comfortable, being safe, being complacent might feel like happiness, but the happiest people I know are those who stretch towards greatness, those making something of their lives!  The stretch to success actually brings great hope. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and however uncomfortable, however stretching, the journey should be what brings you joy.

 

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV Strong's)

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

Some hope in people… if I could just find the right husband, the right wife, the right boss, then I’ll be happy. Some hope in the past, the good old days, when everything was rosy and no one ever suffered. They look back with rose coloured glasses, and forget all the wonders we now have. They remember the simplicity, they remember the good things but conveniently forget the bad. We now have internet, cell phones, colour TV, Airconditioner’s and toilets inside. The good old days weren’t that good.

 

Some long for a problem free life, then they’d be happy. This also is a false hope… it’s the problems and the conquering of them that makes you happy, not their absence! There’s tremendous joy and satisfaction is stretching and overcoming difficulties in life.

 

BURN YOUR SHIPS

 

I was recording a song last week for a new album, one I have always loved. The words say… I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

 

On April 21st, in the year 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez sailed into the harbor of Vera Cruz, Mexico. He brought with him only 600 men, a tiny force to conquer a nation. Over the next two years his vastly outnumbered forces were able to defeat Montezuma and all the Aztec warriors and conquer Mexico for Spain.  How was this incredible feat accomplished, when two prior expeditions had failed to establish a colony on Mexican soil? Here’s the secret.

 

Cortez knew that he and his men faced incredible odds. He knew that the road before them would be dangerous and difficult. He knew that his men would be tempted to abandon their quest and return to Spain.

 

So, as soon as Cortez and his men had come ashore and unloaded their provisions, he ordered their entire fleet of eleven ships destroyed. His men stood on the shore and watched as their only possibility of retreat burned and sank. From that point on, they knew there was no return, no turning back. Nothing lay behind them but empty ocean. Their only option was to go forward, to conquer or die.

 

For this church, going to 2 services is a stretch, for me and many of you. Yes we are trialling this for a few months, but whether 2 services, or relocating, or anything else, I have decided to follow Jesus into our destiny, no turning back!

 

Matthew 16:24 (ESV Strong's)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

 

The greatest commitment you can make right now, for your church, for your family, for your life, is to take up your cross and decide to stretch and keep stretching, no matter what, no turning back! Let's stretch to success together.

 

I know many of you have made that kind of commitment to the Lord, as have I. However, some of you are fearful of God stretching you. You are fearful of the stretch to success and the pain involved, but today you need to lift your eyes to see the New Horizon God has given you. He is calling you to greatness, and today I want to pray for those who see this call to stretch and want to say to God, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back!”

True Success in 2019

True success is awaiting us in 2019!

Who among us doesn’t want success in our lives? Thing is, most of us don’t even know what success looks like. Is it the big car, the big house or the fat bank account? Is it the perfect family, 2.4 children, or the perfect career or is it fame, fortune or fun?

The dictionary defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Or “the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.” That’s worldly success, it’s the power with which to acquire whatever one wants in life, preferably without violating the rights of others.

 

A Christian definition of success, true success, needs to go beyond just getting what you want without hurting others. Success is more than just power for you; it is the privilege of contributing to the betterment of others.

 

God has plans for you, and as we saw last week, abiding in Christ and reading His Word daily will cause you to be successful in every area of your life.

 

Joshua 1:8 (ESV Strong's)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

 

HOW TO FAIL AT BEING SUCCESSFUL

 

Here are three reasons why people fail to achieve true success in their life.

 

1.      SOME DON’T FEEL THE NEED TO SUCCEED

 

Some people are secure; they don’t need to prove anything. They’re happy, content, and they like what’s happening to them, happy with their lot in life. But if God has great plans for you, then stopping short is short changing yourself, and others around you. If you’re content with everything in your life, then you will never be all you can be, because whatever we achieve, there is always more in Christ!

 

Romans 12:11 (ESV Strong's)

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

 

2.      SOME ARE AFRAID OF SUCCESS

 

Sometimes we are afraid because success puts pressure on us to continue to succeed. A person who gets straight As on a report card sets a pattern of achievement and must keep achieving. Sometimes we just don’t want to be responsible, so we shrink from success. Some think that success will isolate them and see them lonely, different or shunned by others. Risk is another reason; people don’t want to stick their necks out.

 

There are many more reasons, but the main point is that some people are afraid of true success.

 

Isaiah 41:13 (ESV Strong's)

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;

it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

 

3.      SOME ARE SUSPICIOUS OF SUCCESS

 

Some think that to have true success, you have to be full of pride, that you can’t be humble and you can’t be spiritual. Look at Abraham, Joshua, Nehemiah, David, Solomon, Paul and many others, and you will see that’s simply not true. People who are successful and humble are a joy and inspiration to others around them!

 

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.

 

So true success in the right way is good, and it is also God! We should not be content but be striving for more in God, and we must not be afraid or suspicious of success, because no matter where you are at now, God has more for you, and has called you to even greater things to do for Him.  So here are some steps to achieving success in your life and walk with the Lord…

 

S= SELECT YOUR GOAL

 

Many people want true success, but they don’t even know what success looks like! Do you know what Christ has for you in your life?

 

Research shows that approximately 95 percent of us have never written out our goals in life, but of the 5 percent who have, 95 percent have achieved those goals. In 1953 at Yale University, 3 percent of the graduating class had specific, written goals for their lives. In 1975, researchers found that the 3 percent who wrote down their goals had accomplished more than the other 97 percent put together.

 

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV Strong's)

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

 

So, by all means select your goal, but if you want true success in life, select a goal that is not really yours, it’s God’s goal for your life. Like Paul and his goal…

 

Philippians 3:14 (ESV Strong's)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

So what does a godly goal look like?

 

Firstly, your goal must include others. No goal is worthwhile if it is just for you. Set a goal big enough to include and help other people. Next, it must be worthwhile. A frivolous goal is a worthless one, even if you achieve it.  Your goal must be measurable. You need a way to see if you are making any progress towards true success.

 

Finally, your goal must be expandable. Don’t set your goals in concrete. If your goal is not expandable, it’s expendable. As we grow, we see the picture more clearly, and we continually need to “up” our goals, to progress them into something even greater. It’s a sad day when we think we have achieved all our goals and have nothing else to do.

 

U= UNLOCK YOUR POTENTIAL

 

Most of us have far more potential than we think, and than we will ever realise! If you are in Christ, when God looks at you, he doesn’t see your failure, He doesn’t see your past sins, He sees potential. A person can sit and count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed!

 

Ephesians 3:20 (ESV Strong's)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

 

Remember, you are joined into the unlimited power supply of the vine of Christ. And God sees amazing potential in you, but what are the steps towards unlocking this potential and true success?

 

1.      LOOK UP

 

Take the time to look around and see if there is someone who seems to be fulfilling their potential more than you.

 

As Aussies we are particularly skilled and the tall poppy syndrome, chopping other more successful people down to size. This is a stupid trait we need to eliminate from our culture, because we should not only build up others, but get beside them and learn how they became successful, and use that information to strive for our own brand of success in Christ.

 

I modelled much of how I face life’s situations on my dad, who always seemed wise, graceful, generous and strong in all his dealing with people. I look up to him and others and try to learn from them.  They might stretch me a bit, but it means I’m growing into the person God wants!

 

Hebrews 13:7 (ESV Strong's)

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

 

So who do you look up to, especially in the Christian walk?

 

2.      GIVE UP

 

To reach your potential, you must be prepared to give up at any moment all that you are and all that you have in order to receive what God has for you.  Many people don’t understand this. They want to hang on to what they are and at the same time be all they can be. You have to let go.

 

Moving into God’s destiny and true success always costs. Abraham gave up his home to follow God, Moses gave up riches, David gave up security, Paul gave up tradition. Andre Rieu gives up 4-5 hours a day to practice the violin, even when touring. He’s fired up, and prepared to give up time to invest in his craft, and so should you!

 

Even Jesus gave up His glory with the Father to fulfil His destiny and give His life for all of us.

 

Philippians 2:6-7 (ESV Strong's)

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

 

Are you ready for true success, to empty yourself of your own desires? What do you have to give up to move towards spiritual success in your life? Is it time, to invest in a quiet time? Is it people who are holding you back? Is it a stubborn attitude that is stopping progress?

 

3.      FIRE UP

 

If you want to see true success in 2019, get fired up! Get excited, get enthused!

 

Romans 8:18 (ESV Strong's)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

 

Wherever you are at right now is nothing compared to what God wants to achieve in and through your life. What’s the next thing you want to do for Him? What’s the next Bible book you want to study? What’s the next role you want to fulfil in church? Who is the next person you want to share Christ with? There is more, always more, for you as a person and for us as a church, if we’re fired up… ignited!

