Jimmy Evans - How to Change Failure to Success
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The Word of God transforms our minds. It completely changes the way that we think, and therefore the way that we live, so in this message, we're going to talk about success and failure. The world has a way to think about success. We've got to change our minds. We have got to relearn what success means from a biblical perspective. Let me begin by talking about the world's definition of success, and I'm going to give you 7 things that the world says if you have these things, you're successful.
Ok, the first is financial prosperity. I think we all agree with that, having enough money to possess everything you desire and to care for others. In fact, for a lot of people in the world, that's kind of the only standard: nothing else matters as long as you have money.
Number two is popularity and favor, either through physical attractiveness, personality, talent, or some other means, being known, accepted, and well-liked by people. A lot of people sell their souls.
Number 3 is power and influence: social, financial, and/or spiritual rank, authority, or ability that gives me the power to do as I please and to represent and protect those I care about. Again, a lot of people believe that if you have a certain rank, that is success.
Number 4, relational happiness: loving others and being loved in a secure and meaningful relationship. That's a big deal. I mean, that's something everybody wants.
Number 5, intellect and education: having a high IQ. And being educated at the desired level in the desired field. That goes along with being successful.
Number 6 is giftedness, having special gifts artistically, athletically, musically, or in an area that fulfills my desires and makes me noticed and appreciated by others. Giftedness, whether it's musically, athletically, whatever it might be.
And the last one is strength and security: living in an environment in peace and safety and having the ability to protect it. There may be some cultural differences with this definition, but this is pretty much universally the truth, and there's nothing wrong with them.
When you look at the 7 standards that the world would use as success, any one of them can be used righteously. Any one of them can be right and good within itself, but here's the problem: you can be a total failure and have all 7 of these, and I want you to notice there's no spiritual definition in there. Of all the 7 things that I said, I didn't say one thing about your spiritual life because most of the world does not have a spiritual measurement on success. Money, looks, power, popularity - those are the things the world strives after as it relates to success. You can have all 7 of the things that we just talked about there and be a complete failure in God's eyes, according to God's definition of success.
And so Jesus Christ, our Savior and our example didn't have very many of those. He didn't have, first of all, he wasn't popular. When you die on the cross, you know you lost the popularity contest. You know what I'm saying? He's popular now, but he wasn't popular then: they crucified him. We don't know that he was attractive: "Isaiah" 53 says he's nothing to look at, that we should gaze upon him. Well, that could be describing him on the cross, but understand this: before the cross, Judas had to kiss him so they would know which one he was. Judas didn't say to the betrayers, I'm going to, "The good-looking one, that's Jesus".
He didn't stand out in the crowd, as far as we know. He died penniless: he had to borrow a grave to be buried in. But let me say this to you: our Savior was the most successful person who ever drew a breath on this earth. There will never be anybody as successful as the Lord Jesus Christ. But in the world's eyes, he was a failure, and I hope this is causing you to question everything you have in your mind as a valuation of success in your life, because this is a big deal. The way we live our lives, the way we think about success, and here's the problem, some of the problems of having wrong standards of success.
The number one is a wrong sense of success or failure. Let me say something. Heh! There may be some of you that don't think you're successful. You're very successful. I'm about to talk to you about what success is in God's eyes. There are some of you that maybe feel that you're failing in life, and you're just nailing it. You're a rock star. You don't even know it. You're going to leave here today knowing that you're a rock star. But there are some people who think they're successful, but they're failures. They're living their life according to the wrong standard.
Another problem of having the wrong standard of success is wrong parenting and wrong modeling. Now, I want you to listen to it. We are the model of success to our children. When I was in business, a man came up to me and offered me a lot of money to work for him. I was a good salesman. I was the top salesman the first month I ever sold, and my family's full of salespeople, so we sell. So he came to me, knowing that I knew how to sell, and he came to me and offered me a ton of money. Well, we were in this church and, I was not the pastor: we had a life group, I was a Sunday school teacher. We were very involved. Karen had a life group and worked in the nursery, and we were very involved in the church.
And this guy told me, he said, "If you come to work for me, you're going to have to work nights and weekends". And I looked at him, he's sitting in my living room and Karen's sitting right there. And I looked at him and I said, "I won't work nights and weekends". I said, "We've got our church, we've got a life group", and I said, "That's just an inviolable part of our lives". And he mocked me. He laughed at me and mocked me there in my living room, telling me basically I was a fool for not giving up my life group and this church to make money. Well, let me just tell you something. That's over 30 years ago. I thank God that I told him no... Because he was wrong. I will not sell my soul for money, and I taught my children, "Don't sell yourselves for money".
