Monday, January 2, 2012

Success in the New Year

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, January 1, 2012

Genesis 39:1-23, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.  Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”  But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”  So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.  But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.”  So she kept his garment with her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with words like these, saying, “The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside.”  So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, “Your servant did to me after this manner,” that his anger was aroused. Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.

How many of you believe that, all in all, your life was successful during 2011?  How many of you would like to be more successful this year, in the New Year, 2012? 

Success, what we mean by success, and, how to go about measuring it and when we are successful, varies from person to person, doesn’t it?  Some would say that success has to do, like they say in the business world, with the ‘bottom line’.  Did we make a profit?  Did that profit level exceed previous years’ profit levels? 

Others would suggest that success is not so much a matter of profits, but product.  Is this year’s model or version of whatever we are manufacturing or producing better – improved – than last year’s? 

Still others, perhaps those in areas like education and social influence measure their success – or failure – with yet a different ‘bottom line’.  No, not profit, and not product, but progress.  And they ask themselves, at crucial junctures, questions like this, “How far have we come in society, how far have our students come, since this time last year?” 

Profit, product, progress.  As you can see, success, what it means, and, how to recognize if and when you have attained to it, vary, differ, from person to the next.  However, this Book, who’s Book is this?  This Book, how much about success does the One whose Book this is KNOW about success?  Though people’s definition and means of recognition of success DIFFER from person to person, listen.  This Book, and the all-wise, unchanging Person behind this Book, has one CONSTANT definition of success, one unvarying way of determining success, and that is with three simple words: “God – with – us!”  If it can be said, truly said, not just based on our fluctuating emotions or some passing whim, but based on what this Book says, that God is, was will be, with us, then – and only then – can it be said that we are a success, that what we have attempted to do or be was successful. 

Genesis 39 – A Powerful glimpse into the life of Joseph, a man who went – literally – from the pit to the pinnacle, what does the Scripture say of him?  Count them, repeatedly, the text says of Joseph, that “the Lord was with him…”  (Genesis 39:2, 3, 21, 23)  And, because the Lord was with him, what else does the passage relate to us about Joseph?  Verse 2, verse 3, verse 5, verse 21, verse 23 – The Scripture tells us that because the Lord was with Joseph, yes, even in places and circumstances like slavery and prison, because of those three simply words: God with him, Joseph was successful, Joseph prospered.  And, look at it, “the blessing of the Lord was on all” that pertained to his master Potiphar, and upon all who were connected to Joseph in jail. 

Success, I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a little more, maybe a lot more successful, this year, than last year?  I would.  I do. 

Every year, about this time, I get a year-end report from my bank.  And, in simply terms, that report over views for me, where my family was, financially, at the beginning of 2011, and, where we are now, twelve months later.  And, every year, maybe like you, I look at those figures and at the ‘bottom line’, and ask myself, “Are we any better off than we were twelve months ago?”  I mean, in economic times like we’re in today, who wouldn’t want to see at least a little more in the bank at year end than a year ago?  But, how?  And, have you ever asked this question of your life and finances?  Why?  Why do I want to be more successful financially?  What would be the goal, the purpose, the hoped-for outcome, of such success?  A newer car?  A bigger home?  The latest in gadgets?  How about more to give to the Lord’s work?  How about more to share with the poor?  How about more to send to missionaries?  How about more to use in assisting orphans and widows? 

You may not see it quite yet, but listen, those three words: God-with-us, alter, they affect, in amazing, can’t-calculate-it-or-display-it-on-a-spread-sheet, kind of ways, both the How? and the Why? of our pursuit of material and financial prosperity.  Let me show you how: Psalm 24, and then, Psalm 50, material prosperity, financial success, in this economy and in this New Year.  Is that for which you’re hoping? 

Where do you being in that quest?  Go to MONEY magazine, right?  Go to the Wall Street Journal, right?  Go to your broker, or your banker, or your investment adviser, right?  Psalm 24 – How many of those people, those supposed ‘experts’ will bring this perspective to the discussion?

Psalm 24:1-10, “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.
For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.  Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?  Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.  He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face.  Selah  Lift up your heads, O you gates!  And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!  And the King of glory shall come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O you gates!  Lift up, you everlasting doors!  And the King of glory shall come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory.  Selah

Psalm 24, material wealth and possession, what we call “ours”, our ‘stuff’, our ‘net worth’.  Whose is it, really?  And, why?  Psalm 24, verses one and two, it is the Lords!  Judy S----, G.C.’s wife shared with me a tremendous word of testimony the other night at the funeral home.  A word that is based, ultimately, on what David the psalmist teaches us here: she said, “As far as my dear husband is concerned, the Lord gave him to me, and now the Lord has taken him from me.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!”  What a testimony!  What a perspective!  An accurate, Biblical perspective that all of us should desire to have in this area of money!  My “stuff” is not really mine!  It’s the Lord’s, why?  Because He made it, and, because He made me.  And as Creator, my Creator, He owns me and owns what pertains to me!  That’s the first principle related to material prosperity and success that goes with the words, “God-with-us!” 