 

 

4.      SHOW UP

 

Many people run when they face challenges in their lives, but successful people show up and face those challenges down. They show up for that course, they attend that connect group, they strive to never miss an opportunity, even if it seems hard.

 

Isaiah 41:13 (ESV Strong's)

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;

it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

 

Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. There was no one there. Show up and face whatever life throws at you to reach your God given potential and destiny.

 

5.      STEP UP

 

To become successful and reach your God given potential, it takes courage and it takes faith to step up, step out on a limb and step into your destiny.

 

Many people come to church and get fired up, but when the moment comes they are too scared to step up and take a chance and attain true success.

 

A young man working for an advertising firm in Kansas City grew tired of drawing two bit cartoons, eating beans and living in his office. He drew a character called Oswald, the lucky rabbit, and it was stolen from him. Desperate to succeed, he gave up his job, moved to Los Angeles with a dream of starting his own movie studio. But it all went wrong, and he was advised to give up the dream and just go broke. That was until he watched the mice feeding on garbage in the corner of his dingy, dirty office, he took a risk, drew a cartoon mouse called Mickey, and at that point Walt Disney pursued his dream and saw it all come true, saying,

 

I dare to take risks, and pursue my vision until it comes true.

 

Matthew 14:29 (ESV Strong's)

He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

 

Are you willing to step out of today’s boat and into what God has for you? MANY CHRISTIANS HAVE THE RIGHT AIMS IN LIFE; THEY JUST NEVER GET AROUND TO PULLING THE TRIGGER.

 

What risk is God calling you to take this year? I don’t want to die until I have attempted something so outrageous that without God it is destined to fail!

 

6.      GO UP

 

If we look up to a person who is reaching his or her potential, if we give up anything that hinders us from being our best, if we fire up our desires until we are no longer satisfied, if we show up to our challenges and not become fearful, and if we step up and take a chance, then we will go up. We’ll go up to the top of our potential—but only after we look up, give up, fire up, show up and step up.

 

So that’s U= Unlock your potential.

 

C= COMMIT YOURSELF TO GOD’S PLAN

 

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV Strong's)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

If He has a plan for your life, to prosper and not to harm you, then get on board and get committed to the plan! So how do you find and get committed to God’s plan in your life?

 

Firstly, if you don’t get to know God, you can’t trust Him when things get tough. If a street person asks me for $100, I won’t give it to them, because I don’t know them. If my wife asks me, I will give it to her because I know her and I trust her. To trust someone, you need to get to know them, and to get to know God, you need to read His Word and come to church.

 

Once again, a plug for the Bible Reading Plan … use it every day, and over the next few months you will be amazed at how you grow in Christ, and how much you get to know Him, and therefore trust Him!

 

Next, what are your gifts and desires, because God’s plan will often align with these. What do others in church see in you, what gets you excited. What are you ministering in right now. Chances are that God’s plan extends from how you are currently serving, or how you would like to serve.

 

C= CHART YOUR COURSE

 

If God has a plan for your life, for true success, is it wrong to make your own plans? Well sometimes God wants you to stop and wait, but the Biblical word for wait is qawa, which is an active, not a passive word. It means keep on going expectantly. It means keep doing what you’re doing and trust God.

 

So make your plans, but as you chart your course, be flexible enough to let God guide you. Paul made plans to go straight to Rome, but a vision appeared which caused him to modify his plans and head to Macedonia. It is far easier to steer a moving ship then a stationary one, so make your plans but get ready to change…

 

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

 

E= EXPECT PROBLEMS

 

If you find a path that has no problems, you will find it leads nowhere, let alone to true success. You will face problems, and you should rejoice in these because it means you are on the right path.

 

James 1:2-4 (ESV Strong's)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

When you face adversity, you can either change the problem or the person. The best way is to change yourself, the person, and as you become more Christlike you will find yourself overcoming problems along the way.

 

S= STAND FIRM

 

When you commit to serving Jesus, stand firm, and let nothing move or deflect you from your commitment…

 

1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 

Napoleon Hill, in his book Think and Grow Rich, records that he studied five hundred of the wealthiest men in the world and concluded that all wealthy men are persistent. Winston Churchill, who stood firm against the evil and might of Hitler, say this… “Never, never, never give up!”

 

S= SURRENDER FIRST

 

If you want true success in your life, surrender first to Jesus. Most people turn to the Lord when things get tough, they look to Jesus only as a last resort, but to be truly successful, turn to Him first…

 

John Maxwell says, “Surrender to God the first part of every day, the first day of every week, the first portion of your income, the first consideration in every decision, and the first place in all of your life. When we surrender to him, then we have a power that really caps off the formula for success. Surrender is what brings power. We fight for power and we lose it; we surrender and we find it.”

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong's)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

God is speaking to people in this room right now about surrendering, and giving up something that seems precious and placing yourself, no holes barred, totally committed into His hands.  If you’ve been holding onto what you know and are comfortable with, today is the day to surrender it all and to move towards true success in your life!

Spiritual Success 5- Giving

Giving is the fourth key to spiritual success. We've learned that the first was reading the Bible daily, the second was prayer and the third was being part of an on fire Church like Ignite. The fourth I believe will challenge us all.

What we are talking about here is spiritual maturity, but remember age is compulsory while maturity is optional.

YOU CAN’T STAY A BABY!

I’m sure you’ll agree, babies are cute. Kids are cute too, but no one wants them to stay as kids forever.

 

Hebrews 5:12-14 (ESV Strong's)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

 

Just because you’ve been in and around Church for years, doesn’t mean you are mature! Many have been in the church for years but still act like children, immature and needy!

 

Our granddaughter Kaileigh is a delight to us. She is little, cute, Austro-Malaysian and demanding. She orders Fiona and I around like personal slaves. At 2, it’s kind of cute. At 22 it won’t be cute at all!

 

Let me point out what babies and little kids are like, and you might see some parallels with Christian maturity…

 

1.      CHILDREN ARE FICKLE

 

Children can flip from laughing to crying in a heartbeat. Kaileigh can be happy and excited because she is watching the Lion King, then in 1 second be a screaming, blubbering mess because she has to go home.

 

Young Christians can be like this… emotional, experiencing highs and lows, changing opinions and views in a millisecond, often based on someone else’s opinion in a sermon, a book or on Facebook. They do not have the depth of knowledge of the Bible, so they are often not sure of God’s direction or standards.

 

Ephesians 4:14 (ESV Strong's)

so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

 

Immature Christians change opinions, even change churches, based on emotions or limited understanding. They are tossed around by every wind of doctrine, every cunning argument and can be at the mercy of abusive or ungodly leaders. We all start there, but we don’t want to end there!

 

2.      CHILDREN LACK WILLPOWER

 

When a child wants something, they want it all and they want it now! We are rediscovering that a 2 year old doesn’t do “wait” too well. Delayed gratification comes with maturity.

 

And young believers are the same. They want to grow and become powerful in the Lord, they want positive answers to all their prayers, and they don’t like to wait. Discipline… that’s a dirty word to many!

 

But as we have seen, anything worthwhile in the Lord, and indeed in life, takes time to grow and develop. Throw seed in the ground, and you have to wait for ages before you even see a tiny shoot, let alone fruits and flowers.

 

James 5:7 (ESV Strong's)

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

 

The early rains gives your crop the start it needs, but the latter rains is what causes the bountiful harvest. Mature Christians are impatient, but with maturity you learn to trust God for His results, His latter rains and consequently you see a more abundant harvest.

 

3.      CHILDREN DESIRE NEW AND EXCITING THINGS

 

You know the drill… they see it in an ad, and all they can do is nag and talk about this new toy. Once they have it, they want some other new toy, right? It’s never ending for parents. Paw Patrol gets replaced by Lion King, then Transformers or Barbies or Dinosaurs!

 

Many Christians are like this too. They find novelty very appealing. They follow the latest Christian speaker, they chase flashy miracles. We’ve had these folk pass through often, but here at Ignite they get solid teaching, not the big, flashy performance, so they move on. I know dozens of these Christians, and they never grow beyond the next experience.

 

Miracles are great, moves of the Spirit are awesome, but the Word of God is what sees long, sustained growth!

 

In the gospels Jesus called those who were seeking signs wicked and adulterous. When Paul went to Athens, the Athenians were described like this…

 

Acts 17:21 (ESV Strong's)

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

 

I’m all for God doing something new, exciting and miraculous. We’ve seen it many times here, but seeing miraculous signs does not make you spiritually mature or successful. If you seek signs and wonders more than you seek God, it makes you infantile, fickle and childish in your faith.