Listen to me. A lot of parents, because they have the wrong standards of success, they raise... Their children are busy at school, busy with sports, busy with friends, and God comes last. Guess what. When you raise your kids like that, they grow, their lives like that, the rest of their lives. God comes last. Money comes first, friends come first, popularity comes first. All of those things come first, and if you can fit God in, he comes there. What we taught our children is God is first, period. God is the inviolable. God comes first. Church comes first. We will not sacrifice God for anything.
Notice, though, back when I was talking about the 7 standards of success, there's not a spiritual definition in there because most people don't think about it. I can't tell you how many Christian parents I've seen raise their children according to worldly values of success and wonder why their heart gets broken later on. We, as parents, we need to raise our children to love God first, and everything else comes after that. We love God first, and if your children love God first, they're going to succeed in life.
Number 3 - wrong decision-making. I'm talking about people graduating and choosing majors in college. I love this saying: "Choose a career that fills your heart first and your pocketbook second". I didn't get any "Amens" on that, but I like it. I'm for that. Listen to what I heard. This was something I read, and that is 60% of the jobs that will be available for graduating seniors don't even exist right now... Because of changes in technology. When you sit down and you choose a career based on money, not that that's not important, but are you going to be fulfilled in that? My brother was the administrator of a psychiatric hospital down in Houston, and they had a guy come in, just went off, he just went nuts. And they brought him in, they admitted him into this hospital that my brother was over in. They began to treat this guy, and they found out he had just graduated from dental school. His grandfather was a dentist, his father was a dentist, his uncles were dentists, all of his brothers were dentists, so by default, he became a dentist. And all of a sudden, he graduated from dental school and just lost his mind.
So, as they were treating him, here's what he said: "I hate putting my hands in another person's mouth. I hate everything about dentistry, and in dental school, I just kind of blocked it out, but the day I graduated, I realized I've got to start putting my hands in people's mouths for the rest of my life"! He said, "I can't take it! I don't want to do what I do for a living 'cause my granddaddy did it or my daddy did it or anybody else did it! I want to do what I do for a living 'cause God called me to do it and it fulfills my heart"!
And some of the most important people in society don't get paid enough, and they never will: policemen, firemen, teachers, people like that, military people. They're doing what they're doing, many of them, because they're called to do it, and they're sacrificing money for the sake of doing what they love. I respect those people. Amen! And if you make a ton of money, good for you. Maybe God called you to do that. But I'm saying don't choose a career just for what comes in your pocketbook. That's what the world says. That's what the world says. What about what God says? What about what God called you to do in your mother's womb, to be fulfilled in life?
A lack of inner fulfillment - this is another problem with having the wrong standards: you're just not fulfilled. You're doing everything the world tells you to do to succeed, but there's just something missing. You're off-track.
And number 5 - not accomplishing God's best for your life. King Solomon, he died a failure. He didn't finish the race well because, here's the interesting thing. You know, the Bible says don't be conformed to this world, be transformed? Solomon was transformed, then became conformed. Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs because his mind was transformed by God to think like God. He became the most successful man in the world and wrote a book talking about morals, our mouths, money, everything important in life. He was transformed, and then his foreign wives conformed him into a worldly way of thinking about success. If we want to be truly successful, it means we use God's definition.
Here's parable number one. It's the ten virgins. "Matthew" 25: "The kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 5 of them were wise, 5 were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept, and at midnight, a cry was heard. 'behold! The bridegroom is coming! Go out to meet him!' then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish said to the wise, 'give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out'. But the wise answered, saying, 'no, lest there should not be enough for us and you, but go rather to those who sell and buy for yourselves'. While they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding and shut the door. Afterward, the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open up to us', but he answered and said, 'assuredly, I say to you I don't know you'. Watch, therefore, for you neither know the day nor the hour in which the son of man is coming".
The number-one standard of success is a personal relationship with Jesus. I want you to notice something here in this parable, by the way, the proportion, because Jesus used the proportion. He said there were 5 wise and 5 foolish, and the 5 foolish came up to him and said, "Lord, Lord", and he looked at them and said, "I don't know you". Now I want you to listen to me. I believe this is accurate. I believe that half of people who say they're Christians don't know Jesus. Christianity is simply what their parents were. Christianity is simply what they choose to be, rather than being another religion, but they do not know Jesus Christ. Listen to me. Jesus didn't come and die to start another stinking religion. The last thing the world needs is another stinking religion. Jesus died on the cross so we could have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Do you know Jesus? Whatever degree you have, do you know Jesus? However much money you make, do you know Jesus? Whoever loves you or hates you, do you know Jesus? And if you know Jesus, you're a rock star! You're successful! You're on your way to heaven! You got it made eternally! And if you don't know Jesus, don't tell me you're a success! Don't tell me you're a success! But you can be a success, simply by receiving Jesus as the Lord of your life. Jesus said, "You be ready. You don't know when I'm coming". And he told a story about 5 virgins. The oil in the story represents time. You cannot borrow someone else's time. I can borrow your money. I can't borrow your time, and time is the commodity of a relationship. It's impossible to know a person you don't spend time with.
