PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
Today’s society places much emphasis on success. There are seminars, talk shows, infomercials, advertisements, and magazines that appeal to the principle of achievement. Awhile back, I glanced across my office and looked at my bookshelves. I noticed how the Success Principle had influenced me. There were books entitled, The Power of Positive Thinking, It’s Possible, The Magic of Thinking Big, Seeds of Greatness, The Positive Principle Today, The One-Minute Manager, Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, and How to Succeed in the Christian Life.
Yes, the ministry is success-oriented too! Nothing is wrong with being success-oriented as long as your motives are pure and you seek to glorify God. There’s nothing in the Bible suggesting that Christians should live defeated, penurious lives. God sent Christ into the world as our Example and it was He who said “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Yes, life has obstacles, difficulties, and misfortune but ultimately a Spirit-filled, Word-filled, faith-filled Christian will go from “victory unto victory”!
Paul assured Christians of success when said “we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).
The Book of Revelation calls Believers “overcomers” (21:7).
1 John 5:4 says, “whoever is born of God overcomes the world.”
Genesis 12 is one of Scripture’s great passages attesting to the triumphant life God has for His people. Genesis 12:1 says: “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; (2) And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing . . . (3) and Abraham obeyed the Lord.”
That is an important Scripture because Abraham is the “Father of our Faith” and the spiritual patriarch of both Jew and Gentile. The Bible discloses that Abraham’s unwavering obedience brought him tremendous blessing.
(Illustration) Years ago, I knew a dedicated Christian man named, Ken. Ken and his wife had needs so they began praying for God’s blessings to abound. I will always remember what he told me. He said: “Whenever I pray, the Lord impresses me to invoke a divine title of God. I start my prayers by saying: “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” After several months of praying to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” God opened doors that transformed Ken’s life. While there’s nothing magical about that phrase and neither is it a Christian incantation, it does have significance. Whatever else can be said about these three patriarchs of our Faith, you must admit that God’s blessing rested upon them wherever they journeyed. Ken secured the blessing of that our spiritual forefathers enjoyed!
(Transition) I don’t want to give you a three point or five point sermon on Your Key to Success; I want to dive straight into the heart of this issue and give you one major point; and it involves obedience. When we Focus on Obedience toward God, success is certain to follow.
Obedience Toward God Brings Success
Let’s read from Deuteronomy 28: “if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. (2) All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: (3) “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. (4) Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. (5) Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. (6) Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.”
Moses knew it was impossible to overstate the importance of obeying God. And the same is true today! God delights in those that obey His Word. The storehouse of God’s blessings are open to those that live with wholehearted devotion toward Him. Let me illustrate the importance of obedience from a medical level.
(Illustration) It’s reported that up to 90% of all doctor’s patients fail to follow their advice. They leave half empty medicine bottles, cheat on their diets, persist in bad health habits, and fail to return for check-ups. At the same time there are patients who deem it necessary to improve on the doctor’s advice. When one capsule is prescribed, they take two. Their reasoning is, if one tablet is good, then two must be twice as good! I suppose physicians don’t realize that we, the unschooled patient, know more than they know with their years of schooling and practice!
Well, how much more infinitely wise is our God than earthly professionals! Folks, when God gives us principles to live by, or an assignment to accomplish He wants us to comply. And the reason God wants us to obey Him is because He, the Creator, knows more than we, the creature. As the all-knowing, all-wise architect of the universe, God knows what is best.
(Example) When I began my ministry, the Lord gave me two very special “words” to guide my life. First, He impressed me to devote my life to prayer. Second, He impressed me that my ministry would prosper as I labored on the foundation that other ministers had laid. The confirmed the later “word” from John 4:38 that says: “You will reap on another man’s foundation.” “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” Yes, I have seen disappointment and difficulty, but I have also enjoyed God’s blessing as I implemented God’s advice.
(Transition) I want to turn your attention back to our Scripture text in Luke 5. (I preached my first sermon from Luke 5 and so it’s a special passage to me.)
The Miraculous Catch of Fish
Let me briefly summarize this event: The apostles spent the night fishing without any success. So after a hapless night, Peter and his companions began washing their nets. They were ready to go home, eat breakfast, and rest. But as they packed-up Jesus announced He was ready to fish. Isn’t that just like Jesus! We are packing-up and ready to go home and that’s the precise moment the Lord says, “Stop! Unpack! Launch out for the deep waters. It’s time for a miracle.” And when this happens, regardless of how frustrated or disheartened we are, it is time to obey!
And what type of results can we expect? Honestly, I can’t guarantee any measure of success. I can’t promise that your obedience will produce a miracle of Biblical proportions. I can’t promise that you will pull in a boat-sinking load of fish like the Apostles did, or that you will catch 100 fish, 10 fish or even 1. But here is what I can promise: Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (58) Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” That’s the promise! “Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Saints of God, this is success with God! It doesn’t matter whether your reward is one fish or a thousand fish. It doesn’t matter if your reward comes in this life or the next. Obedience is the central issue and the unwavering promise is, “your labor in the Lord will not be in vain.”