 

4.      CHILDREN ARE SELFISH

 

As cute as they are, kids are totally selfish. It’s all about them, and no one else. A baby might be cute, but their world view is the only thing in existence. And when they want milk, or food, or nothing else, they demand immediate satisfaction.

 

Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV Strong's)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 

Mature people think about others, and do not just demand their own way constantly. I remember a quote from the movie “Beaches”, where Bette Miller, after meeting her long lost friend again says this… “Anyway, enough about me, let’s talk about you… what do you think about me?”

 

If you are, or if you have to live with a person who constantly demands their own way in everything, then this is not spiritual maturity, this is childishness!

 

So if we want to be mature, if we want to grow strong and not be a selfish, childish Christian, what is this next step towards spiritual success in your life? It is one simple word… giving.

 

LIVING FOR GIVING

 

Now I know some of you are thinking, “Oh no! Pastor Darin needs money!” Nope, I’m don’t need money, and while we will touch on money, I’m not going to start talking about it. You have more to give than that.

 

Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

 

Giving is not just about money, it’s about giving of yourself. It’s about serving, and this next step towards spiritual maturity can grow you rapidly and strongly in Christ.

 

To become mature, we have to grow past the consumerism of modern Christians. So many go from church to church to get something, but few go to church thinking, “What can I give!”

 

They might be seeking signs and wonders, they might be seeking a great performance, great worship, great preaching. But what they are not seeking is to become a selfless and generous giver of themselves!

 

Jesus Himself was a giver, giving of Himself constantly right up to giving His life for you. But we, frankly, are takers… we want the Lord to do what we pray and command Him to do. Oh, if we could only recognise that if we put Him first, if we seek Him first, all these other things we pray and strive and fight for come our way anyway.

 

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

In Philippians 2 we read that Jesus did not grasp at greatness but made Himself a servant.

 

Mark 10:45 (ESV Strong's)

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

Serving is simply giving of yourself, and when you give of yourself freely there is a special blessing.  People often ask me why, as a successful behaviour Optometrist, why have I given up time and quite a lot of money to become a pastor. The answer is simple… God asked me, and I want with all me heart to serve Him, and consequently to serve you.

 

STEPS TOWARDS GIVING OF YOURSELF

 

Many times we say, “Lord, I want to give you all of my life,” but we don’t… we hold back on some areas, especially areas we think might cost too much.  So how do you start giving to the Lord?

 

1.      IT STARTS WITH A CHOICE

 

Joshua 24:15 (ESV Strong's)

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

 

Joshua made a clear choice… I will serve the Lord. Giving of your time, skills and talents start with a decision… I will use these to serve the Lord.

 

As a young guy I knew I had a musical talent. I could play several instruments, and sing OK. I was in a band at school, and was going to run away and go in the road with them. Until my mum found out!

 

Most of my life I’ve had people compliment me on my musical skills, and ask me to join bands, etc. but early on I made the conscious decision to only use my talent to serve Jesus. This has seen me travel around the world and minister to hundreds of thousands of people. Not because I’m good, but because I made the decision to serve and give my talent to the Lord for His use.

 

2.      DISCOVER YOUR GIFTS

 

1 Peter 4:10 (ESV Strong's)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

 

Every one of you has gifts, even if you feel very ordinary. Spiritual gifts are freely given by God, and we can use the spiritual gifts He has given us to serve others in the church.

 

Some of you will not be sure of what your spiritual gifts are. If that’s you, please put aside an hour today after our family lunch to do 201, where you can discover what your gifts are.

 

3.      LEARN HOW TO GIVE

 

It is one thing to know what spiritual gifts you have, but it is entirely another to move into a place where you can actually use them.

 

1 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV Strong's)

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

 

Spiritual gifts are not given to you for your benefit, but they are given to benefit the church and those around you. One of my concerns about folks who are drawn to large churches is that they have spiritual gifts but they mostly finish up as consumers. They go to church, they sit, they enjoy a great service, but they often don’t have a chance usually to serve and give and become part of the church body.

 

If you do 201, you not only discover your gifts, but you learn where you can use them to serve and bless others.

 

YOU CAN FIND A PLACE TO SERVE AT IGNITE

 

Ignite church has been designed to allow you to serve by doing what you love. That’s why people are so happy… we are all doing what we love, and operating in our gifting. Right from the start I made conscious decision to not put square pegs in round holes. You can fit square pegs in round hole, if you bash hard enough, but everyone gets hurt and damaged in the process!

 

Ephesians 4:16 (ESV Strong's)

the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

Giving of your time, energy and skills here at Ignite build the church up, but also builds you up!

 

GIVING OF YOUR MONEY

 

Any discussion on giving has to include this one… money!

 

A man came to a pastor one time and told him he had made a commitment to tithe. He was a student and only earned $10,000 a year, so he gave $1,000.  The next year he got a great job and earned $100,000, so he gave $10,000 to the Church. His income skyrocketed and He then earned $1,000,000 in the year, so he had to tithe $100,000, so he came back to the pastor and begging him to ask God if he could be Let our of the covenant. The pastor knelt and prayed silently for a long time, and the man eventually asked, “Are you praying that God will let me out of my covenant?” “No” replied the minister, “I’m praying for God to reduce your income to the point where you are happy to tithe!”

 

Amy Carmichael said, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” A sign of a truly mature believer is a generous spirit.

 

It has been well said that the last part of our body to be sanctified is the back pocket. Human beings are selfish, not generous by nature (as we see in babies and children). I love the way that this church is a generous Church. I try and be as generous as I can as often as I can, and I personally have seen the Lord perform amazing miracles of provision in my life.

 

WHOSE MONEY?

 

I remember going to McDonalds with one my kids and buying them a McHappy meal. It worked well… it made them McHappy! While they were eating, I reached across and pinched one of their chips, and they got really upset about it, and held the chips to their chest, telling me “These are mine!”

 

We can be just like that with God. Listen to what David said about giving…

 

1 Chronicles 29:14 (NIV-WS)

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

 

Everything you and I have, everything we own, everything in our bank account comes not from our work, our job, our pension, it really comes from God. It’s all His! He bought the French fries, and then we get mad when He asks us to give a small portion of them.

 

A preacher asked a farmer in his congregation, “If you had two hundred dollars, would you give one hundred of them to the Lord?”

“I would,” the farmer said.

“If you had two cows, would you give one of them to the Lord?”

“I would,” the farmer said again.

The preacher then asked, “If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?”

“Now that isn’t fair,” said the farmer. “You know I have two pigs!”

 

We rarely speak about giving and money at this church, but buckle up because we need to do it now!

 

HOW TO GIVE GENEROUSLY

 

So given that it is all His, how can we give generously, and how much do we need to give. Notice how I phrased that? Human beings are always looking for a bargain. What’s the least we can give to get what we want?

 

Money is such an important topic that more than half the parables in the bible and over 2,000 verses concern money. But Jesus made it clear, it’s not the money God is interested in, it’s the hold it has on you. Remember the rich young ruler? They problem was not that he had money, the problem was that money had him!

 

Honestly, Jesus does not need your money. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. You are not helping Him out by giving what isn’t even yours really. As missionary Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

 

The Lord is not even worried about how much you give. I mean, the widow was commended even though she gave a small amount. What He is interested in is the heart of your giving!

 

Luke 12:34 (ESV Strong's)

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

Your attitude to giving is a great measure of your spiritual maturity.

 

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV Strong's)

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

The Greek word for cheerful is hilaros, with literally means hilarious. Ever watched a funny movie and laughed so much more our sides ache? Can you imagine giving with so much hilarity that your sides ache?

 

1.      GIVING SHOULD BE A PRIORITY

 

Proverbs 3:9-10 (ESV Strong's)

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;

then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

 

This is a promise with a condition. We need to give to the Lord first, not last, and He promises he will bless us beyond measure. Some people say I don’t have enough money spare so cannot afford to give, but frankly I cannot afford not to give. So I recommend that, if you want to be spiritually successful and blessed in every way, including financially, don’t give out of what you have left in the week, give the first fruits. Set money aside first, then spend the rest.trust me it works!

 

2.      GIVING SHOULD BE SACRIFICIAL

 

God doesn’t need or want your tips. Thanks God, you did a great job, here’s a tip! Again, He is not interested in your money. He is looking at your heart, the spirit behind your giving.

 

King David wanted to sacrifice to the Lord, and another guys offered to give him all he needed.

 

2 Samuel 24:24 (ESV Strong's)

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

 

David wanted to give sacrificially, because He knew God was looking at his heart. In the same way, Jesus commended the widow in Luke 21 even though she gave only a small amount, because

 

Luke 21:4 (ESV Strong's)

they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

 

Sacrificial giving makes God sit up and take notice! He loves it, because it shows a devoted heart!

