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Success and Failure

Success and Failure

Words of Faith 3-29-18

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Luke 4

    [38] Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. [39] So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

    [40] When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. [41] Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.

    [42] At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. [43] But he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." [44] And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.


       We have been discovering some truths about success and failure by observing the ministry of Jesus reported by Luke.  Nazareth sure looked like a failure.  After all, Jesus could not do many miracles there because of the lack of faith. They didn't listen to the message He brought into the synagogue.  They ran Him out of town and came close to throwing him off a cliff.  But Capernaum went a great deal better.  Jesus cast out a demon and then healed a godly woman.  He then healed and cleansed many people who came crowding into the house.  Looks like a success to me.

      But sometimes things are not as they appear.  While in one sense Nazareth was a failure and Capernaum was a success, we never really hear Jesus say that.  How, in fact, did Jesus evaluate the mission at Capernaum?  What did he really think about the revival that took place there?  What was His reflection on the outpouring near the lake?  We have a record of that in Matthew 11:20-24--

    "Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

       Apparently Jesus evaluated things by a much different criterion than we do.   Jesus did NOT evaluate success in terms of miracles, signs and wonders. Jesus evaluated success in terms of one thing: repentance. Changed lives.  Capernaum was cursed precisely because there was no excuse there.  God had done tremendous things for the people to see and yet they had not repented.  Sometimes, in the Kingdom, success looks like failure and failure looks like success. 

        It is interesting that while Jesus cursed Capernaum, he never cursed Nazareth, the place of "rejection and failure".   It is historic fact that all the towns that Jesus cursed in Matthew 11 are rubble to this day.  I have stood on the rocks.  But Nazareth, the place of "failure", is a thriving city as we speak. 

        Even with the rejection at Nazareth, something more was going on there.  Perhaps in Nazareth there was more real repentance, if even only among a few, than there was among the people of Capernaum.  Perhaps those repenting in Capernaum were from out of town and the "townies" never really responded.  We don't know.  But apparently signs, wonders and miracles are only an evidence of God's power, not man's response.  Repentance is the measuring point of our response.

       We would do well to hear that truth.  We live in a culture driven by worldly images of "success".  The most "successful" church in America must be the biggest one.  We are impressed with enormous buildings and vast enterprises.  Or we sometimes measure success by extreme displays of the Spirit-- signs, wonders and miracles.  In fact, all of those outward displays are only a sign of God's favor, mercy and rich provision. 

       The real measure of Kingdom success is the same as it was 2000 years ago-- changed lives and hearts.  It does not matter how big the buildings are or how dynamic the presentation if there is no genuine change of heart.  Success in the Kingdom is measured one heart at a time.   If we take Matthew 11 seriously, we might well find the modern church cursed having for all the "greatness" of the modern church, we might well find ourselves cursed should we miss the fact that repentance is what it's all about.

       So how is the success or failure in your corner of the Kingdom?  Are you walking with Jesus in a spirit of repentance?  Are you leading others by the power of the Spirit to a place of repentance? 


      Father God, I want to walk with Jesus in Spirit and in Truth.  Keep me from being distracted by the culture that is around me.  Show me the way of repentance and help me to share the loving call of Jesus to walk with Him. Help me to see success and failure through Your eyes.  In Jesus' name.