Friday, January 29, 2016

Habits


Many struggle with bad habits. Perhaps, as you prepared your New Year’s resolutions, you thought of a few habits you would like to get rid of this year. These habits or patterns can degrade our relationships with God and other people. These habits may sneak up on us. Sometimes we are oblivious to them. Zig Ziglar said, “All bad habits start slowly and gradually and before you know you have the habit, the habit has you.”

 

 

Habits can impact your career. Recently, Forbes published a list of fourteen bad work habits that could get you fired. The list included procrastination, lying, negativity, tardiness, poor email communication, social media addiction, bad body language habits, inattentiveness, poor grammar, lone wolf syndrome, temper tantrums, inefficiency, speaking without thinking, and lack of manners.[1]

Rick Myers, the founder and chief executive of Talent Zoo, a site for marketing, advertising, and digital professionals, agrees that bad habits can destroy one’s career—but he says the “most unfortunate part is that people rarely realize they have these habits.” “One of the best pieces of advice to give to someone who wants to advance in their company is to become more self-aware and be sure they are practicing habits that will be of value to the company,” he says.[2]



Habits can damage your family. Habits are not just dangerous for our jobs, they can hit close to home. In a British publication, The Independent, a law firm mentioned that a significant number of divorces were rooted in bad habits.  “[Thousands of ] marriages could be saved by changing behavior. . . . Reasons for divorce according to JMW Solicitors included viewing pornography, gambling, abusing alcohol, and too much shopping.”

Gianna Lisiecki-Cunane, a senior associate at JMW, said she was “surprised” to find how many divorces were linked to a “bad habit,” and said that the internet may have a part to play. “Access to the internet is so available that people can bet, watch [pornography] or shop in what they believe is relative secrecy compared to only a decade or so ago.[3]

The lawyer continued, “Even though that unreasonable behavior might have been the main factor for the break-up, it rarely emerges at the start of a divorce. Sometimes, that’s because a spouse is ashamed to say what their husband or wife might have [been involved in].”

So, habits or patterns can destroy our careers, families, and personal peace. What are habits? What can we do about them? Is this a problem for Christians or for those who are outside of the faith?

 

“Habits” are a thing done often and usually done easily; an act that is acquired and has become second nature. Habits that distract us from our relationship with God are called “sinful patterns” or “habitual sins.” These sin patterns are in an entirely different league from habits like biting your nails or failing to exercise.

 

Everybody sins.

 

1 John 1:10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

Often, that doesn't mean little things, if there really is any such thing. Well-meaning, frustrated Christians have secret sin habits that they are terrified their fellow church members might find out about. Perhaps it is sexual immorality or pride.

 

Whatever your sin habit is, it is holding you back from experiencing the joy you have available in Christ. As long as you want to pretend you are not really "that bad" and are afraid to confess your sin, nothing is going to change. You will never be free of temptation unless you listen to the Holy Spirit who is informing you that you have a problem.

 

Temptation is a part of being human, but overcoming it is possible as long as you are willing to trust in more than just your own willpower. The good news is that God can use your temptations to strengthen you, to build your faith and your testimony, and turn you into a new creation.

 

Steps to Saying “No” to Habits and Sin Patterns

 

1. Remember that a purposeful life is the basis for discipline and determination to make right decisions. Ask yourself, “What is my greatest passion?” The answer to the question should always be: GOD.

 

Matthew 6:33  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

Erwin Lutzer wrote a book a few years ago called Getting to No: How to Break a Stubborn Habit. If you are looking for next steps in breaking free from a sin or addiction in your life, read his book. Lutzer’s conclusion is that overcoming any stubborn, sinful habit is only possible by valuing God above everything else.

 

“God wants us to develop a passion for Him that is greater than our passion to sin.” Erwin Lutzer, Getting to No: How to Break a Stubborn Habit.

 

When we believe in Jesus Christ and decide to follow him, we are justified by God. When God looks at us, he sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ that was purchased for us on the cross. God has given us his grace by saving us from the eternal consequences of our sin by the blood of Jesus Christ. God has not only saved us from death and Hell, he has given us the ability to choose him over sin.

 

What God has done for us in Jesus supernaturally empowers us and motivates us to obey him. God has given us an eternal destiny of enjoying him in Heaven. He has provided us with purpose and joy in this life. God has granted us the power to choose to serve him instead of ourselves. Our response to God’s mercy and grace is a passion for loving and adoring him above all things; we love God more than our sinful habits. The trouble is that we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to develop a love for God by getting into his word and becoming passionate about him.

