Measuring Spiritual Success
In Acts Chapter 5 we see that God has led the apostles and other committed believers to Solomon’s Porch in the Temple. There they are manifesting the Holy Spirit in a big way and many people are becoming believers.
They are simply being obedient to God.
“Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.” (Acts 5:17-18)
Instead of the instant shazzam blessings that we hear about all the time…the good stuff, these Christians were blessed a different way: they were sent to jail. We rarely hear reports of something like that being presented as a blessing.
You know, there WILL be times when we do what God would have us do and we will KNOW without a doubt that we are in the right in God’s eyes….and we will find ourselves in some kind of public jail…where everyone can see we are in trouble. At times like these it is easy for us to think that perhaps we heard God wrong and to second guess what we are doing on His behalf.
That comes from the enemy and MUST BE IGNORED. It’s just a threatened devil afraid of what God does through yielded Christians.
Read the last part of Hebrews chapter 11 sometime. That passage speaks of people who tried their best to live righteously and to do the things God told them to do. Some were tortured, beaten, mocked, and killed. Some “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Hebrews 11:37). Some “wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth (Hebrews 11:38).
Is their faithfulness invalidated because of how satan retaliated through other people?
Are WE to feel like failures when we ride out the consequences of the sins of others against us when they react against our righteous deeds? NO! The writer of Hebrews says this about those people in Hebrews 11: “(They) obtained a good testimony through faith.”
We must remember this because there often will be a reaction from the enemy’s camp and he will use people to try to cause us to doubt our decisions to walk in obedience to the Lord.
These people in Acts 5 were worshiping the Lord and manifesting His power in obedience to Him. They found themselves in jail.
God always has an answer! Now, the answer isn’t always that we are freed from whatever satan chooses to try in his efforts to discourage us…but this time, it is.
"But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’” (Acts 5:19-20)
Someone reading this might very well be in the midst of a trial. Perhaps the trial is a direct result of their sin or someone else’s sin. If it is that first one, that person should repent and ask the Lord to forgive him and then receive that forgiveness.
If it’s the second one, that person should (if he knows who did it and what was done) forgive the one who sinned against him. There is no point in adding to the trial by holding another in bitterness and unforgiveness.
Sometimes, though, a trial will come and there is no sin involved. At times, like we see in this true story in Acts 5, we are attacked by satan simply because we are trying to live righteously.
Brothers and sisters, let’s resolve to not second guess our obedience when trials come to us. Instead let’s simply STAND and follow the Lord when He moves.
In this case, it was an angel who led them out of the trial.
Then, let’s do the three things the angel told them to do: GO, STAND, SPEAK.
“Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” (Acts 5:20)
That’s right! God told them (through an angel) to go RIGHT BACK and do the very thing that brought the trial to them in the first place – and THEY DID IT!
“And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught.” (Acts 5:21a)
So, they were arrested still again for the third time in a short period of time.
You would think someone might be wondering, “Am I doing the right thing? Bad things keep happening to me. Surely I’m out of order and that is what is causing these trials!”
We have a tendency, being that we live in human skin, to judge spiritual successes by visible results. That’s one of the many effects of the Fall of Man: to be so physically oriented.
Satan knows this. That is precisely why he brings these trials and torments to us: so we can judge our faithfulness by our physical situation and, perhaps, cause us to give up in despair and shame.
How do we measure our spiritual success at trying to live righteously if our eyes are fixed on the trial? We can’t! These things are spiritual and are to be judged in the spiritual, not the natural.
“But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.”‘ (1 Corinthians 2:10-15)
Frankly, when we try to judge whether or not we have done well by God based solely on what WE perceive to be OUR physical results…we are functioning as “natural men” and are judging ourselves by earthly standards. We must stop this.
We MUST evaluate ourselves by the Holy Spirit of God and no one else….even ourselves. We’re biased – good or bad. Our opinions of ourselves cannot be trusted.
If God tells us what to do, how to live, how to behave…and if we try to do those things and live that way, we have been spiritually successful.
My encouragement to you is that if we have lived this way and find ourselves in court or in jail or in the hospital or in dire financial straits or being gossiped about or in any other trial let’s resist the devil’s temptations to judge ourselves to be failures spiritually.
Think about it. Jesus obeyed His Father and He found Himself arrested, falsely accused, beaten, abandoned by His friends and most of His family, humiliated, tortured, mocked and killed.
Would you consider Him to be a spiritual failure as He hung on that Cross….His blood flowing down? Some may have….but they were wrong.
Jesus was a success! His Father told Him what to do and He did it! This was success – despite the visible results. And, later, He was resurrected and emerged victoriously from the tomb.
So shall we.
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
Often Christianity is marketed by those who only speak of the “shazzam” blessings, the fun and pleasurable things God will do to bless us. Those DO happen and they ARE blessings. But sometimes God blesses us by allowing us to go through trials and, although these are not fun and are not pleasurable, they ARE good.
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)
In addition, God NEVER wastes our pain. He will work it to accomplish great things in and through us. Something good will come of it. That’s how God is.
Satan hopes to devour us by causing our eyes to be transfixed by the trials he brings to us. He hungers for our worship. Let’s deny him that by acknowledging the trial, committing it and ourselves to the Lord, relying upon Jesus and by looking past the trial to the resurrection beyond it.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while (this trial is a season and seasons come and go), perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:8-11)
Our standard for “Measuring Spiritual Success” is the same one by which Jesus lived: He simply did what His Father told Him to do. When He finished the course laid before Him in His trial He said this: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
When He said that what everyone there heard was this: “I have accomplished everything Father intended.”
May we all hold ourselves to that same standard in our lives. May we KNOW we are spiritually successful….despite the trials we ,may endure. And then, may we enjoy the thrill of the resurrection afterwards.
Pastor Mike McInerney
© February 27, 2019
For use with permission