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Will You Be Successful?

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It’s hard to believe another year has passed! Do you remember all the things you said you were going to do and the changes you were going to make in 2006? Were you successful?

I saw a list of the most popular New Year’s resolutions and wasn’t surprised by most of what I read. Each year people resolve to quit drinking, smoking or overeating. Others have said they would exercise regularly, get out of debt or get organized. Additional admirable goals on the list were to spend more time with loved ones and to help others.

It’s no surprise that a large percentage of determined human beings are never successful in the areas in which they endeavor to change. Why is it that we can see a preferred future or condition, know that life will be better once we achieve it and yet not take the steps necessary to make it happen?

Could it be that we focus too much time and attention on trying to make the wrong changes? Are we dreading the work necessary to achieve the desired outcome and choosing to resist the change instead? Are we more concerned with external changes than spiritual transformation? Are we trying to appear successful rather than being faithful to Jesus Christ and letting Him transform our lives?

In his recent book, Practicing Greatness: Seven Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders, Reggie McNeal states, “The single most important piece of information a leader possesses is self-awareness.” It is important to know who we are, understand our motives, recognize what upsets us, perceive how we come across to others and learn how to maintain ourselves emotionally, physically and spiritually.

We typically are out of touch with why we do the things we do. We cannot understand ourselves or govern ourselves without the insight and power given by the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Paul said that even when he desired to do the right thing, the evil within him struggled to manifest its ungodly behavior (Rom. 7:14–20). I know what it’s like to inwardly “give up” on making the changes that really matter. Every positive change seems to take more time and effort than we intended to invest, and many will choose the path of least resistance, which happens to be the “road most traveled”!

After contemplating the majesty of the Creator and the power of His Word, the psalmist acknowledged that there is reward in obeying the commands (Ps. 19:11). In the next verses, he asked the question and uttered the prayer, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” As we grow in Christ, we realize how easy it is to self-destruct when left to our own devices.

My wife and I have always ministered in densely populated areas featuring all the ills of sinners in overcrowded conditions. Lifestyle choices repeated throughout generations have contributed to poverty, addictions and broken homes. When these dear souls come into the fellowship of the church, they join a spiritual family where many are successful in business, have stable families and never seem to struggle with the same sins which so easily beset the new believers. The newcomers’ heart’s cry is to experience similar victories and successes. However, all they have known up to this point is cyclical failure, and they struggle to believe that they can sustain behavioral changes. As Christians, we are charged to lock arms with them and help them walk in the victory that Jesus provides. For many of us, that process starts with a change of our own attitudes toward those who are less fortunate than us.

For those who serve in communities where incomes are low and hope is lower, remember that God has placed you there to be a change agent. Don’t measure the success of your ministry efforts by the attendance reports of others. The Lord wants healthy believers, and growth will happen as our spiritual health improves. Are you being faithful to everything God has called you to? Are you praying for and winning souls to Christ? Are you making disciples of those who do attend your church? Are you intent on developing a worshiping community or seeking a large spectator audience for your weekly performance?

A new year will bring new challenges. As we yield to the Holy Spirit, we will find that the Lord will prepare us for the everything He has set before us (Matt. 20:23). There are a lot of people who seem to put the same resolutions on their list every year, and nothing ever really changes. How about simply allowing Jesus Christ to have His way with you, your ministry and your role in the C&MA? “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).

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