 

Sadly, these days many are being coerced indirectly into dangerous situations because they met somebody over the internet. Even thirteen-year-old girls can be lured to a location to meet someone they don’t know because they “fell in love” over messaging or email. Their early relationship with this stranger is only by reading. Both parties sit at the computer and read each other’s words, but after awhile, the words take on life because behind the word is a real, living person. Those words for a young girl grow into emotions and then turn into actions as she figures out how to sneak out to meet him. Those words take on life because the girl spent time in the presence of someone she could not see, evoking passion.

 

Let’s take this analogy and turn it into something positive. You can’t see the Living God. He’s a spirit, but He’s written to you and wants to have an eternal love affair with you. If you hang out with his words, the next thing you know you’ll be packing your bags to meet him. You’ll have fallen in love with him and having become transformed by abiding in his presence. Spend time with God in his word and watch your passion for him grow greater than your desire to sin![4]

 

You have another important truth to grasp before you can begin working on that stubborn habit. It is simple:

 

2. You must believe that deliverance is possible.

 

The Bible says that once we become a Christian, we are a new creation.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

Sometimes it is hard to believe that you can beat that habit.

 

When I was a small boy, my brother worked at a drug store in Jasper, Alabama. They sold toys and other gifts. He bought me an inflatable Spiderman punching bag. I would hit the bag from every angle, but no punch prevented it from popping right back in front of me. I kicked it; the bag came right back up off of the floor. I karate chopped it; the bag made a rebound. The only way to keep it from coming back up was to destroy it. The reason the punching bag would come back up is because at its base, there was a weight, and the weight forced whatever external pressure you put on it to bring it back up.

 

I know that feeling of punching and kicking at a habitual sin only to have it come right back up. However, believing, by God’s strength, your sin can be knocked down for good takes the weight out of the punching bag. When you trust God and believe that he can deal a crushing blow to your addiction, hang-up or issue, you will begin to see amazing progress in your life!

 

1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

 

God’s grace is greater than our sin. One songwriter put it this way:

 

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.

 

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!”

 

3. Perform radical spiritual surgery; it is more critical than physical surgery.

 

Jesus tells us that radical spiritual surgery is the answer for our temptations.

 

Matthew 18:7-9 Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

 

Anything that causes me to stumble or to lead another astray must be cut out of my life. In this context, Jesus is talking about how I am responsible for how my sins can cause pain to others. Jesus had strong words to say about how I must be cautious never to harm anyone, particularly a child. One of the most terrible things to do to a child is to teach that child to sin or be a bad influence on him or her.

 

Little children are open to God; to negatively influence an impressionable child into wrong behavior and habits is a serious transgression. When you lead a kid to harmful behavior, you have darkened two lives. Jesus said that you would be better off to be fastened to a large millstone, the millstone of a donkey, and tossed in the deepest ocean.

 

Your habits may be influential! It is not just about you! If there is something in your life that is damaging you or your loved ones spiritually, it must be removed. Just as a lethal infection cannot be left in the body, you cannot let this habit remain. If we let the disease remain, we risk a serious consequence.

 

The best course of action is radical surgery when seeking victory over a temptation. Contrary to what one early church leader thought, Jesus was speaking figuratively. Jesus used a literary device called hyperbole when he told us to “cut it off and throw it away.” The answer to our sin problem is to deal immediately and decisively with sin. Don’t taper off. Cut it off! The surgery needed is in the soul, mind, and will.

 

Cancer is one of the debilitating diseases of our day. You know what cancer is. Cells that don’t want to go with the program. They are deviant cells that have their own agenda. These cells hang out in you. They don’t want to go anywhere. They just want to be independent.

 

Cancer cells want blood, they want to eat, they want to grow. Not only do they want to grow, but they also want to spread and metastasize. So in other words, they want to siphon off the body. And ultimately, unless addressed radically, the whole body is in trouble.

 

Do you have a habit or unaddressed issue in you, your marriage, or family that is taking away the life-blood from your spiritual growth? Do you need radical surgery? You may think, “Oh, my problem is not as serious as cancer. I do not believe I need such extreme measures! It is not that big of a deal.”

 

You spiritual problem may not seem as serious as cancer, but if you leave it alone, the result will be the same. Your body is made up of systems: the nervous system, circulatory system, muscular system, lymphatic system, skeletal system, and immune systems. These systems are interdependent upon one another, and when one system goes down, the rest of your body is negatively impacted. You cannot ignore the problem!

