Monday, February 6, 2012

How Will Others View My Success?

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, January 29, 2012

            1 Samuel 18:1-16, “Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.  So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said:
“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.”
Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day forward.  And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.  Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.

Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

I want to be more successful, more prosperous this year – in 2012 – than I was last year.  4 Sundays ago, can you believe it, we are nearly one month into the new year?!  4 weeks ago I made the rather bold statement that I just rehearsed a moment ago.  I want this year, 2012, to be a more successful, prosperous year for me, for my family, and for the people of God than last year.  That’s quite a statement isn’t it?  That’s quite a challenge to all of us, isn’t it?  And what does it entail?  In what areas of our lives does God have the power and, I believe, the desire to prosper us, to make us more successful?  Materially, monetarily – we’ve looked at that right up front, didn’t we?

Then, there was what we called ministerial prosperity, success as servants of the King of kings and as stewards of what, in reality, belong ultimately to Him!  And, then magisterial prosperity, we talked about this last time, success and blessing from God, like He gave Joseph, like He gave Solomon, so that they might wisely and uprightly rule and lead.  I pray this for our government leaders.  Even more important than that, I pray this for our family leaders, husbands and fathers and our church leaders, those essential societal building blocks that make our nation strong and free. 

And, one more – I want to be, I hope and pray that you will be, and your spouses and children and families, will be more prosperous, more successful militarily.  Military!  The armor of God, do you remember what I’m talking about here?  To be successful militarily, to prosper when one attempts to stand against the wiles of the devil, to quench all his fiery darts, can we do it on our own?  One page after another in this Book records the answer to that question, doesn’t it?  No!  “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might!  Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand and with-stand in the evil day…”  That’s God’s formula for military success, isn’t it? 

I want to be more successful, more prosperous militarily, magisterially, ministerially, and even materially, this year, than last.  And, how is that going to happen?  What must I know, what must I do to pursue those lofty goals?  Two principles, two abiding spiritual principles that should guide our lives every day of this new year.  Remember what they are?  ‘God with us’ – in Genesis 39, we saw it repeatedly, didn’t we?  The first key to Joseph’s amazing success was not his skill, not his incredible intellect, not that he was more shrewd or had more savvy than everyone else!  No!  The key was the Emmanuel principle, those four simple, but powerful words, “God was with him!”. 

Joseph succeeded in all four of these areas of life, because God was with him.  No other explanation is given!  No other reason is the reason for his success!  But, did Joseph let all of that success go to his head?  There’s a temptation, a huge pot hole just a step or two down that road of prosperity, and what is it?  PRIDE – that’s right. PRIDE. 

The hand, the power of God to bless Joseph was mightily upon Joseph’s life, and he prospered, greatly.  But, did he forget God in the process?  No way!  What an example Joseph is of humility, of humbly abiding by that second, crucial ingredient of success, of real prosperity: he honored God.  Time and time again, when he could have taken the credit himself, “I did this,“ “I did that,” he turned the spotlight where it belonged!  ‘I know this, I can do this, I have received this, because of God!’  Joseph, successful as he was, lived by the ‘Honor God’ principle.  The magnify the Lord principle.  And, because he did, God not only blessed him, but also He used him to be a blessing, an instrument of God’s blessing upon the lives of many, many others.  That’s success, my friends, that’s success! 

As I have been studying this subject for these message, I have been amazed, an dyes, humbled and convicted by what God’s Word has to say about success.  Unlike the world’s definition of success: pursue it, achieve it, at any cost!  Break the rules, by-pass the boundaries, it doesn’t matter, just come out on top.  This Book says to me, that prosperity is stymied when I transgress God’s commands!  Further, Proverbs 28:13 teaches me that to try to hide my sins and transgressions, will prevent me from prospering and that only sincere, humble confession of sin, and intentional turning away from sin, will open me up to the blessings bound up in God’s covenant love for me. 

And, unlike the world’s ‘guidebook’ that makes us want to pursue prosperity on our own, in our own way, by our own strength and ingenuity, this Book, what does it say?  We read it at the outset: Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him!”  Real success, lasting success, you and I, ultimately, we’re not going find it on Wall Street, or Main Street, or even on your street or my street.  But, we will find it, and enjoy it on ‘Seek Ye First Street!’ 

Success, prosperity - one of the questions that I have been faced with as I have pursued this study the last few weeks has been this one burning question: “how do others view the Joseph’s, those folks who prosper by the hand of Almighty God?’

1 Samuel 18 – We read a portion of that chapter a moment ago, didn’t we?  I came across this passage again in my study of success and prosperity, and, of course, it captured my attention because I share the same name with the main character – David.  That always causes you to sit up and take notice, doesn’t it?  But, as I studied this text, I found some very interesting, and very, very helpful insights into the effects of one person’s success on another person or group of people.  Take a look with me, will you?

