Today we continue to take a deep dive into Proverbs.  That simply means we are pulling out the bigger topics of Proverbs and taking the time to talk about them.  Last week Sam pulled out a huge theme that is all through Proverbs.  What is it?  The battle between humility and pride.  I don’t know what you took from his message but it was very helpful and very clear.  He shared a quote with us that really helped us understand this battle.

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” St. Augustine

Humility puts God at the center of the world and pride puts us at the center of the world.  That’s why Solomon is so clear about this battle.  Here are the verses Sam gave us.

Fear-of-God is a school in skilled living — first you learn humility, then you experience glory. MSG Proverbs 15:33

Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall. GNT Proverbs 16:18

It was a great talk that explained what it means to be Godly.  What it means to put God at the center of your life.

This week is about a Godly person’s plans, goals, and desires.  The question we wrestle with is, if we are supposed to be humble, how do we live in this world that is driven by pride?  This topic can be very confusing.  In the Church world, there is a lot of confusion about what success is.

Let’s look at Proverbs 16.

1 We may make our plans, but God has the last word. 2 You may think everything you do is right, but the Lord judges your motives. 3 Ask the Lord to bless your plans, and you will be successful in carrying them out. 4 Everything the Lord has made has its destiny; and the destiny of the wicked is destruction.

5 The Lord hates everyone who is arrogant; he will never let them escape punishment. 6 Be loyal and faithful, and God will forgive your sin. Obey the Lord and nothing evil will happen to you. 7 When you please the Lord, you can make your enemies into friends.

8 It is better to have a little, honestly earned, than to have a large income, dishonestly gained. 9 You may make your plans, but God directs your actions. GWT Proverbs 16:1-9

In the Church world, there can be a misunderstanding about success.  Let me explain.  Success in our world is defined as wealth, health, happiness, and comfort.  Success in our world is simply bigger is always better.  Bigger fame, bigger profits, bigger influence, a bigger house, bigger, nicer, newer everything, more, more, and more.

If you think about it, success in this world is putting yourself in the center of the world and getting others to serve you.  It’s called pride.

Success in scripture is the opposite of success in our world.  Proverbs says, that whatever you plan, God will ultimately decide what happens.  We hear from Jesus and He tells us we must surrender our lives to follow Him.  Moments before Jesus is about to die on the cross, Jesus prays to His Father, ‘Not my will, but Your will.’  Jesus then surrenders His life and allows Himself to be crucified.  According to Proverbs, according to Jesus, success is surrender.

If you think about it, success in scripture is putting God at the center of the world and serving Him.  It’s called humility.

To make matters worse, you can find pastors who preach about success the way the world defines it.  They write books about the seven tips to success.  They smile a lot, they have straight teeth, they tell you what you want to hear, and they seem to be very positive.  They make you believe, if you give your life to God, God, like a genie, will bless you with the American dream of wealth, health, happiness, and comfort.

You can also find pastors who preach about success the way Scripture defines it.  They talk about surrender, being with God, and how to walk with God in a personal relationship.  They talk about dying to yourself and living as Jesus lived.  They talk about the power of the Holy Spirit in you.

Again, the messages are opposite and can be confusing and they can be taught in the Church.  One quick note, I want you to think about this, in general, which of the churches are larger?  Every church that preaches success as the world defines it, in general, not all the time, is larger.  That’s why scripture says this.

3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. NIV 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Do you see it?  …they will gather around them in great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear… Just to be clear, I said in general.  You can have a large church that talks about success the way Scripture defines it.

So, what do we do?  How do we live?  Do we make plans?  Is success wrong?  It’s confusing.  That’s what Proverbs 16 is about.

Let’s start with this question.  What does it mean to be a Christian?  The short answer is, being connected with Jesus daily through prayer and reading scripture.  To be a little more detailed, it means I have surrendered my life, my selfish desires, to Jesus and I make intentional choices to read and apply scripture in every area of my life.  And what I read in scripture; like love, forgiveness, and purity are uncompromising principles to live by.

An example of this would be Daniel who prayed every day regardless of the consequences of being thrown into the lion’s den.  Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego stand before the most powerful man in the world and announce, ‘We will not bend our knee to you even if it means death.’  Paul in Colossians tells us, as Christians you intentionally put off things that are sinful and make choices to put Godly things into your life.  A modern-day example would be you and I loving our enemies, forgiving those who hurt us, and living in purity.  It’s what it means to be labeled a Christian.

As a disciple of Jesus, if I am walking with Jesus and surrendering my selfish desires to Jesus, what is success?  How do I know I am doing okay?  Let me give you three answers to help answer that.