 

What does that surgery look like? It is different for every person. What are your habits and inclinations? A temptation can be God’s magnifying glass; it shows us how much work He has left to do in our lives. If some issue, situation, or pattern is making certain temptations larger or harder to avoid thank God he has allowed you to see that you need work in that area of your life. Then, do whatever you can to remove whatever it is that is magnifying the temptation.

 

What is it that magnifies temptation?

·         Is it being alone?

·         Do you have little accountability when online?

·         Do certain events or places make you more tempted?

·         Is fatigue magnifying temptation?

·         Do you spend enough time with your spouse or family?

·         Do you need to get involved in using your gifts and talents?

·         Would you be better off cutting up your credit card?

·         Are you praying and reading the Bible when under attack?

·         What are you watching/reading/listening to?

 

Those things that tempt us are often rooted in our past. Often, we have not dealt with our past struggles honestly with God’s help.

 

You must deal with your past before you can experience freedom in the future. The sin that troubles you today sank its roots into your life yesterday. You can’t break your sinful habits until you have a new beginning in Jesus Christ.

 

Your emotions express how you feel, your mind says what you know, but your will decides which direction you will go. It is time to make a decision to trust God for strength to break that habit and stop the sin that is ruining your relationships.



[1]http://www3.forbes.com/leadership/14-bad-habits-that-can-cost-you-your-job/?kwp_0=85589&utm_campaign=Bad-Habits-Cost-Job&utm_source=FacebookTest1&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=3&kwp_4=449098&kwp_1=253181, (Retrieved on January 18, 2016).
 
[2]Ibid.
[3]http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/a6784066.html, (Retrieved on January 18, 2016).
[4]Tony Evans, Tony Evan’s Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 11.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Social Media


One of the greatest challenges we face in our spiritual journey is giving people in our lives the opportunity to get beyond our fa├žade and know who we are. We all want to be perceived as great or successful. In the last decade, social media has made this more difficult.

 

“There are 80 million photos posted in Instagram a day. Facebook has 1.49 billion active users per month. Twitter has 316 million active accounts; Tumblr 230 million. Pinterest has 47.66 million unique visitors from the US alone and is the fastest-growing independent site in history.”[1]

 

What we post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat may be evaluated to see if we are right or bad, rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, happy or sad, etc. Many are fudging on the facts and doctoring photos to look good on the stage of social media.

 

“‘You can literally airbrush your pictures online for free,’ Chloe Miller, 16, told NPR. ‘I know; I’ve done this. You upload your picture, and you can take out all your little pimples and stuff to make it look like your skin is perfect, your hair is perfect.’”[2]

 


 

The desire to be great, liked, or in charge of your image is not new. In Jesus’ ministry, James and John wanted to be esteemed and admired by others.

 

Mark 10:35-45 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

James and John had the audacity to ask for what the other ten disciples wanted secretly. They wanted to be SEEN at the right and left hand of Jesus. When you walk into the throne room of Jesus, they wanted the most visible VIP seats in the Kingdom. James and John, like the Roman rulers of their day, wanted to look and feel important.

 

Jesus clarified that the greatest in his Kingdom are the servants, the slaves of all. Those who give away their lives are the greatest. This runs counter to our society today where people long to be acknowledged, affirmed, and accepted. I find it provocative that Jesus Christ provides all of these things society desires. In Jesus, we find acceptance, peace, and joy.

 

Nevertheless, ordinary men, women, and children log-in to find acceptance and fulfillment from other people. Family, neighbors, former and current coworkers, friends, and others have become a group that we broadcast our worth to and we evaluate our worth by.

 

We post pictures of ourselves and our families hoping that they will like what we upload. We check-in at restaurants online to let people know what we’ve had for dinner. We cast judgment on people or situations, hoping others will see how morally superior we are. We like or share certain causes because we feel like that will help others see how compassionate or generous we are. We project an image of ourselves that says, “Look at me. I’m happy. I am doing very well. I am a good person.”