 

3.      GIVING SHOULD BE INVESTING

 

You can give to the Salvos, you can give to Lily House. You can give to a thousand causes, so why give to the church? I believe that Ignite is good soil, a great place to invest your giving…

 

Luke 8:15 (ESV Strong's)

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

 

When I give I view it as an act of worship, but also as an investment. I expect a return. Honestly, I’m not worried about more money coming to me, I expect a return in souls, in lives turned around, homes restored, believers set on fire for Jesus! I could give anywhere, but here, I believe, is a good return on what I give.

 

As a pastor, I am paid far less than any other pastor I know. Everyone who works here is paid far less than they are worth, but we are happy to do this because we do it as unto the Lord. We don’t blow money on big flashy buildings. Yes, we may have to expand, but we are not going to spend lavishly but frugally. We are going to invest in reaching the community, kids church and anything we can that blesses the Lord.

 

4.      GIVING SHOULD BE TRUSTING

 

When you give, of your time, gifts or money, are you Tipping, tithing or trusting? Do you tip God a few dollars in when God has been good to you that week? Are you stuck in a legalistic thing where you fearfully give 10% worried that God’s blessing will leave you if you don’t? Or are you trusting, gifting generously wherever you can, whenever you can as the Lord directs?

 

Personally,I don’t give 10%. That’s the basic, minimal requirement. I choose to give more than the basic tithe, and I give generously at every point I can. And the Lord keeps bringing more and more money to us, because He sees my heart.

 

I don’t give to get… that’s not the right heart! Fiona and I made a decision years ago to just give and give and give, and let the Lord sort out what comes our way. I believe and generous spirit is the heart God wants to see.

 

He sees your heart too… but what does He see. Does He see a generous giver, does He see someone who gives sacrificially of their money, time and talents? Or does he see a selfish person, giving the bare minimum to try and bargain with God for the maximum blessing?

 

Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV Strong's)

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;

another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,

and one who waters will himself be watered.

 

ARE YOU READY TO TRUST GOD?

 

Are you ready to trust God as you give Him your Life, your time, your gifts and talents and your money?

 

Let me leave you with a wonderful Biblical promise and threat… This speaks to all of us. It was originally given to the people of Israel who were giving not their best to God, but the sick, the lame , the dying, the worst of their flocks to God as an offering.

 

Malachi 3:8-11 (ESV Strong's)

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts.

 

A generous spirit is a sign of spiritual success. If think Ignite is good soil, you can trust God as you give here, so please do. If you want to give of your time and spiritual gifts, come and do 201 today. You may not think you have much to give, but give the loaves and fishes of your life to Jesus and watch Him multiply them!

 

Ps David Yonggi Cho’s Church was on the point of bankruptcy and they called a prayer meeting .  Let me read from his account…

 

Seeing that only a miraculous intervention of God would deliver us from a catastrophe, I joined the intercessors at Prayer Mountain. One evening while we were meeting to pray on the ground floor of our unfinished church, several hundred joined me in prayer. An old woman walked slowly in my direction. As she approached the platform, I noticed that tears were filling her eyes. She bowed and said, “Pastor, I want to give these items to you so that you may sell them for a few pennies to help with our building fund.”

I looked down, and in her hands were an old rice bowl and a pair of chopsticks. I said to her, “Sister, I can’t take these necessities from you!”

“But, Pastor, I am an old woman. I have nothing of value to give to my Lord; yet, Jesus has graciously saved me. These items are the only things in the world I possess!” she exclaimed, tears now flowing freely down her wrinkled cheeks. “You must let me give these to Jesus. I can place my rice on old newspapers, and I can use my hands to feed myself. I know that I will die soon, so I don’t want to meet Jesus without giving Him something on this earth.” As she finished speaking, everyone there began to weep openly. The Holy Spirit’s presence filled the place, and we all began to pray in the Spirit.

A businessman in the back of the group was deeply moved and said, “Pastor Cho, I want to buy that rice bowl and chopsticks for one thousand dollars!” With that, everyone started to pledge their possessions. My wife and I sold our small home and gave the money to the church.  This spirit of giving saved us from financial ruin.

 

Some of you here feel like you have little to offer the Lord. Some have served before and been hurt.

Fellowship is an often misunderstood term.  So far in this series on how to achieve true spiritual success, we have looked at reading the Word of God, and prayer. The third step involves a step that is to some is strangely controversial… fellowship.

YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE… UNLESS YOU CHOOSE TO!

There’s a famous song by Gerry and the Pacemakers, the theme of Liverpool football club, “You’ll never walk alone.” It revolves around the basic human need we all have of fellowship, camaraderie, friends we can talk to and connect with. Yet the question of Church fellowship is oddly controversial in this day and age, because almost every week I am meeting mature, godly wonderful Christians who explain to me why they love God but hate church, and prefer to walk alone!

 

A husband and wife were taking early one Sunday morning. The husband confessed that he hates Church and refuses to go. The wife demanded three good reasons…

 

He told her. “First, the congregation is cold. Second, no one likes me. And third, I just don’t want to go.”

“Well, honey”, she replied, “I have three good reasons why you should go,” his wife replied. “First, the congregation is warm. Second, there are a few people there who like you. And third, you are the pastor. So get dressed.”

 

David writes,

Psalm 122:1 (ESV Strong's)

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

 

Glad someone was glad. I get it. I’ve had many times, years even, when I wasn’t glad to go to church. We’ve all been bored by church or hurt by Christians, and many by pastors, somewhere in the past. I understand, because I too have been viciously attacked by so called men of God. I too have found Church laboured, painful, boring and not worth investing time into.

 

Rev Denny Brake once joked, “I don't know why some people change churches - what difference does it make which one you stay home from?”

 

But the third step to becoming spiritually successful is to be actively linked in to the right church. As we examine this today, please don’t think I am threatening you in any way. Ignite is full of people who have been hurt elsewhere, and this is specifically what I have prayed for. When I took the helm here, I prayed that God would use this church to draw hurting believers together, to have them become part of a church family that loves and supports them and to fan into fame and release the gifts they have to fulfil their lives!

 

 

WHY BOTHER WITH CHURCH OR FELLOWSHIP?

 

Statistics now tell us that going to church once a month is considered a regular attendee. They also suggest that on our Coast more than half of the professed believers do not attend a church regularly. They love God but hate Church.

 

But here is the jump. Statistics, and my experience tell us that those who attend regularly and get involved in Church grow in spiritual maturity and become more spiritually successful, while those who neglect Church stagnate and fail to grow in Christ the way they should. I believe we are better together. Church is not my idea, it’s God’s idea, and we as leaders ought to seek to establish the churches He wants. The Bible says,

 

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV Strong's)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

You can be a Christian without going to church or being part of a fellowship. You can be married and not live together, but it is not the normal thing. Most married people live together, and most Christians should go to church. This passage clearly commands that we must not neglect meeting together. Studies show that if you miss Church for more than a month, the odds are almost 2 to 1 that you won’t go for the next year.

 

Yes, you can spend time in the Word at home, and yes you can pray by yourself. But there is something amazing, something special, something spiritual that happens when we get together. The Lord bestows a special blessing for unity, but how can we even have unity if one party is absent?

 

I’m this message I want to outline reasons why you should make every effort to come to church. Obviously, I’m preaching to the converted, because you are here already. If you have been hurt or turned off church elsewhere, please understand I am not shaming or accusing you, I understand, and I am offering the hand of fellowship and the pledge that I will do all in my power as a pastor to love, nurture and bless you.

 

So what does being part of a church fellowship family offer you, and why should we bother to meet together at all?

 

 

1.                   WE CAN WORSHIP TOGETHER

 

Worship is not the support act to the main event at church. It is a core reason why the church exists.

 

Something very special happens when we worship together in fellowship and unity. Sure, you can put on a CD and sing at home or in the car, but when we gather together in unity there is a sense of awe and blessing. When we worship corporately there is a great sense of belonging, even if you don’t agree with everything that goes on in your church, you can still worship in unity.

 

Psalms 22:3 (ESV Strong's)

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

 

When we worship together in unity, there the Lord is enthroned. The Hebrew word for enthroned means several things, including inhabit, tarrying and marrying. When we praise the Lord together it is kind of like God marries in with us.

 

And let me also say, there is no set way in which we worship as a fellowship. Some raise their hands, some don’t. Some sing loudly, some don’t. Some praise God best with set songs, others like worship free form. Ignite is here to accommodate all styles of worship, and I am not going to force you to worship a certain way. When we worship together, the key ingredient I believe is unity. Unity means that we don’t criticise the way others worship, and we don’t force them to change to our way. Can you love the Lord and love each other more than you love getting your own way in worship?