Then, look further with me here, would you, please?  Psalm 24:5 – Notice the reference to receiving “the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of salvation…”  Question: Who is the ‘he’?  Who is the person, or, perhaps, we should ask, ‘what kind of person is in line to be blessed by God materially and financially?  Psalm 24:3-4 – Have you spent some time examining your year-end bank statements?  What did you see?  Are the words, ‘God-with-me’ written anywhere on those reports?  If not, then what? 

Then it’s time to look in the mirror!  (The BIBLE)  It’s time to look in the mirror!  Psalm 24:3-6, read them with me one more time, will you?        

Psalm 24:3-6, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?  Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.  He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face.  Selah”

Material prosperity, financially successful, who wouldn’t want to be more that way this year, than last?  God-with-us, have you looked in the mirror?  Looked at your hands, and your heart, your soul and your speech?  How do they line up with God’s measurement of success? 

Genesis 39 – The life of this great man of faith, Joseph.  Repeatedly, the Scripture describes him as successful, and, as being the reason, the human reason, the flesh and blood instrument of God to bring success to the likes of Potiphar and the prison warden.  How did that happen?  God-with-us.  Joseph lifted up his life, and said, “King of Glory, won’t you come in, please?  Please, enter my life, O Lord of Hosts, every part of it, including the “stuff” I call mine, and do so, with Your strength, and with Your power!”  What are we talking about here?  God-with-us.  Three simple words.

Material prosperity, financial success in the New Year, the How’s?  And the Why’s?  What are we talking about here?  How is it, why is it, that Joseph was so successful? 

Psalm 50 – Take a look at that passage with me, will you, please?  Psalm 50 – pick up the reading of the text with me, in verse 7:

Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God!  I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are continually before Me.   I will not take a bull from your house, nor goats out of your folds.  For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine.  “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness.  Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?  Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.  Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”  Psalm 50:7 -15

Material success and prosperity, notice that, once again, the unchanging starting point on this issue is not profit, or product or progress, but what?  God owns it all!  That 4-wheeler, you got here on the ‘back’ of…  Whose is it?  Verse 10 – That 4-footed beast you’ll eat from in a little while, Who supplied it?  Verses 9, 10, 11 and 12. 

Material prosperity, financial success – how?  In this economy?  How?  Joseph shows us how.  The psalmist Asaph tells us know, God-with-us, the God-centered, not profit-centered, not product-centered, not even progress-centered, but the God-centered life! 

Notice how Asaph details that for us in verses 12, 13 and 14:

If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness.  Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?

It all belongs to God, my ‘stuff’ isn’t mine!  It’s His!  So, what?  So, “offer to God thanksgiving”, step one.  So, “pay your vows to the Most High,” step two.  So, “call upon ME in the day of trouble,” - we don’t have time to unpack all of what each one of those steps mean, but study them out.  You want to be more materially prosperous in 2012, there’s your assignment, study them out. 

God-with-us, offer to God thanksgiving [step one], pay your vows to the Most High [step two], and step three to attain to financial success, “call upon the LORD in the day of trouble…”  That’s the How?  The means, the method.  But what’s the goal?  What’s the purpose behind a God-centered-life?  Verse 15 – Here’s the answer to these Why? questions:

“Offer to God thanksgiving; pay your vows to the Most High, call upon the Lord in the day of trouble”, if we will do these things, IF, then what?  Then, God will deliver us, and we, as He grants success in His way, according to His means, and in His perfect timing, then, we will glorify Him!  We will do, we MUST do, what Joseph repeatedly did, as he moved from the pit – rejected and hated by his brothers – to Potiphar’s house as a slave, to prison – unjustly accused and condemned – and finally, to the pinnacle of authority in Egypt.  God-with-us – As God graciously grants us success, in His way and in His time, then we must do what Joseph repeatedly did, we must honor God!  We must turn the spotlight on Him! 

God-with-us – 3 words, 3 simple words that have everything to do with material and financial prosperity and success in the New Year.  The God-centered, not the profit-centered, not the product-centered, not even the progress-centered life, but the God-centered life, that’s real success!  That’s real prosperity! 

Solomon, wisest man who ever lived, perhaps the richest man ever also, summed it up like this: “Honor the Lord with your possessions [your stuff], and with the first-fruits of all your increase…  Then, your barns [your pantries] will be filled with plenty, and your presses will overflow with new wine…”  (Proverbs 3:9-10)

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