 

A few months ago, The New York Post published an article about some things that happened on Facebook titled “Our Double Lives: Dark Realities Behind 'Perfect' Online Profiles.[3] I was intrigued by some of the revelations from this article:

 

“Increasingly, most of us are living two lives: one online, one off. And studies show that this makes us more vulnerable to depression, loneliness, and low self-worth. In 2013, scientists at two German universities monitored 584 Facebook users and found one out of three would feel worse after checking what their friends were up to — especially if those friends had just posted vacation photos. Even smaller details had the same effect. ‘Overall,’ wrote the study’s authors, ‘shared content does not have to be ‘explicitly boastful’ for feelings of envy to emerge. In fact, a lonely user might envy numerous birthday wishes his more sociable peer receives on his Facebook wall. Equally, a friend’s change in the relationship status from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’ might cause emotional havoc for someone undergoing a breakup.’ A 2014 survey conducted by the Manhattan-based marketing agency Current found 61 percent of millennial moms were rattled by the pressures of social media.  ‘There is an anti-social media movement on the horizon,’ Current executive Amy Colton told Adweek. ‘Moms, especially young moms, are feeling pressured to present a perfect life . . . and starting to feel overwhelmed and annoyed.’”[4]

 


 

Mai-Ly Nguyen Steers, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Houston, has spearheaded a similar study. ‘The idea came to me when my little sister, who was 16, wasn’t invited to a school dance,’  Steers, 38, tells The Post. ‘She told me about logging on to Facebook the very next day and seeing all these pictures of her friends at the dance, and that actually made her feel worse than not being invited.’”[5]

 

The studies are demonstrating that even the most accomplished, high-achieving young people are feeling this pressure from social media. I was rattled when I read about a successful young person who looked great online but faded into depression. Madison’s story broke my heart:

 



“Madison Holleran, a beautiful Ivy League student, star athlete and all-around popular girl. Her Instagram account only underscored this image: parties, friends, track meets, her dad cheering her on. But Madison was keenly aware of the difference between her online life and her real one. She once corrected her mother, who told ESPN The Magazine that after looking at Madison’s photos, she turned to her daughter and said, ‘Madison, you look like you’re so happy at this party.’ ‘Mom,’ Madison said. ‘It’s just a picture.’ On Jan. 14, 2014, Madison posted a photo of trees strung with lights, bulbs glowing against the twilight. An hour later, she leaped to her death from the ninth floor of a parking garage.”[6]

Now, before you get the wrong idea, I am not necessarily asking you to log out of your Facebook and Instagram pages. I have a social media presence; the church has one too. However, I am asking you to think about the correct path to identity and greatness and not be distracted by social media.

Care more about what Jesus thinks about you than what your Facebook friends think.

Prefer to be silent, unknown or uninvolved than to be fake, boastful or—God forbid—mean to others online.

Over a year ago, I logged out of Facebook. God convicted me of it. I needed every minute I could gather to complete my degree. At times, social media was a distraction for me. I did find myself looking at my friends from high school and college and evaluating them. From time to time, I would read things that would bother me, and I let that ruin my attitude.

So I logged out. I found myself more focused and productive. I got back to some hobbies and things I had been missing. I found that after a week of logging out, I was happier. After almost fourteen months, I logged back into Facebook a few weeks ago to let my friends and family know that I’m still alive. I haven’t scrolled through the feed. I have decided that I am not going to do that for a while.

Jesus talked about a path to true greatness, and we are so caught up in presenting the right image, we have missed it. Greatness is not something that we can develop and present in an online profile or news feed. Greatness comes to those who are connected to Jesus Christ and serve him.

Mother Teresa said something that made an impression on me. I have this quote hanging in my office.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

Jesus said that to become great we are to become slaves of all. Slaves aren’t concerned about image. Slaves were the lowest class of servant in Jesus day. Not every servant was a slave, but every slave was a servant. Jesus came to us as a slave, not as a beautiful celebrity. He came to give his life; therefore, we should give our lives in service to him and others.

One of the jobs of a slave was to wash feet. They were to grab a towel and basin and meet a person at the door to scrub the dirt and garbage off of their feet. If you want to get the most likes or shares from Jesus, you have to get dirty. Let people see you with dirt under your nails. We have too many celebrities and not enough servants!

“The key to greatness is not in position or power, but in character. We get a throne by paying with our lives, not by praying with our lips. We must identify with Jesus Christ in his service and suffering, for even he could not reach the throne except by way of the cross.”[7] 

The more time we spend loving Jesus Christ and helping others, the happier we are.



[1]http://nypost.com/2015/10/11/our-double-lives-dark-realities-behind-perfect-online-profiles/, (Retrieved on January 11, 2016).
 
[2]Ibid.
[3]http://nypost.com/2015/10/11/our-double-lives-dark-realities-behind-perfect-online-profiles/, (Retrieved on January 11, 2016).
[4]Ibid.
 
