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Summary: How do you know if you or your church is successful?

THEME: How do you know if you or your church is successful? When what you have done reflects: Godly vision, Faith, Hardwork and determination, and when it points beyond your needs to the needs of others.

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"A preacher and soap maker went for a walk together. The soap maker while he enjoyed the company of the preacher did not think to highly of religion: "Jesus was a failure. Just look around you, what do you see? Trouble, misery, wars - even after all these years and years of preaching and teaching about Jesus, goodness, truth, and peace. What good is religion with all its prayers and sermons if all this evil still exists?

The preacher didn’t respond but reflected quietly as they continued their walk. Then he noticed a child playing in the gutter. The child was just filthy with dirt and mud all over. The preacher stopped and said to the soap maker: "Look at this child! Soap has been around for over 3000 years. You say that soap makes people clean, but what good is it? With all the soap in the world this child is still dirty. Soap is a failure."

The soap maker laughed and replied: "The success of soap isn’t dependent upon whether everybody is clean or not. I’m a rich man because of soap; but, soap can’t do its job if it isn’t used!" "That’s exactly right,’’ said the preacher. And so it is with religion. It will not accomplish anything unless people use it!" (Contributed by: Tim Zingale)

People want to be successful, whether it is in wining friends, making money, getting a promotion, playing a game or losing weight. We measure our worth on the basis of how successful we are perceived to be. By the world’s standard it means luxury, wealth, possessions, notoriety, fame, beauty, and achievements. Yet if we measure our lives by the world’s standards we have an inaccurate and incomplete view of whether or not we are truly a success.

God’s standard of measurement is nothing like the world’s. Look at Abraham he left wealth and comfort of Ur behind to become a nomad in the desert. Moses gives up Pharoah’s palace to become a shepherd and suffer with God’s people for 40 years in the wilderness. Nehemiah gave up a well paying job as a highly respected government official to build a wall around a ruin; Jeremiah was imprisoned at the bottom of a stinking mud hole. John the Baptist wore wiry camel hair, ate locust and looked like a mad man. The apostles were mere fishermen who gave up their day jobs to travel around the countryside on foot. And there is Jesus an out of work carpenter who died a shameful death on a cursed cross.

Success, what is it; and how do we know if we have achieved it as a church or even as an individual? In today’s text Gamaliel (guh may le al), a Pharisees, tells the Sandhedrin not to worry about the apostles. He reminds them to two others previous revolutionaries, Theudas and Judas the Galilean who had a following but upon their death their followers scattered to be heard of no more. He implies that this too will be what will happen to the apostles unless by some slim chance they happens to be from God and then of course you couldn’t stop it even if you tried. Even the Pharisees and Sadducess believed You can’t Stop God.

Gamaliel, though, never really believed the apostles and Jesus were from God. He believed that if they were Jesus never would have died on the cross that instead Jesus would have prospered. And I am talking about materially. To the Pharisees and Sadducuess success, godly success, was measured by wealth and power. There are people today who still believe that. They preach and live a prosperity gospel. If you will just follow God and do what God tells you to do he will bless you monetarily. It is sad to see how they have twisted the gospel to fit the desires of the world but there is nothing further from the truth. It that were the truth then Jesus is far as possible from doing the work of God because he died a criminal’s death. That is not to say if you are financially affluent that you can’t be from God or doing God’s work. We each have different talents, some have the talent of money and stewardship. But success, success in God’s kingdom isn’t about how much money, you have, or how much power you have accumulated. It isn’t about whether you are a manager, a ceo or a mill worker. Success for the Christian is based in God’s word not the world’s desires and selfish lust.

It is in the life of the apostles that we see and understand what real success is. Despite being in jail, being despised, threatened, poorly educated, despite the fact that they didn’t always get their spiritual life right – I mean, they deserted Jesus at the cross – this motley crew was a success. Their success was first and foremost rooted in the Godly Vision. Everything they did was based on what they believed was God’s desire. Before Jesus ascended into heaven he told them, “Go into all the world (can you finish the statement) and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Mat 28:19-20

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