1 Samuel 18 – David, as I said, is the main character, the ‘hero’ we might say, at this point in the record of 1st Samuel, but next to him is another main character, the ‘villain’ in the story, King Saul.  And, what do we see here?  What are we to learn?  Well, notice with me first off, that King Saul has had a measure of success himself, right?  1 Samuel 18, the cheers of the women who came out to meet their returning warriors was, “Saul has slain his thousands!”  Saul, you have had a significant amount of success as a soldier and as a king leading your army into battle.  And, how did Saul get that way?  What was the key to his success on the battlefield?  Verse 12 of our text implies it, and the previous several chapters describe it in greater detail, as it was with Joseph over in Genesis 39 and following, so it was for King Saul – the Emmanuel Principle.  The mighty hand of God upon Saul’s life is what gave him that success as a soldier and as a king.  And everything was just fine for a good while, right?  Until what?  Until God began to test Saul, to see what he was really made of.  ‘Saul, I’m sending the Philistines against you.  Saul, I’m sending a 9-foot tall giant named Goliath to face you, to see whether or not you will trust me to win, to see whether or not you will honor me when I give you the victory! ‘ 

By the way, did you know that, from God’s perspective, none of us is ever really a success, unless and until we pass the tests He puts on us! 

How did Saul do?  How did he handle the tests?  Well, at first, because of the wise counsel of old Samuel, point him to God, reminding him not to get the Bighead, he did okay…  But, then he starts to fudge a little you know, I don’t have to obey God completely on this one, forget the details, I hit the high spots, but I won’t sweat obeying God down to the letter.  Bad idea.  Bad idea, Your Majesty.  3 or 4 times Saul does this kind of thing and, inch-by-inch, he’s walking further and further away from the One who enabled him defeat those thousands.  Until finally, Saul goes too far, and God removes His hand of blessing from Saul’s life, and places it upon a young man, a shepherd boy from Bethlehem named David. 

The ‘Emmanuel, God-with-us’ principle.  And, the ‘Honor God’ principle.  Do you remember how we learned that hose two success ‘keys’ go together? 

God says in 1 Samuel 17, Saul has walked away from me, so now I must test him with a 9-foot tall sized test.  A Philistine giant named Goliath.  I have withdrawn my hand of blessing from you, Saul, but I will give success and I will be honored, when I give the victory over that giant through, not a king, but a lad! 

You remember the story, don’t you?  Trusting in God, in Emmanuel, to be with him, and honoring God both before and after the victory, David gets the accolades that once went to King Saul.  1 Samuel 18:7, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his ten thousands!”  Good news to the ears of King Saul?  How do others view you when God places His hand on your life to bless you and prosper you?  Some people, the King Sauls in your world, eye you with suspicion, moved by jealousy and envy, they well up with anger, maybe even hostility.  Like the Jewish leaders toward Jesus, they’ll be afraid of you, and maybe even will try to pull the rug out from under you. 

But, don’t let them intimidate you.  Keep the Helmet of Salvation on, hold up that Shield of Faith, don’t unfasten the Belt of Truth!  Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!  Honor Him, make Him large and very near before the eyes of those who want to cut you down to size.  1 Samuel 18:10 – that’s what David did, he sang his songs of praise to God, while dodging Saul’s spear point! 

But, then, there are others who watch our lives, as God blesses us, as He prospers us, and how do they respond?  Not everyone acts like Saul did toward David!  In preparing the Israelites for a new leader, God prospered David and exalted him in the eyes of the people, over and above the esteem that King Saul had. 

1 Samuel 18:12-16, “Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.”

Some people will really love you and admire you when they see your success.  Maybe they recognize and acknowledge where that success comes from, but still they will hold you in high esteem.  What are you to do when that kind of thing happens?  Well, don’t do what David was tempted to do, don’t do, what even ole Joseph was tempted to do, remember?  When Joseph’s brother came down to Egypt and didn’t realize who he was. 

God was with David, God had His hand of blessing on Joseph’s life, both of them, in their prosperity had opportunities to use that success as ‘upper-hand leverage’ to get even with the ones who had done them wrong, King Saul, Joseph’s brothers.  But both of them, instead of using their positions of prominence and prosperity to hurt, what did they do?  They used them to help!  David spared Saul’s life – twice – David had the chance to put the spear point through Saul’s belly, but he didn’t!  Instead, he honored God, he overcame evil with good! 

When God grants success to your life, to my life, some people are going to hate us, and others are going to love us.  But, listen – like with the apostles in Acts chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5, all of those people, the lovers and the haters, all of them need to see us doing what we do, prospering as God causes us to prosper by faith!  They need to be able to see that we know, we realize that God is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him! 

Acts chapter 2 through 5, I mentioned this section of Scripture a moment ago, let me read from a brief portion of it as we close.  How do others view us when God places His hand of blessing upon our lives? 

Acts 5:11-20, “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.  And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.  Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”

When God blesses you, and I pray He will this year, when He causes you to prosper, some will hate you, envy you, try to pull the rug out from under you, and others will love you.  But listen, everyone who observes your God-given success needs to be touched by you, ministered to by you, for Jesus’ sake!

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