[5]Ibid.
 
[6]Ibid.
[7]Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor Publishing, 2001), 75.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Success


As culture defines success, it is the achievement of status, reaching a goal, winning the prize, or gaining popularity. God has a different take on success. Success in God’s eyes is gaining eternal value and thinking beyond this life.

 

Achieving success can be a major distraction from our relationship with Jesus Christ. Being successful is a lot like making money. When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money was enough, he replied: "A little bit more." Success has the same impact. What is success? One more achievement or lease on life and I will be successful!

 

I love Rocky movies, all seven of them! In Rocky IV, Apollo Creed, Rocky’s closest friend, decides to come out of retirement to box Ivan Drago, a Russian opponent. In spite of all of the warning signs, Apollo wanted to feel success once again. In the story, Apollo dies in the ring with Rocky at his side.

 

This struggle for success is relevant for all of us. For kids success may be hanging out with the right group of friends or trying to get that girl to like them. Success may be wearing the right clothes, going to the right college, meeting the right guy or girl, or buying a house.

 

“No one likes to fail. It’s ingrained in our stories psyche, movies, and culture. We emphasize success so much that the church has adopted it as the 11th Commandment: ‘Thou Shalt Not Fail.’ . . . A fundamental flaw behind this notion is that God wants us to succeed in all that we pursue. Even worse, we believe that every chance to succeed is an opportunity from God. This is a lie that needs to be exposed.”[1]

 

Remember the story of the Tower of Babel? If you go back to the beginning, Genesis chapter 11, you will discover this intriguing story. This was the fourth significant event of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Flood, and then the Tower of Babel. Some archeologists believe that the ruins of the temple of Marduk in Babylon are the remnants of this failed fortress of pride.

 

This is a powerful story of how God created people to have a relationship with him, but people chose to serve their pride.

 

Genesis 11:1-4 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

 

“After the flood, all men spoke one language and settled in Shinar (11:1–2). Instead of using the ease of communication to govern the earth cooperatively for God’s glory, man rebelled and tried to exalt himself with a tall tower (vv. 3–4). As John Calvin writes, humanity gathered not to worship but ‘to excite war against God.’”[2]

 

The people at Babel wanted to build a fortress and make a name for themselves. Instead of trusting God to protect them and preserve their community, they took prosperity and success into their own hands. Many scholars believe that the tower structure called a ziggurat, the people built could have been for worshiping false gods.

 

“The ziggurat was a structure that was built to support the stairway simmiltu [staircase], which was believed to be used by the gods to travel from one realm to the other. It was solely for the convenience of the gods and was maintained in order to provide the deity with the amenities that would refresh him along the way (food, a place to lie and rest, etc.). The stairway led at the top to the gate of the gods, the entrance to the divine abode.”[3]

 

Nevertheless, God’s view of what the people at Babel could achieve was a tremendous complement to them. Together, God said, “Nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (v. 6). To keep things in perspective, what these people were able to do, as great as it must have been, was nothing to our awesome God! God decided to “come down” from the heavens to see this little tower that was supposed to reach up into the heavens.

 

I am amazed at what teams of people can do. In our own time, if the strengths of the world were united, humanity could achieve amazing things! People can join to do great things.

 


 

One example of great engineering success is in Dubai. “The Palm Jumeirah consists of a tree trunk, a crown with 16 fronds, and a surrounding crescent island that forms an 11 kilometer-long breakwater. The island itself is five kilometers by five kilometers. It adds 78 kilometers to the Dubai coastline. Residents began moving into Palm Jumeirah properties at the end of 2006, five years after land reclamation began. The Palm Island address is considered a status symbol in Dubai.”[4]

 


 

An ancient example of success is the Great Wall of China. The wall is 5,500 miles long and was constructed over a period of 2,000 years. The mortar used to bind the stones together was made from rice flower.

 

 


 

“Taipei 101 comprises 101 floors above ground, as well as five basement levels. It was not only the first building in the world to break the half-kilometer mark in height but also the world's tallest building from March 2004 to 10 March 2010. As of 28 July 2011, it is still the world's largest and highest-use green building.”[5]

 

Even so, as Matthew Henry said, “Those who aim at a great name commonly come off with a bad name.” God judged the Babel-builder’s arrogance. God scattered the human population and created the need for his people to cross cultural and language barriers to cooperate. These resourceful, intelligent, ambitious people tried for success and failed!