 

1 Timothy 2:8 (ESV Strong's)

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling;

 

We need to worship together without anger or quarrels. And I know we all worship differently, but we can still worship together, because unity is more important that you doing your thing your way!

 

That being said, I’m hoping we all grow together in our understanding and expression of worship and fellowship. Who among us knows everything about worshipping God? Isn’t one of the great joys of church being able to live and journey and discover the truths of God together?

 

2.                   WE CAN LEARN FROM THE BIBLE TOGETHER

 

There is a trend today for churches to move away from Biblical teaching. Ignite will not be that sort of church, because the Word of God is central to everything we do. That’s why so many of us have pledged to read the Bible daily.

 

And when you come to church, I am promising to centre all our teaching on God’s Word. If it’s not in the Bible, it’s not happening at Ignite, and it’s that simple! I’m going to preach the Word, and I’m going to live the Word. Here’s what God commands me…

 

2 Timothy 4:2-3 (ESV Strong's)

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

 

If you want church teaching to tickle your ears, not challenge you in any way and make you feel ok, find another church! I am sworn to proclaim the truth of God’s Word no matter the consequences. And I preach from what the Lord is showing me, not random stuff I am making up or some other guy’s message I read on the internet. In season, out of season, any season I will preach the Word of the Lord, like it or not!

 

And at the end of the day, you don’t want my opinion do you? You want God’s, right?

 

Some believe they can skip church and download a few good messages from YouTube or watch God TV. I have observed that people doing that tend to find preachers that, to quote the verse, “suit their passions.” Listening to recorded messages is fine, I encourage it, but as your pastor I have made a pledge to God to love you support you and stir your gifts into flame, ignite them if you will!

 

I know you can definitely find better preachers, better teachers and better sermons than mine out there online, but what you won’t find is someone who loves you and is called to pastor you like I am.

 

News flash… TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Brian’s Houston, Chuck Swindoll, as good as those preachers are, they don’t know you from Adam. They are not committed to your walk with Christ, your spiritual success, the release of your gifts… they don’t even know who you are! You cannot substitute recordings of famous preachers for a pastor who genuinely cares about you.

 

As your pastor, though my teaching and preaching might be limited next to those great leaders, I’m different because I am totally committed to seeing your life with Christ grow. If you want an advocate, if you want a pastor who cares about your life, I’m your guy! I take the calling of a shepherd very seriously.  This terrifies me so much that some time ago I started regularly praying this prayer…

 

1 Kings 3:9 (ESV Strong's)

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

 

I can’t be a proper leader for Ignite Christian Church, I don’t have the skills and ability. But God does, and I humbly rely on Him and His wisdom to direct this church. If I start preaching my own wisdom, if I cannot support what I’m teaching from the Bible, show me, because I need to preach God’s Word as much as you need to listen to God’s Word! Together we grow and learn through the years.

 

3.                   WE CAN FELLOWSHIP TOGETHER

 

Fellowship is a great strength we have here at Ignite. After church, everyone stays for ages, and when we have a need, scores of people support it in prayer and other ways.

 

Acts 2:42 (ESV Strong's)

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

 

The early Church understood fellowship, as they sold belongings and cared for each other, and they moved from house to house. They hung out, in other words, they fellowshipped.

 

Fellowship is not talking about football results or TV celebrities, it is talking about Jesus. It is praying for each other. It’s caring for each other. It is Dig In and connect groups and men’s and women’s groups. It’s growing closer as friends, learning to trust each other, stirring one another towards greatness in Christ. You can’t get this by yourself skipping church, and believers who are dislocated from church are missing out on this key ingredient of growth in fellowship.

 

I have dislocated my shoulders many times and had operations to secure them in their sockets. When dislocated there is incredible pain and the arm is basically useless, but it’s still attached to my body. That’s what we are like without fellowship. We are still Christians, still part of the body, but in pain and not really useful to the body. The cry of my heart is to put dislocated Christians back in the socket, back in the place in the body where they belong. And as many of you have experienced, even when you get back there is a period of pain as you heal. I want ignite to be a place of healing and knitting in.

 

4.                   WE CAN ENCOURAGE TOGETHER

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

Believers should encourage one another, and that’s why I insist on unity in the fellowship at Ignite. If you have an issue with something, or with someone, talk to a leader, seek advice, seek help, but don’t make your way around spreading gossip and discord. We need to be careful to guard our mouths and only speak words of encouragement and love to build others up!

 

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV Strong's)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

 

Church should be a place where we encourage one another, and no issue, unless it directly contradicts God’s Word, no issue is bigger than the love, unity and encouragement we should have one for another. Please church, don’t love your own opinion more than you love each other! Don’t get so focussed on an issue or what you believe is true that you hurt others, or attack others.

 

5.                   WE CAN EVANGELISE TOGETHER

 

If we want to see people come to know Jesus, nothing beats an on fire, ignited church!

 

Acts 2:46-47 (ESV Strong's)

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

 

When the early church functioned properly, they had the Word, fellowship, worship and people were added daily. We need to reach out to our community and see people coming to Jesus!

 

Together we are better in sharing the gospel. That’s why Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs, not in their own. And when we share our faith, let’s do so kindly, gently and respectfully…

 

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV Strong's)

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

 

Coming up we are going to start reaching out to our community, first by prayer walking the streets and then by sharing the good news that Jesus loves them!

 

Romans 10:14-15 (ESV Strong's)

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

 

It’s time to take our beautiful feet and start walking the dirty, dusty streets of our community, sharing the love of our fellowship with them!

 

6.                   WE CAN SERVE TOGETHER

 

If you are dislocated from church, you cut off almost all the avenues of Christian service. You might still share the gospel to odd people you meet, but how do you follow up those who make commitments? You can’t do it all on your own, and neither were you designed to do it all on your own.

 

1 Peter 4:10 (ESV Strong's)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

 

Here at Ignite, I don’t do everything. I cannot do everything, I’m busy enough and I still work in my job! So my plan, which is really God’s plan, is that I stir up gifts that are within others, and let them serve doing what they love and are gifted at. If you are here, and have a gift in your heart, do 101 and 201 (next week), and let me open the door for you to serve the Lord here.

 

Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV Strong's)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

 

My calling as a pastor is not to build a big building. It’s not to manage a big corporation, it’s not to become a famous preacher. My calling is to shepherd, it is to stir up within you the gifts of service you have, and then to open the door for them to be used. My job is to train and equip you to become everything you ought to be in Christ, then allow you to operate in your gifting!

 

One of the greatest reasons Christians have to go to church is so they can serve the Lord better. You can get trained, equiped and inspired, and then through the Church find a way of expressing that gift. There is a particular satisfaction that comes from serving the Lord in your gifting, and Church is the ideal place to do this.

 

UNITED WE STAND

 

So the first step towards becoming spiritually successful is to read God’s Word every day, the second is to pray without ceasing, and the third is to not just attend church, but to become a part of the church fellowship. And I would love you to be a part of Ignite Christian Church.  I would love the joy and the honour of watching your life become fruitful for Jesus. And I guarantee you, this place is good soil, yielding 30, 60 and 100 fold!

 

Yet Ignite church is under attack. Yes unchurched people might attack us. Yes the government tries to paralyse us with paperwork and legislation. Sometimes even other Christians might attack and criticise us. But by far the greatest threat we have to this body of believers comes from within our own fellowship!

 

Disunity kills churches that should be full of life. Beware of anything that disrupts unity in the fellowship, even if you feel you are right and the others are wrong!

 

Colossians 3:13-14 (ESV Strong's)

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

 

Look, I understand that we are human, and we have opinions about people, things and the way we do things. But let me be frank, unless something is out and out sin as described in the Bible, I cannot tolerate threats to the beautiful unity we have here at Ignite. I’ve seen churches spilt over the colour of carpets or the placement of a cross or an altar. I was even at a Baptist church once that nearly split over an excess water bill, because there were too many baptisms!

 

I don’t expect you to agree with everything, or everyone. But you must commit to disagreeing agreeably, not gossiping to others about whatever your problem is and stirring up trouble. Jesus said a house divided will not stand, because He understood the destructive power of disunity.

 

When we elevate our personal preferences or petty disagreements above fellowship, unity and our love for each other, let me be bold here, I believe it is sin, and the devil uses this to destroy God’s work in a church. So before you get on your high hobby horse and cause strife, ask yourself if Jesus would be talking this way.  Remember, this is the same Jesus who prayed…

 

John 17:21-22 (ESV Strong's)

that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,

 

Would Paul talk this way, the Paul that said,

 

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV Strong's)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Let's be united in fellowship!

Spiritual Success 3- Prayer

Prayer is the next step for spiritual success. Last week we looking at the first great step towards becoming a spiritual success… reading the Word of God daily. This was not a glamorous or earth-shattering revelation to many of you, but the steps towards becoming truly successful in God’s economy are not bolts for the blue, they are simple, achievable and total acts of devotion.

