Earthly Success, Heavenly Failure

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Jeremiah 22:13-14

Kings, though they are gods to us, are men to God, and shall die like men; so it appears in these verses, where we have a sentence of death passed upon two kings who reigned successively in Jerusalem, two brothers, and both the ungracious sons of a very pious father. Shallum and Jehoiakim are the sons of Josiah. Josiah went to the grave in peace and honour, was prevented from seeing the evil to come in this world and removed to see the good to come in the other world; weep not for him, but for his unhappy son, who is likely to live and die in disgrace and misery, a wretched captive.

Both sons of Josiah have been caught up in the wealth and power of their Kingship. Their attention is on immediate gratification and what they can accumulate. Their attention is not on honestly governing the people. All attention is now and not to an accountable future.

Even Jesus made the statement, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23) We all understand it is not the money but what the money is doing to the person. Fame is vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.

Job is a wealthy man but the intent of his heart is good. Therefore God designs a plan to purge Job of the pride that has filled his life. This is where we get the saying, “Pride goes before the fall.”

One morning a couple of cowpunchers went out on the range to bring in a wild steer from the mountains. They took along with them one of those shaggy little gray donkeys-a burro. Now a big three-year old steer that’s been running loose in the timber is a tough customer to handle. Nevertheless, these cowboys had a technique for handling this steer. They got a rope on the steer and then they tied him neck and neck, right up close, to the burro and let them go. At first, the burro had a bad time. The steer threw him all over the place. He banged him against trees, rocks, into bushes. Time after time they both went down. But there was one great difference between the burro and the steer. The burro had an idea. He wanted to go home. And no matter how often the steer threw him, the burro got to his feet and he took a step nearer the corral. After about a week, the burro showed up at the corral. He had with him the tamest and sorriest-looking steer you ever saw.

The thought of this little burro being overpowered and abused can encourage us when we find ourselves struggling with difficult problems or people in our lives. We often feel tied “right up close”. If we could only have some slack!
But our God had a purpose in tying us to our problem. He knows that our faith will enable us to hang in there. No matter how often we are thrown, our stubborn Christian attitude will enable us to get to our feet and take a step nearer to God’s solution! We may be abused and hurt. But just think of the tremendous outcome we might eventually stand before the throne of our Savior, tied to that special person who has now been brought to Christ! Maybe God’s techniques make sense after all!

Success comes only when today is well lived and the future is planned. Jesus tells the story of a man who didn’t take stock in his future. “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. The deception of wealth is that my future is secure. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. “He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Real success is when a believer succeeds in life and in death. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? What can a man give in exchange for his soul?

“Success is when 10,000 hours of training meet with one moment of opportunity.” We go to a wait loss clinic to lose 20 pounds. They plan exercise for us that will burn the weight. They plan a meal that will help us not to put the weight back on. And they help keep us focused on the plan. We go to a financial counselor and say, “I want to retire at 55.” The counselor will find out what type of standard of living we want in retirement. Then he will map out how much money we have to set aside and to achieve that goal. Then he will keep us focused on the goal – early retirement.

Jesus put it a different way, He called it our foundation. Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible, they were faithful. Seventy-five percent of under-achievement points directly at poor attitude, lack of perseverance and unfaithfulness. The young do not know enough to be prudent and therefore they attempt the impossible – and achieve it, generation after generation.

While fishing off the Florida coast, a tourist capsized the boat. The man was not sure if it was safe to swim to shore. He saw a man with a camera who stood on shore and called out to him, “Are there any alligators in these parts?”
“Nope,” the man answered, “There used to be some, but they are now long gone.” The man in the boat felt assured of his safety, dove from his boat, and began to swim toward shore. While swimming, he began to wonder what happened to the alligators. He stopped swimming while still in the water, and shouted his question to the man with the camera on shore, “What happened to the alligators?” The man with the camera who stood on shore replied, “These waters are too shark-infested for alligators to last long.” The man with the camera who stood on shore got some great pictures.

Problems are God-given opportunities to grow. Challenges which drive us to deeper understanding and maturity. Problem comes from the Greek word “pro baleen” which means “to throw” or “drive forward.” Problems drive us forward. The core of our problem-solving ability is in our attitude. Among those who have overcome adversity include: Beethoven, whose best works were composed after he lost his hearing; Louis Pasteur, whose greatest discoveries were made after he had suffered a stroke which threatened his life; John Milton’s best poetry came after he was blind; William Cowper wrote his greatest hymns in moments of having a clear mind between fits of insanity.

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