The Courage For True Success

The Courage for True Success

Acts 14:19-20

Dr. Jim Denison

Dr. Bill Austin, the former Baylor chaplain, enjoyed telling this story on himself. Years earlier in his ministry, God led him from one pastorate to another. An elderly lady in the church he was leaving came to him with great sadness. “We’ll never find another pastor as good as you,” she said. “We’ll never find someone who can preach as well or lead as well.” “Oh, yes you will,” he assured her. “You’ll find a man who can preach much better than me, and lead much better than me, and be much better than I have been.” “Oh, no,” she shook her head, “that’s what they said the last time.”

It takes courage to follow God’s will. The message today is about the courage we must have to give sacrificially of our time, lives, and money to our Father. Now, how does this subject of courageous, sacrificial giving make you feel?

Before I became a pastor, whenever I learned that the sermon would be about giving I expected to be made to feel guilty or pressured. To be asked to do something I didn’t really want to do, because the pastor told me I should. I thought the goal was to raise as much money as possible.

My favorite cartoon about giving pictures two men walking out of the church in their underwear. The first says to the second, “That was the best sermon on giving I’ve ever heard.” Do you wonder if that’s my goal today?

Well, it’s not. There’s a much better way to understand this subject. A way to give courageously and sacrificially to God because we want to. Because we’re thrilled to. As life’s greatest privilege and honor.

We’ll find that way today, for our money, our lives, and our souls.

Why did Paul sacrifice?

For weeks we’ve been learning about true success from the Apostle Paul. Today we see the courage of such success, in a very dramatic way.

Paul and Barnabas are on what we call their “first missionary journey,” in the south-central part of modern-day Turkey. Here they established the churches to which Paul wrote Galatians. And here, in the town of Lystra, one of the most dramatic events in Scripture occurred.

In Lystra, God uses Paul to heal a man with crippled feet.

The pagans decide that Paul and Barnabas are gods in human form. The priest of Zeus brings bulls to sacrifice to them. Paul and Barnabas immediately begin to protest, and to preach to the gospel to the excited crowd (Acts 14:8-18). No preacher ever spoke to a more enthusiastic audience.

But fame is short lived, and people are fickle: “Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead” (v. 19). The crowd wanted to sacrifice to Paul. Then they sacrificed Paul.

Bruised, battered, bleeding, knocked unconscious, so beaten that his enemies thought him dead. What would we do? Call 911? File charges? Go back to these very people, to preach the very words which had gotten us stoned? This is probably not our first impulse.

But it was Paul’s. Here’s the point for our souls this morning: “…after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city” (v. 20). He sacrificed himself again, courageously, to preach to them the word of God. To obey the will of God. To serve God. He chose to do it. He wanted to do it.

And not just in Lystra: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Corinthians 11:24-29).

Did Paul want to make such courageous sacrifice to his Lord? “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying” (vs. 30-31).

Paul wanted to give himself so courageously, so sacrificially to his Lord. He counted such sacrifice a privilege: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8-9).

Paul knew the joy, the privilege of courageous sacrifice to God. He was not the first.

Noah spent a century building his ark and preaching to his neighbors. Abraham left his home to “go out not knowing” where God would lead him. Moses brought God’s people from slavery to the edge of their glorious future.David, who wanted to fight Goliath. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who chose to enter the fiery furnace rather than worship the king’s idol.

Peter chose to be crucified upside down rather than die in the same manner as did his Lord. So did James, beheaded by Herod; John, exiled to Patmos; Andrew, James the less, and Simon the Zealot, all crucified; Bartholomew, beaten to death; Jude, Matthew, Matthias, Philip, and Thomas, all martyred. Each could have refused to preach and save his life. Each chose courageous sacrifice.


The Family’s True Success

The Family’s True Success

Ephesians 6:1-4

Dr. Jim Denison

Anna Jarvis initiated the idea of Mother’s Day in 1905, to honor the memory of her deceased mother. Nine years later, President Woodrow Wilson made this day a national observance. By Ms. Jarvis’s death, 43 countries around the world had joined the observance. We typically use carnations, because they were Anna Jarvis’s mother’s favorite flower.