The second area, like the first, will not be a surprise, but you will recognise it as an essential building block to your spiritual success.  I’m talking about prayer.

PRAYER IN THE SPIRIT

 

Simply put, prayer is just talking to God. It involves you talking to Him, and then you listening to Him. It is not you talking at Him, but as you pray it involves you opening your heart to hear, to see, to understand what it is He is saying to you.

 

And we are instructed to pray at all times…

 

Ephesians 6:18 (ESV Strong's)

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

 

So we are instructed to pray in the Spirit at all times, with all prayer (worship) and supplication (requests).

 

The Greek word for prayer is a broad one, not specifically reverved for church or synagogue. We can pray publicly, privately, verbally, or silently. We can pray kneeling, sitting, standing, lying down, or even while we are driving. We can pray with our eyes open or closed. (If you pray while you’re driving, I strongly recommend the first option.) You can pray in any position, at any time, anywhere, and in fact we are commanded to do this, all the time!

 

WHY PRAY?

 

Prayer has been a massive part of the life of every significant man or woman of God in the Bible, and throughout history. Some like Daniel prayed every morning habitually, another we read about like Nehemiah faced a fearful tense situation and shot up a quick prayer. Jesus Himself prayed many times as recorded in Scripture, praying early in the morning in Mark 1:35, praying for friends, people, healings, miracles and even in His most desperate hours, in the garden alone and even on the cross.

 

If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us, right? So given that we should pray, let me give you good reasons why you ought to pray…

 

1.      PRAYER IS COMMANDED IN SCRIPTURE

 

Matthew 26:41 (ESV Strong's)

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 

Jesus not only commands us to pray, as does Paul, James and others, but Jesus also demonstrates this right throughout His life. If He commands it, and He demonstrates it, I believe the correct response is obedience.

 

2.      PRAYER IS HOW WE OBTAIN THINGS

 

Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the omnipotent muscle of God… I know this sounds terribly carnal, but prayer opens the door for God’s blessings to flow to us.

 

James 4:2-3

You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

 

These verses show a condition of answered prayer… the right motives. If you ask for things you want, God loves you enough to sometimes not to give them to you! Kaileigh loves ice cream, but we don’t give it to her all the time. However, there are many things God wants you to have, and we don’t obtain those because we don’t ask, says James.

 

“How come I never seem to know God’s will in my life?” You do not have, because you do not ask. “Lord, why am I always just scraping by?” You do not have, because you do not ask.

 

3.      PRAYER OVERCOMES WORRY AND ANXIETY

 

Let’s face it, we have loads to worry about in our modern life. We worry about relationships, our families, jobs, money, careers, not to mention our country, morals, terrorism, etc. I even worry about the fact I have so much to worry about!

 

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV Strong's)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

So if you want peace, the peace in your heart that transcends all understanding, even in the face of incredible pressure and loss, the solution is to pray!

 

4.      PRAYER CHANGES US

 

Romans 8:26 (ESV Strong's)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

 

In our weakness, prayer is what begins to change us, with groaning or words beyond our comprehension. Romans later takes about being transformed by the renewing of our minds, and that happens with prayer.

 

Prayer prepares us for the return of Christ. We are the bride of Christ, and prayer prepares us to be that spotless bride whom He is coming back for. Prayer either changes circumstances, or frequently it changes us! We should not see prayer as an attempt to change God, but rather us.

 

True praying is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.

 

HOW DOES GOD ANSWER PRAYER?

 

As you probably have already figured out, God can answer prayers in a way we are not expecting, or even wanting.

 

One of the most disturbing aspects of prayer in our modern age is the mistaken idea that if we pray and believe for something hard enough, God has to give it to us, based on…

 

Mark 11:24 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

 

This thinking is dangerous, destructive and wrong! Let me remind you again of this…

 

James 4:3

You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

 

Wrongly motivated prayer plus faith does not equal God’s hand being forced. When we ask out of wrong motives, for personal gain or personal glory, we won’t change God no matter how much faith we think we can muster. I have seen churches enter financially crippling investments because the more conservative people were told they lacked faith. That’s why any expansion here at Ignite must be of God, not man.

 

I’m sick of hearing people name it and claim it, blab it and grab it, thinking that if they are just passionate enough and can summon enough faith, God will give them what they want. This must not be! No, we need to seek the Lord, discover His will and then pray in faith for His will, even if it is not our first choice. And here’s the kicker… if you do that, all of a sudden He blesses you no end!

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong's)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

Here is a simple guideline to keep in mind when you are waiting for your prayers to be answered:

 

If the request is wrong, God says, “No.”

If the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow.”

If you are wrong, God says, “Grow.”

But if the request is right, the timing is right, and you are right, God says, “Go!”

 

How can you see more “Go” answers in your prayer life? Let’s look at the model Jesus gave us.

 

THE PRAYER PATTERN

 

Luke 11:1-4 (KJV) Because that is what we all know it in.

 

One of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

 

Jesus is not suggesting magical power in the “by rote” prayer people have made this out to be. You face danger or disaster, and you start to mouth the words, “Our Father, which art in heaven.” Rather this is a model, a blueprint of how we should pray, and we would do well to study and understand it!

 

1.      OUR FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME

 

I heard of a child praying one time, and he kept calling God Harold, Harold, could you bless my parents, Harold, could you please give me a bike. His parents asked why he was calling God Harold, and he quoted the Lord’s Prayer, Harold be thy name! But it is hallowed, or exalted!

 

Psalms 147:4-5 (ESV Strong's)

He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

 

God is infinite, He is all present, all knowing and all powerful. Many times the modern church has demoted God to a servant, ready to do our bidding, there if we need Him in times of trouble. I refuse to worship a puny, man made, man serving imitation, I choose to worship the awe inspiring God of the Bible!

 

Before we utter a word of personal petition, we must first consider who it is we are speaking to. He is the Almighty God and yet He is also our Heavenly Father. So we begin our prayer with worship, adoration, and acceptance of His will.

 

 

2.      YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE

 

In His darkest hour, Jesus of course prayed

 

Mark 14:36 (ESV Strong's)

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

 

News flash… prayer is not the way you can manipulate God to do what you want. You can claim what you want with boldness all you like, but it’s not your will it’s His that matters!  We need to stop giving God orders and expecting Him to move when and where we want. We need to start praying, “Your will be done!”

 

It has been said that Nothing lies outside the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.

 

Remember the story of the farmer in the great flood. The flood rose to cover the road and a guy cake by in a 4 wheel drive saying hop in, but the man said, “Nope, I am believing the Lord to be saved.” Waters rose up into the house and along came a rescuer in a boat saying climb in… but he said “Nope, I am believing the Lord to be saved.”  In the end He is standing on the roof, all around is flood waters and a helicopter lowers a ladder a begs him to climb up… but he said, “Nope, I am believing the Lord to be saved.”

 

The waters rose and he was killed. Up in heaven he asked, Lord why didn’t you save me, and the Lord said, “Well, I sent a 4 wheel drive, a boat and a helicopter…”

 

Mature prayer doesn’t tell God what to do. It doesn’t dictate terms or try and negotiate a favourable settlement in your favour! It says, show me your will. Not mine but thine be done!

 

Psalms 143:10 (ESV Strong's)

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

 

3.      GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD

 

God is all knowing, so He knows what you need. But He loves it when you ask, and especially when you ask in faith, believing He will never let you down.  Listen to what Jesus said…

 

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

Ask, yes. Trust, yes, but above all seek Him, seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and you get the lot. Everything you need, everything you want, because when you seek Him first, what you want more than anything is aligned with what He wants for you.

 

4.      FORGIVE US OUR SINS

 

1 John 1:9 (ESV Strong's)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

Forgiveness is an essential part of prayer, because if you do not confess your sin and seek forgiveness, there is a major blockage in your prayer life.

 

In fact, God treats this so seriously that  Psalmist says that, had he cherished sin in his life, the Lord simply would not have listened.

 

Psalms 66:18-19 (ESV Strong's)

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

 

Do you want the Lord to listen? Of course! Then we must seek forgiveness and when we do it opens the floodgates of blessing.

 

Sin confessed, forgiveness sought, hang on to nothing longer than you ought!

When you confess your sin, the Lord promises to forgive you, whether it is big or small, whether it is affecting others or done in secret. Corrie Ten Boom says that when God forgives a sin, He throws it in the sea of His forgetfulness, and puts up a sign saying “No Fishing.”

 

So if God forgives you, what right do you have to not forgive yourself. Come to a Him with clean hands and clean heart and watch what He will drop into them.