Answer 1: Success begins when you take small steps to change.  Steps to get out of the lazy ruts and routines of your life.  Steps like praying and reading scripture each day.  Steps like overcoming temptation.  Steps like struggling with sin, struggling with negative thoughts and emotions, and taking them to Jesus for help.  Steps like taking ownership of the words you say to people and making sure you use your words to bring life to those around you.  Those steps mean, you are succeeding in learning what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Answer 2: Success is when you understand love is the point of Christianity.  Real success is when you experience God’s love which enables you to love others well.  A quick definition of what it means to love others would be showing others how valuable they are.  The point of Christianity isn’t how well you follow the rules.  It’s not how much information to have in your brain.  It’s not having all the answers.  It’s not how committed you are or how many years you have attended church.  The point of Christianity is love.  If you love others well, you are succeeding as a disciple of Jesus.

Answer 3: Success is when you realize earth isn’t your home, heaven is.  Our time on earth is just a temporary, like a 90-year, layover.  Have you ever had a layover?  You fly to Chicago and have to wait a couple of hours till your next flight?  That time in the airport is like our time on earth.  It’s temporary, it’s not our home.  It’s when you see the big picture of life and eternity and understand why you are here on earth.  What’s the point?  God is on a mission to redeem people and God invites you to be a part of that mission.

If you think earth is your home and there is nothing after death, you will live for yourself.  However, when you realize that you will live into eternity, you begin to realize there is something much bigger going on here on earth.  When you realize your family, your friends, and those you work with will live into eternity either in heaven or hell, it changes things.  Then you give your life to the advancement of the kingdom of God in your spiritual family, your church.  That simply means, you love God, love others, love growing, love serving, and love giving.  That is the way you live in our 90-year layover.  That is what is called being a good steward, someone who joins God in what He is doing.  That’s success.

Let’s stop and think about this.  You and I live in a world where life is about you.  Jesus comes and interrupts that.  Jesus introduces God’s kingdom and it is 100% opposed to our world and the way we live.  Jesus explains success as surrender.  It’s about making changes in our lives to honor Him.  It’s about loving others well.  It’s about joining Him in His mission.  This means the way we live as Christians will be in complete conflict with our world.

This is why scripture says this.

Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. MSG Romans 12:2

Here is what you will discover.  Living in this world is a battle.  This is nothing new.  Christians living in this world that opposes them is what the Bible is all about.  It’s story after story of imperfect people whom God worked through to accomplish His purposes and the challenges they faced.  Think about it, what happened to many of the Old Testament prophets telling people to put God first?  They were ignored, laughed at, and then killed.  What happened when Jesus came to tell people about God’s love for them?  He was killed.  What happened to most of the disciples who told people about Jesus?  They were killed.  Your experience in this world will feel like a battle, a war.  We call it spiritual warfare.  Scripture explains what is happening.

12 We are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. 13 So put on God’s armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy’s attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground. GWT Ephesians 6:12-13

If you feel like your life is a battle, I would say, ‘Right – that’s why scripture says, you are in a battle with the demonic forces.’  If you feel like something demonic has been released in our culture in the last few years that has flipped our culture upside down, I would say, ‘Right – that’s why scripture says, you are in a battle with the demonic forces.’  If you feel like our nation has radically changed in a few small years into sexual perversity, I would say, ‘Right – that’s what scripture says, you are in a battle with the demonic forces.’  You are living in the middle of a war.  The world and God’s kingdom are clashing against each other.

How do we live in this battle?

Your #1 goal as a disciple of Jesus is being connected to and relaxing in a relationship with Jesus.  This is our first and greatest goal in life.  And this will never automatically happen.  We will need to make choices to surrender our lives and grow up into whom Jesus wants us to be.

Jesus said this.

In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. MSG Matthew 5:48

That means being lazy or comfortable and living in our ruts and routines isn’t an option.  If we are lazy about this, if we don’t intentionally make choices to connect and relax in Jesus, we won’t experience everything God has for us.  In fact, we may become spiritual victims.  That means Jesus paid the price for us to have freedom, healing, and courage but because we are lazy, we don’t enjoy what Jesus did for us.  We then become spiritual victims.  We are offered freedom, healing, and courage but by our choices, we stay miserable.

Here are a few questions to see how we are at connecting with and relaxing in Jesus.