There’s something in the human condition that wants to honor our mothers.

We fathers recognize this fact, and kid about it. We know that more collect calls are placed on Father’s Day than any other day of the year. People say, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” but no one says that about fathers. When’s the last time you saw someone at a football game hold up a sign which said, “Hi Dad!?”

But we fathers are grateful for Mother’s Day. And we should be—more than we know. I have come to believe that Mother’s Day was God’s idea before it was Anna Jarvis’s, that this is not just a holiday but a holy day. That God intends to do crucial work with our souls today—work which can transform our families, our marriages, our community, and our nation.

This morning God will show us the gifts we are to give our mothers, and mothers their children. And we’ll learn why they are so important, so vital, so essential—long after the presents we give today are gone.

Gifts for every home

First, God’s word tells you what to give your mother. Cards, flowers, and candy are our most popular gifts. And consumers plan to spend 36% more on them this year than last year. But all our gifts will be gone in a week.

What gifts truly matter?

“Children”—this text is addressed to all of us who have parents, whatever our age or theirs. So long as you have a living parent, you must hear and heed this command. And after they are gone, you must do it to honor their memory and extend their legacy.

“Obey your parents”—”obey” means to hear their counsel and advice, and then do it. Its synonyms in the Greek include “follow,” “be subject to,” “surrender to.” The command is a picture of complete obedience.

Know that Paul’s words are in the continuous imperative tense, a command to be repeated constantly. “Keep on obeying your parents.” Whether you want to or not, whether you agree with them or not. Obedience is our first gift to our mothers.

Honor is the second. “Honor your father and mother” is a direct quote of the fifth commandment.

To “honor” means to love, respect, reverence. Find ways to make her know how important and valuable she is to you.

This is also in the continuous imperative: continually honor her. This, too, is God’s direct command to every child of a parent, no matter our age or theirs.

Now God’s word tells parents what to give our children: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (v. 4).

In Paul’s day, the responsibility for spiritual training rested exclusively with the father. The mother often was not literate or trained in Scripture. Today this responsibility is given to both fathers and mothers. And both must heed it carefully.

“Exasperate” means to discourage or provoke. Said positively, this command is, “Parents, encourage your children.” How? “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” How do we do this?

Model the Christian life for them. No child will think more of his Heavenly Father than he does of his earthly parents. We cannot lead our children farther than we are willing to travel. Show them Christ consistently by your words and actions. Be the same person when you talk on the phone as when you hang up; the same person in the car driving to church as you are at church. Show them Jesus.

Teach the Christian life to them. Tragically, gone is the day in most homes when parents pray with their children daily and teach God’s word to them. It’s never too late to begin. And it’s never been more urgent. Make time every day to pray together. Keep a prayer book so you can watch God answer your prayers. Spend time studying the Bible together every day. Worship God together with your faith family every week. You would not think of going a day without feeding your children physically. Take the same responsibility for feeding them spiritually.

Your church has your school age children 1% of their time, their school 16% of their time. You have them 83% of their time. And the first responsibility for their souls.

For most of us, keeping these commands is easy. We trust and love our mother. We appreciate her wisdom and reverence her. As parents, our children are willing to follow our leadership and appreciative of our spiritual guidance.

For some of us, however, these commands are hard. Mother’s Day is not an easy day for all of us. Some of you were abandoned by your mother, physically or emotionally. Some of you had very difficult family circumstances. Some of you are in hard environments this morning. Some of you are dealing with rebellious children today. How do you keep these commands?

For obedience to your parents, there is this crucial qualification: “obey your parents in the Lord.” Submit to your parents’ authority and wishes, unless they want you to disobey God. Unless you must violate his word or will to do so. Unless there is clear biblical teaching to the contrary, you and I are to do what our parents tell us to do.

For honoring your parents, there is this crucial fact: God’s word calls us to honor the position, even if we cannot honor the person. To respect our parents because they are our parents. This is a choice we make, not a gift they must earn. Even if we cannot honor something they have done, we can honor the position they hold in our lives.