Let me show you what I find interesting about this miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5. Simon Peter was a master fisherman. He and his brother Andrew, along with their partners James and John, owned multiple boats. As expert anglers, they were well-acquainted with the waters of Galilee. But despite their professionalism they came up empty-handed. But that’s when the Lord stepped in the picture. You see, even professionals need the Lord’s help! It doesn’t matter how smart or successful you are, nobody can do it all alone:
- The skill of the surgeon knows it limitations.
The wisdom of the sage and the knowledge of the genius are often clouded.
The logic of the lawyer cannot always decipher.
But the Lord Jesus Christ is never enervated! He is never perplexed or weakened before any problem.
The darkness is as light to Him.
Mysteries and riddles are without their ambiguity.
As the song says: “Our God is a mighty God.” There is absolutely nothing impossible with Him!
Let’s get back to our story in Luke 5. Jesus said to Simon and his partners, “Launch out into the deep waters; it’s time to catch fish.” And that’s what happened! The apostles hauled in an astonishing multitude of fish. Why? Because Peter, Andrew, James, and John obeyed Christ. They were exhausted, but they obeyed! Christ’s Words didn’t make sense, but they obeyed! The weather conditions may not have been conducive to catching fish, but they obeyed! And obedience is the key to claiming God’s blessing. James said, “Faith without works is dead.”
Just because there are more than one billion self-proclaimed Christians on this planet doesn’t mean God will work His miracles through them. Claiming a “Born Again” title or merely standing on the sidelines with other Christians isn’t enough for God to work powerfully through your life. We have to put faith into action and work with God’s plan!
Do you see what God is asking of us? He wants us in partnership with Him. Jesus had a “success story” waiting to unfold, but this “success story” couldn’t occur until these fishermen participated with His plan. Jesus could have spoken the word and thousands of fish would have rushed through the currents of the water and leaped into their boats; but that wasn’t the strategy. Most miracles of the Bible occur when men participate with God in His plan. He wants us in partnership with Him.
(Harbinger) God could have leveled the walls of Jericho alone, but He wanted Joshua and the Israelites partnering with Him and walking around the walls. God could singlehandedly delivered Israel from Egyptian captivity. He could have instantly translated three million Jews into the Promised Land. But the Lord partnered with Moses to accomplish the task. This is what today’s message is about. God has success stories ready to write. But they will only be written as Christians listen to His voice, exercise their faith, and participate with His plan. This is what brings glory to God. Let me illustrate it like this.
(Example) The Bible is clear: The Lord wants to bless His people. We could wake-up tomorrow and discover God had deposited millions of dollars into our bank account. But that’s not likely. God says, “I want you to participate with My plan. Listen to Me. Believe in Me. Obey Me. As you participate with My plan, I will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings.”
The Chemistry of Miracles
(Insight) Perhaps by now, you have discovered miracles “don’t just happen.” They don’t appear accidentally. There is a divine formula, a “Chemistry of Miracles” with God. And there are always three elements within the Chemistry of Miracles. Here’s the formula: (1) God’s Word, plus (2) man’s obedience, mixed with (3) faith, equals a miracle. That’s the divine equation. When God makes His Word “alive” to you (Rhema), it’s your opportunity to respond in faith and obedience and witness a miracle. Let me show you two occasions when this happened:
1. First, we witness the Chemistry of Miracles occurring at the Red Sea. Pharaoh had finally expelled the Israelites from Egypt. But regretting his decision, Pharaoh pursued the Israelites and trapped them between his army and the Red Sea. Moses instantly turned to God in prayer where he heard God’s instructions. “Moses, stretch forth your staff toward the waters.” When Moses obeyed, the Bible says an easterly wind ripped apart the sea and made a path for Israel’s escape. In scientific terms, meteorology calls this phenomenon a “katabatic” wind. A katabatic wind is a microburst that produces an intense downdraft. However, this miraculous microburst only occurred through the “Chemistry of Miracles.” That is: God spoke, Moses believed, Moses obeyed, and the Sea parted.
2. Second, the Chemistry of Miracles operated for the Indebted Widow. In 2 Kings 4, a widow found herself on the verge of losing her two sons. Her husband, who had been schooled by Elijah and Elisha, had died and left an unpaid bill. A creditor stood at her door threatening to enslave her sons as payment. The Old Testament Law permitted this and creditors could seize children to work-off the balance. (That puts teeth into balancing the budget!) In desperation, this woman pleaded for Elisha’s help. And Elisha had the answer! 2 Kings 4:3 says: “Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. (4) Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
That was God’s plan. Now it was up the woman. She wouldn’t get a miracle because she was desperate or because she lamented. Her miracle depended upon implementing the “Chemistry of Miracles.” And that’s what she did! She rushed to her neighbors, borrowed empty vessels, placed them in her home, shut the door, and then poured out enough oil to sell and payoff every bill! (1) God’s Word; (2) man’s obedience (3) mixed with faith, equals a miracle!
Folks, obedience is your key to success with God. It’s part of the chemistry, combined with faith, that moves the hand of God. And it applies to every aspect of our lives. This is why I close with a passage from Joshua 1:8. God spoke these words to instruct Joshua after the death of Moses: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”