 

The Tower-Builder’s Ideas of Success

 

1. Build something: They decided to build a city. The people had a grandiose plan to achieve glory and fame by building this ultimate city. Their building plans failed.

 

2. Reach a goal: They worked to build a tower in the city that reaches to the heavens. Instead of reaching God by their own efforts, they became an example of the disappointment awaiting those who try to work their way to heaven.

 

3. Be famous: They attempted to make a name for themselves. The people achieved a name, but it was not a great name. The word “Babel” means confused. Babel is where we get the word “babble.”

 

4. Gather a large number: They aim not to be dispersed over the whole earth. These people were “numbers” people. They wanted to build a big crowd in which they could feel secure. God judged the Babel-builders, and the opposite happened. Babel destroyed unity and solidarity.

 

Babel is the beginning of the language divisions that exist today. The people who had originally had “one language”—literally translated “one lip”—were now not able to understand one another. Diversity is a beautiful thing. Diversity, especially in language, is also a hurdle for working together and understanding each other.

 

I was talking to someone recently who was looking at another job. The greatest obstacle to taking this new job was the requirement of learning another language. Language is a significant barrier!

 

A great division happened at Babel. People separated from God by the sin that entered the world at the Fall. Now, the people were divided from each other by language and the divisions that follow. Most international missionaries have to go to language school to reach people with the Gospel.

 

The builders wanted to achieve success, security and significance in themselves instead of God. What is your “Tower of Babel?”

 

When we focus on success, we are seeking security and prosperity from the wrong source. If we belong to Jesus Christ, we already have those things in him. If we look for success in ourselves, we will be disappointed.

 

James 4:13-14 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

 

Paul David Tripp said to ministers and pastors, “When you forget the Gospel, you begin to seek from the situations, locations, and relationships of ministry what you already have been given in Christ. You begin to look to ministry for identity, security, hope, well-being, meaning, and purpose. These things are already yours in Christ.”[6] This principle applies to each of us, regardless of our occupation.

 

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

 

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

“Consider this hypothetical analogy. There’s a certain young professional basketball player who desires to be the greatest of all time. He has just as much raw talent as NBA all-stars Michael Jordan, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant. Once drafted, he signs a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. Then he must choose for himself how he’ll become victorious on game day. He must decide for himself to put in the work to become the greatest of all time. . . . Every day he shows up to the gym early. When practice is over, he stays late. He develops an appetite for winning. He develops a hatred for losing. He never does this to earn a place on the team, because he’s already on the team! He doesn’t do this to earn more money, because he’s already guaranteed a salary. . . . We already have everything it has to be victorious. We have Jesus Christ cheering us on, advocating for us at ‘the right hand of God’ (Romans 8:34), and we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. When we became reconciled to God, our identity as God’s children was set in stone. . . . We don’t work to mature spiritually so we can become His child; we’re already ‘on his team.’” We work hard to learn about and follow God’s Word because, as Christians, we’re called to reflect God to the world. It’s what he created us to do.”[7]

 

What does it mean to succeed for a follower of Jesus? I love what Kent and Barbara Hughes decided success looked like for them in their difficult journey of pastoring a small church. Out of the pain of their experiences and struggles, they wrote a book together titled Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.[8]

 

According to Kent and Barbara Hughes, Success is:

1. To be faithful (obedient to God’s Word and hardworking)

2. To serve God and others

3. To love God

4. To believe he is (to believe what we believe)

5. To pray

6. To pursue holiness

7. To develop a positive attitude

 

Proverbs 16:3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

 

On the night when the Hughes embraced that as the basis for their success instead of bigger, better, and more, it was one of the greatest moments in their lives.

 

We must remember that the obligation we have is to Jesus Christ, not ourselves. We belong to God. We achieve for him. We win for him. We bring glory to him.




 



[1]Tim Chaddick, Truth and Lies, (Nashville, TN: Lifeway, 2015), 53.
[2]http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/tower-babel/,  (Retrieved on January 5, 2015).
 
[3]http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/05/Is-there-Archaeological-Evidence-for-the-Tower-of-Babel.aspx, (Retrieved on January 5, 2015).
 
[4]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Islands, (Retrieved on January 5, 2016).
 
[5]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taipei_101, (Retrieved on January 5, 2016).
[6]Paul David Trip, Dangerous Calling, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).
 
[7]Chaddick, 101-102.
 
[8]Kent and Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1987), 106-107.