Monday, December 26, 2005


One of the most redeeming values of the Christmas season is the reviewing of the past year and the thinking some people do about life's true meaning. For pastors who preach the annual Christmas sermons this is especailly a time of reflection about the year gone by and life's true meaning. For me it has always been a wonderful time of year for thinking about life as revealed in Jesus.

This year's Christmas sermon here in Brazil I entitled "Success or Failure?" That was the thought that was on my mind as i reviewed 2005 and thought about the birth of our Lord.

One's definition of success or failure is critical to one's ability to evaluate reality. We all have a definition of success in our minds and that definiiton is powerful. We use it not only to judge ourselves but we use it to judge others as well.
Having a flawed definition of success is no small error. It has huge implications for how we feel about our lives and what we do to correct what we see as failure in ourselves and in others.

One interesting thing about the Christmas story is the way the angels viewed Jesus' birth. They put a choir together and sang to God's success in Jesus' presence on earth among men. We would be wise to follow their lead. I believe angels have a pretty good grip by now on what success really is. After all, they have been around since before the beginning of human life on earth and have seen and heard a lot about success and failure.

Was Mary a success? Was Joseph? Was Jesus? After 2000 years we should be able to say they were successful or they were failures. It depends on our definition of success.

The definition God has given me for success over the years is this. Success is being what I was created to be and doing what I was created to do. I also call this "Taking love's next step". By that standard Mary, Joseph and Jesus were 100% successful that first Christmas. Day by day they simply took love's next step no matter where it led, who criticized or who tried to stop them.

That first Christmas everyone played their part in God's orchestrated plan for salvation and it worked perfectly. Interestingly, even Ceasar played the part of corrupt politician perfectly. God used his corrupt political goals to call for a census just when Jesus needed to be born in Bethlehem. Just like Judas would later in the redemption story play his part as traitor, so God has used even evil people to make His plan work successfully. By letting people be what they are and do what they do God works things out successfully. The next time you are about to oppose a Ceasar or a Judas keep the Christmas story in mind for maximum success.

We need to be very careful to check our definition of success and match it against God's definition of success. By the way that definition is forever set for humanity--Success is spelled JESUS. He was 100% what He was meant to be and he did 100% of what He was supposed to do. Now the standard is set for us--"it is enough that a disciple be as His Master." Matt.10

Be careful about letting the world or even religious leaders define success for you below the level of Jesus. We have a perfect example of success in Jesus and the farther we move from that standard the less success we will have.

I believe every Christian can live successfully. I believe every church community can live successfully. We can abide in Jesus and let His life be our life. When we do, we will bear the fruit of success. God guarantees it! Read John 15 for the details.

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