 

5.      AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS

 

Now the hard bit, we have to forgive others. I have seen even mature Christians struggle to forgive others. They hang onto it, believing that they have been wronged, and when they do it ruins their prayer life.

 

This is so serious that the very next verses after the Lord’s Prayer are these…

 

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV Strong's)

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

How dare we withhold forgiveness when this clearly blocks God forgiving us! If you hold unforgiveness in your heart, not only does it destroy you (it is like drinking poison hoping the other guy dies) but it ruins your life and your prayers become futile. Do you want to feel right, or do you want to be set free? Don’t hold onto unforgiveness. Don’t cover up your sin, confess it, and let God cover it over with a His forgiveness and love!

 

6.      LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION

 

Temptation is a part of life, but we are instructed to pray that we may not be led into it. Temptation is not sin, but it becomes so when you give in to it.  We have a great tendency to rationalise temptation, to explain it away or flirt with it, but we need to get serious with dealing with it.

 

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV Strong's)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

You can stand up under it, but you are better to flee from it. You are better to guard your heart and not even flirt with it, or as Jesus Himself instructs us,

 

Matthew 26:41 (ESV Strong's)

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 

Truly, we are weak when it comes to temptation, but God knows so well that if we give into temptation it will destroy our prayer connection with Him. So He tells us to pray against it specifically!

 

When we do, s the next part of the Lord’s Prayer says, He delivers us from evil!

 

BE PERSISTENT

 

When it comes to answered prayer, many times it is not that we lack ability, it’s that we lack stickability! We pray, then we give up, but God calls us to persist in prayer. Keep praying until you get an answer, whether that be the answer you want or not.

 

Colossians 4:2 (ESV Strong's)

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

 

The Greek for continue steadfastly is proskartereō, which means persevere, be earnest towards, be constantly diligent in prayer. Couple this with the parable of the persistent widow, and you’ll realise that God wants you to keep asking, keep believing and keep seeking Him. As He says,

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV Strong's)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

When I pray, I make it my practice to keep praying and keep believing until God tells me otherwise.  Praying for healing, I keep praying until either God heals the disease or He shows me He has something different in mind. I don’t pray and then give God an “out” just in case He can’t manage to do it.

 

I believe in Him and trust Him for all results, whether it is what I want or not, because my prayers must never be about my will, but God’s will in my life.

 

PRAY AGAINST THE CAUSE NOT THE SYMPTOMS

 

Let me also add that we need to be careful about what we are praying about. So often we pray for the symptoms, not the cause. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was cutting down some trees that were hanging low and touching the cars as we drove in and out. I could cut near the end, solve the immediate problem, but have to do it all again a month later. Or I could cut further back towards the trunk and solve the problem for a year.

 

With prayer we most often pray about the symptoms, not the actual cause, because the cause is often hidden from us. But listen to this..

 

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV Strong's)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 

Think about it. Perhaps we should recognise that we don’t pray against people, diseases or circumstances, but the spiritual forces behind these things.

 

We should be praying for our nation and morality, but not against the people so vehemently attacking us. Let’s pray against the spirit of the age that is behind it all, and pray that we may be vigilant not passive and limp in response. Let’s attack the root cause in our prayers, not just the low hanging branches!

PRAYING WITHOUT CEASING?

 

So the first step in spiritual success is to read the Word of God daily. The second is to pray with power constantly, and to do this you need to stay close to God. You need to seek Him, you need to avoid temptation and you need to be in constant communication with Him.  That’s what a truly powerful prayer life is.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV Strong's)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

How can you pray without ceasing? Must you spend the entire day on your knees with eyes closed?

 

You can try this if you wish, but most of the rest of us have to live in the real world. I believe when the Bible says pray without ceasing it means that you can live, all day every day, in the zone of constant communication with God. Speak to Him, and constant

Y have your spiritual heart open to let Him speak into your heart. In others words, live in the zone of constant connection to Him.

 

So whatever you face, whatever life brings along, like Nehemiah did so long ago, just constantly pause, shoot up a quick prayer and then be aware of the Lord’s leading and guiding. You might meet someone, and as you shake hands pray, “Lord, what can I say to bless this person.” If you face a volatile situation, pray, “Lord, please give me the right words to calm this and bring about unity.” If we lived in this zone we would the minimise explosive conflict many of us seem to live with.

 

BOTTOM LINE, STAY CLOSE (AND STAY ON THE LINE)

 

I believe the Lord is challenging us today to clear out the sin in our lives and stay connected to Him, all day every day. Can you trust Him? When you pray, can you honestly trust Him for the results, even if they are not what you desire? That’s true faith if you can.

 

Stay close to God, or as Jesus puts it, abide in me!

 

A grandfather was walking past his young granddaughter’s room one night when he saw her kneeling beside her bed, with head bowed and hands folded, repeating the alphabet.
“What are you doing?” he asked her.
She explained, “I’m saying my prayers, but I couldn’t think of just what I wanted to say. So I’m just saying all the letters of the alphabet, and God can put them together however he thinks best.”
Maybe some of the rest of us should have that kind of faith.
As “His Prayer” puts it, “THY will be done.”

 

Psalms 139:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Spiritual success doesn't just happen, but today we want to look at the first step to reaching it.

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."

-- Colin Powell

Spiritual success is something we all want, but strangely it seems to elude most of us. I have discovered some massive secrets to attaining spiritual success, and over the next few weeks I want to share them with you.

Last week we agreed that the world’s measure of success is different to God’s. Spiritual success is independent of money, fame or prestige.

 

Why is it that some people come to Christ and grow like crazy, while others have been Christians for years or even decades and seem to have barely grown at all? Why do some seem to do lots of incredible things for the Lord while others spend years sitting in a pew doing and being involved in very little?

 

CHOOSE SPIRITUAL SUCCESS NOW!

 

Why does it seem Christianity works for some people but not others? I’ve had many people say to me, “Tried Christianity, and it didn’t work for me.” Listen, Christianity is not a product, and we are not just consumers.  Christianity is a person, and every, and I mean every, single person who truly invests in Christ will find He will work for them. The thing is, we concentrate more of what we can get from church than what we can give. We tend not to invest, we tend to consume!

 

To achieve spiritual success, the first requirement is that you choose to invest in it!

 

Deuteronomy 30:19

(ESV) I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

 

You may be visiting Church today, or you may be a regular attender, but if you know me at all as a pastor, I want to see you grow strong and powerful in the Lord. I’ve asked God for a church of leaders. My passion is to see you became all you could possibly be in the Lord. But to do this, we have to start somewhere.

 

Some of you may be content to just float along and never achieve any spiritual success, but I believe most of you want to achieve something great for God, right? Wouldn’t you love to know that you’ve brought people to Jesus, spoken into people’s lives and seen amazing change, prayed and seen God move mountains?

 

Age doesn’t hold you back, education isn’t stopping you. Where you live, how you speak, none of that is holding you back from spiritual greatness. All that is required for your breakthrough to become a spiritual giant is your making the choice to pursue God, and following through to actually do it!

 

EMBRACE  DISCIPLINE

 

We live in an instant society. More than ever before, we want everything right away, no delays, no waiting. Open up the internet and you will read about how you can make $10,461 in7 days or less doing basically nothing! On TV you see how you can stand on a vibrating board and lose 10kg while you watch TV. I heard they just invented a microwave TV, so you can watch 60 Minutes in just 2 Minutes! In 21st century Australia, we want a pill or magic bullet to solve every problem.

 

Remember once upon a time we used to write a letter, fold it up, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it , go to the post office and mail it, and some days later your friend would get the letter, open it and finally read it? Today we call that “snail mail”.

 

Then came the fax, which could send said letter down a phone line in maybe 2 Minutes. But that wasn’t fast enough, so we got email, which send said letter in seconds. But even now that’s not fast enough (and a fax seems like a dinosaur), now we have instant messaging, where we can send said letter in real time and get an instant reply!

 

No success in life is achieved without discipline. In sport, business, ministry and even family, if we are to be truly successful, it takes effort and discipline. And so it is spiritually.

 

We always want the fast, easy, no nonsense way to achieve success. But to know spiritual success as a follower of Jesus Christ, there are some things that need to be part of your life on a regular, and yes even daily, basis. These are nonnegotiable. They are not optional, not for some and not for others. They are for everyone. They are the disciplines of the Christian life, and yes, they take, time and effort. Yet within the spiritual realm, they are the fast track to spiritual success.

 

 

SOW WHAT?

 

Mark 4:5-8

And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

 

Jesus goes on to explain the metaphors later in the chapter. The first seed is people who hear about Jesus and the devil snatches it away, and they never make a commitment to Christ. The second accept Christ, but it is a shallow, possibly emotional response. As soon as things get tough, they turn away, often saying things like, “Tried Christianity, but it doesn’t t work.”