  1. Do I enjoy a relationship with Jesus even in the midst of disappointments and storms?

  2. Do I experience less and less anxiety and fear in my body?

  3. Do I decide to NOT do for others what they can and should do for themselves?

  4. Do I maintain my rhythms of being with Jesus under the great pressure of life, family, and work?

  5. Am I less and less triggered by things going awry?

  6. Am I able to enjoy life, stay in the moment, and enjoy those around me?

  7. Am I able to understand, if I want God’s will, I have nothing to gain or nothing to lose in this world?

  8. Am I able to enjoy caring and building up the people God has entrusted to me in my family and my spiritual family?

  9. Am I able to surrender to my limits in life rather than fighting, ignoring, or denying them?

  10. Am I able to understand the season in which God has placed me?

  11. Am I able to allow life to unfold in my life, accept it and trust that God is orchestrating all things for my good, His glory, and the good of the world? – From the book Emotionally Healthy Discipleship.

Our #2 Goal as a disciple of Jesus.  Live like you matter.  God is in you and wants to make a difference through you.  The worst thing you could do is check out, fill your calendar with ‘me’ days, and ignore your spiritual family and the people around you.  You are the primary way God wants to work in the lives of those around you.  Jesus explained this.

13 Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

14-16 Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. MSG Matthew 5:13-16

Now think about this.  If you are light, what is pushing against you?  Darkness.  As you live like you matter, you will be opposed.  We call this spiritual warfare.  Remember you are fighting against,

“wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.”

10 signs of a spiritual attack against you.

  1. Feel discouraged, defeated, and depressed – a lot.

  2. Doubting every good thing God has done for you [salvation, Holy Spirit, heaven].

  3. Confusion about what you believe even if it’s in scripture.

  4. Battling feelings of guilt, condemnation, and shame that make you feel God doesn’t want to hear from you.

  5. Loss of spiritual desire to be with God or build His kingdom at Church.

  6. Battling feelings of rejection, belonging, and loneliness that become more intense.

  7. Old wounds and sin seem to cloud your mind.

  8. Constantly feeling tired, unable to think, and exhausted making you want to quit responsibilities.

  9. The feeling like staying a victim is better than finding healing and freedom.

  10. The belief that our human appetites [alcohol, lust, anger, etc.] is who we are, our truth, and we accept them.

When you live like you matter, you will be opposed.  So why bother?  Why not check out?  Because your life and the life of those around you depend on God working through you.  You can check out but you will be destroyed.  Or you can engage and join God in what He is doing.

The second and greatest goal is to live like you matter.  Live on purpose.  Live to help encourage, protect, and love others.  And that always starts at home.  God gave you a part of who He is, the Holy Spirit, to do that.  He didn’t give you the Holy Spirit to run home, shut the door, and live in fear.  Please hear me.  You are God’s number one way to impact those around you.

Godly goals recap.  Goal #1: Connect with and relax in a relationship with Jesus.  Goal #2: Live like you matter and understand you will be opposed.

Goal #3: Be an unapologetic success in this world.  That simply means, be really good at what you do in this world.  Being a Christian doesn’t mean you stick your head in the mud and ignore this world.  It doesn’t mean you are a monk in a monastery.  It doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be sloppy or lazy at work.  That doesn’t mean the poorer you are the holier you are.  Being a Christian means you grow and become the best you can at what you do.  In your home and in this world.

17 You call out to God for help and he helps – he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living. Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. 18 It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. MSG 1 Peter 1:17-19

Should you work and work hard?  Yes.   Can I have a goal to be the best salesperson in my company?  If you can, yes.  Can you start a business and make it really profitable?  If you can, yes.  Can I be the best teacher in my school district?  If you can, yes.  Can I make a lot of money?  If you can, yes.  Can I go after success and awards?

Godly goals recap.  Goal #1: Connect and relax in a relationship with Jesus.  Goal #2: Live like you matter and understand you will be opposed.  Goal #3: Be an unapologetic success in this world.  Those are your Godly goals.  Now let’s remember what we read in Proverbs.

1 We may make our plans, but God has the last word…. 9 You may make your plans, but God directs your actions. GWT Proverbs 16:1, 9

As you pursue your Godly goals, God may allow life to interrupt you.  For Daniel, it was the loins den.  For Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego, it was the fiery furnace.  For John the Baptist, it was an execution.  For Peter it was crucifixion.  For Mother Teressa, it was serving in India in poverty.  For Billy Graham, it was being a friend with several U.S. Presidents.  Things may not work out the way you want.  A pandemic.  A miscarriage.  A sickness.  A loved one passing away.  A business failure.  A relationship failure.  Being fired.  On and on.  And God will be right there to walk with you.  That’s when our trust in God becomes real.

So here is what you do.

Connect and relax in a relationship with Jesus.  Live like you matter and we aren’t naive, we know we will be opposed.  And unapologetically be very good at what you do.  And if anything stops us, we trust that God is orchestrating all things for my good, His glory, and the good of the world.