 

The third is where so many believers are today… The Word grows in them, but gets choked out by life, pressures, the drive to succeed in a worldly way. How does this happen? It starts when Christians ignore the basics of the faith. They let their discipline go, and stop praying, stop reading the Word and stop attending church, or simply attend but never commit to anything.

 

The fourth seed is shown into good ground, and it is fruitful, yielding far in excess of what was shown, 30, 60 and 100 fold. Does it magically produce this? Nope, the Lord bestows the growth. And what is the main difference between the third and fourth seed? Effort, discipline, the pulling of weeds!

 

I’m not much of a gardener. I don’t invest enough time into my garden. I’ve grown some plants and some trees, but if I neglect my garden, I grow a whole stack of weeds without even trying!

 

And that’s the thing… if you do not get serious about your walk with the Lord and obtaining spiritual success, you will grow fruit by default, but it will mostly be weeds. Do you want to be fruitful or weedy in your life?

 

READ THE DIRECTIONS!

 

If you want to become a big fat zero for Christ, if you are happy and content with all of your life, if you can’t really be bothered stepping out in faith, just stay where you are. You’re welcome to fellowship here, come and sit and get what you want to get you through the next week.  Next year, more of the same. Year after that, same old same old.

 

But I believe most of you have higher aspirations than that. You want to grow and achieve spiritual success in your life, and you want God to use you in an amazing way to impact and change the world, right? If that is you, then it all starts here… it all starts with personal discipline, and God’s Word…

 

2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV Strong's)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

 

The Bible is God’s directions for life. Like any man, I have trouble reading directions. I usually try and fix something or assemble something, and if I run into difficulties, I finally read directions. But honestly, some directions these days are ridiculous… take these for example…

 

On packaging for an iron: Do not iron clothes while on body.

On Children's Cough Medicine: Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication.

On a child's Superman costume: Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.

On a bottle of laundry detergent: Remove clothing before distributing in washing machine.

On a muffin packet: Remove wrapper, open mouth, insert muffin, eat.

On a can of air freshener: For use by trained personnel only.

On a toilet cleaning brush: Do not use orally.

On a can of Spray paint: Do not spray in your face.

On a blowtorch: Not used for drying hair.

On a box of fireworks: Do not put in mouth.

On a Swedish chain saw: Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals.

In a microwave oven manual: Do not use for drying pets.

On a Japanese food processor: Not to be used for the other use.

 

The directions given by God are to be obeyed for maximum results. So how do you do this?

 

1.      GOD’S WORD IS TO BE STUDIED

 

Reading the Bible is fine, but God’s Word is not like some novel. It is God’s instruction manual for life, and if we are wise we will not just read but study it. You can do this anywhere, any time. You could join a connect group and study with others.

 

Ezra 7:10 (ESV Strong's)

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

 

The thing is, the Bible is not just a book, it’s life in the Spirit. This book is not passive, it is active. There are thousands of testimonies of people who opened a bible in their hour of need and God spoke to the, through it. And this same Scripture can speak to you if you listen…

 

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV Strong's)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

 

2.      GOD’S WORD IS TO BE CONSUMED DAILY

 

We all want the fast, easy track to spiritual greatness and success, so here it is… read the Bible every day! Wait a minute, that’s not so easy! Well, it’s a lot easier that spending years wasting your life, isn’t it?

 

Matthew 4:4 (ESV Strong's)

But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

 

Let me ask you, how often do you eat? Do you eat once a week? Once a month maybe? No, you eat every day, often several times a day. In the same way, nothing substitutes reading the Word of God every day. Nothing. If you want to be spiritually successful, this is the fast track! As you eat every day to live, so you need to eat of God’s Word daily to live and be successful spirituality.

 

That’s why God sent manna in Exodus 16 and it was to be consumed daily. Ever wonder why He did that? So that the people learned to live daily on the provision of the Lord. It wasn’t enough to save up old experiences, He wanted them to experience Him and His love every day.

 

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV Strong's)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

 

I was talking to someone in our church last week who told me that God is speaking every day to her from her daily readings. This really works folks, so if you’re not reading the Word every day, you are missing out!

 

 

3.      GOD’S WORD IS TO BE MEDITATED ON

 

Joshua 1:8 (ESV Strong's)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

 

Successful? God says you need to meditate, or think about His Word day and night to be successful. So we do not just read it and put it down, we think back on it every day. Our team that went to the Philippines often discussed what the daily bible passage was all day, and that’s meditating. Like a cow with multiple stomachs we regurgitate and chew over what we have eaten again and again.

 

Then what happens is that in many situations of life you face, the Word of God hidden in your heart pops out and is exactly what you need at the time.

 

Psalms 119:9-11 (ESV Strong's)

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

 

As you think about and even memorise the Word of God, you will be amazed at how often these verses spring to mind, just when you need it. Try it, I challenge you to try it. It really is true!

 

4.      GOD’S WORD IS TO BE OBEYED FOR SPIRITUAL SUCCESS

 

We do not read just to tick off a box on the Bible reading plan. We do not read out of interest or curiosity or to gain knowledge. We read to live, and to live God’s Word means obedience!

 

James 1:21-25 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

 

If you want to be a spiritual success, obedience is mandatory. As I said last week, why should God roll out His perfect plan for your life if you want even obey step 1?  So many Christians cry out for God to lead and guide them, yet when He reveals what they need to do, they don’t even obey!

 

If you’re not being obedient, don’t expect God to lead you, it’s that simple!  And if you’re not reading God Word, how can you expect Him to lead you anyway! When the Psalmist writes,

 

Psalms 119:105 (ESV Strong's)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

 

He is working on the assumption that you read the word and let it shine.

 

THREE WORDS FOR SPIRITUAL SUCCESS

 

Let me give you 3 words that will give you the spiritual success I hope you are craving… READ YOUR BIBLE

 

Psalms 19:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving (Gk: transforming) the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

 

If you are someone who is not really interested in changing or being transformed, then you probably aren’t interested in the Bible or in spiritual success. The Word of God is for people who have some sense of desperation about where they are in life. It is for people who don’t have the purpose in their lives they wish they had. It is for those who aren’t content to be controlled by their passions, who don’t want to be victims of circumstance, and who want their relationships with those they love to become even better.

 

The Bible is for people who want direction in life, who want to know how to live, and who want to go to heaven. It is for people who want to know God. The Bible is for people who don’t have all the answers and want something better. It’s for those who want to change the world around them for God.

 

SPIRITUAL SUCCESS REVOLVES AROUND READING GOD’S WORD

 

Honestly, if you say you’re serious about your relationship with God, if you say you’re serious about changing and about impact the world for Jesus, then daily Bible reading isn’t just desirable, it is mandatory!

 

That’s why I wrote the Bible Reading program. If you’re not reading the Bible daily, come and join us in this reading plan. It covers the whole Bible only reading 2 chapters a day, usually less than 7 Minutes. The plan has all of the highlights of the Bible without the less exciting bits, and if you follow it it will transform your life!

 

People complain that they have no time to read the Bible. Well, turn off TV, there’s a couple of hours, get off Facebook, there’s another hour or two, or ten! You make time for what is important, and if you show God that His Word is important, you will see results.

 

And if you’re really desperate… put the Bible on your phone and when you go to the toilet, sit and read. The Lord will not be turned off by the smell, trust me!

 

If you don’t read much, download the Gideon’s Bible app. It’s free, and you can do the entire ESV Bible as audio.

 

I use to have a computer with very limited hard drive space. When I tried to add a program, a little message would pop up saying, “No more memory available,” and before I could load the program I would have to remove some other program.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if, when the devil comes with his temptations to attack your life, a little sign appeared saying “Memory full. Heart and mind are filled to capacity with the things of God.”

That’s why I am so pumped about you reading God’s Word daily! Not because I’m sadistic, not because I want to clutter or control your life. I tell you this because I want to protect and empower you, and fill your hard drive with God things. As Philippians says,

 

Philippians 4:8 (ESV Strong's)

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely,

 

After all, the best defense is a good offense. So instead of being open and vulnerable to the attacks of the devil through our minds, let’s fill our minds with thoughts of God, thoughts of heaven, and meditation on His life-changing Word.

 

We need to commit ourselves to reading His Word, then patiently wait for the harvest that it surely will bring…

 

James 5:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

 

Christian, I’m sorry but there is no excuse for us.  Either we get serious about reading God’s Word, or explain to Him why we cannot be bothered. I love You, Lord, I desire You with all my heart, but don’t ask me to put any effort into the relationship.

 

Actually, try this excuse with your wife or husband and see what type of response you get.

 

Today’s challenge is this… will you commit to reading God’s Word every day for the next month?