The wise virgins used their oil. They used their time getting to know the bridegroom before the last minute. And when the bridegroom came, he opened the door and said, "Come on in here. All you people know me. Come on in here, you bride. You're not perfect. You've been redeemed by my blood, but I know you. You spent time with me. You know me". And the other ones who had wasted their time, at the last minute, when the door was shut, they ran up, trying to borrow the oil of the wise, and they said, "I'm sorry. I cannot share my personal relationship with you. You have to have your own".
Doesn't matter if your mama was a Christian, your daddy was a Christian, your brother was a Christian. It doesn't matter: it doesn't make you a Christian. Preacher said one time, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car". Preachers. Don't they get on your nerves? Do you know him? I'm not saying, "Do you know about him"? Do you know Jesus? Teach your children that God comes first, and don't let anything come in the way of God in your life, and don't put him off. That's the moral of the story here.
The second story, the second parable, I'm just going to paraphrase this for time's sake. It's the 3 stewards in "Matthew" 25. These are consecutive. Jesus tells these 3 parables consecutively, telling them, "When I come again, this is what it's going to be like". In the story of the 3 stewards, one man got 5 talents, one man got two, one man got one, and then the owner of those talents went on a long journey. Listen to me. A talent was worth $360,000. So the man that had 5 talents had about a million and a half dollars, the man that had two talents had $720,000, and the man who had one talent had $360,000.
So when this guy hides this money, and so the man who had 5 immediately went and began to invest it, and he made 5 more. The man who had two went and made two more. The man who had one dug in the ground and hid it and wouldn't invest it, and then the master came back and held them to account, ok? And so one day we're going to be held into account of how we lived our lives. Now, if you know Jesus, you're going to heaven, ok? You don't have to work your way to heaven, but here's the question: are you living your life for you or him?
Let me ask this: are you living your life to accumulate wealth or to accumulate people to go to heaven with you? I need money, you need money. Nothing wrong with making money, but the point is this: Jesus wants us to show him a profit when he comes back. Jesus doesn't want us to waste our lives. He wants us to live our lives for him, and the number-one thing that is valuable to God is people, is people. God values human souls more than anything else. Let me say this: there's a king and a kingdom that we get to serve. There's a world of hurting and lost people that we get to reach, and then we go to heaven and get the eternal reward for that. That is success. That is success, living your life for God.
Here's the third story, and I'll finish this one quickly. This is called "The sheep and the goats", Matthew 25, this is Jesus' third parable, "When the son of man comes in his glory and the holy angels with him, he will sit on the throne in his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them from one another as a shepherd divides his sheep from his goats. And he will set the sheep on his right hand, the goats on the left, then the king will say to those on his right hand, 'come, you blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom of prayer for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry, you gave me food: I was thirsty, you gave me drink: I was a stranger, you took me in: I was naked and you clothed me: I was sick, you visited me: I was in prison, you came to me'. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?' and the king will answer and say to them, 'assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me'. Then he will also say to those on the left hand, 'apart from me, you cursed and to everlasting fire, prepare for the devil and his angels. I was hungry, you gave me no drink, or gave me no food: thirsty, you gave me no drink: I was a stranger, you did not take me in: naked, you did not clothe me: and sick and in prison, you did not visit me'. Then they will also answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we'".
Now, notice they call him "Lord". "'when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to you?' then he will answer them, saying, 'assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me, and these will go away into everlasting punishment, that the righteous into everlasting life'".
See, the world's standards of success just make you selfish. They really do. If that's the only way you define success, you just become supremely selfish, and you live your life to accumulate, not distribute: live your life focused on yourself, not other people. And many people who are successful in the world's eyes are just very hard-hearted people. And Jesus Christ is a compassionate Savior, and here's what he says: "I take it personally how you treat everybody. And if you think you can sit there and point your finger at hurting people and not reach out to them and help, and me not take it personally, you're wrong". The way you treat vulnerable people reveals your nature as much as anything else in this life, and there are those that take advantage of vulnerable people.
You know, I heard recently about some guy that worked in a nursing home, and he was, you know, abusing the patients and stealing from them and things like that. How wicked is that, to take a person vulnerable and to take advantage of their vulnerability? And Jesus said, "These people laying up in the hospital, these people that are in prison, these people that are hungry and naked and thirsty, as far as you're concerned, that's me. When you didn't do it to them, you didn't do it to me". And the sheep said, "Lord, we didn't realize, when we were helping all those people, that we were helping you". And Jesus said, "Come on in, family. You act like me, and you have my heart toward other people". And the goat said, "Lord, when did we see you naked, prisoner, or hungry"? And Jesus said, "You didn't. You turned your back. You're not like me". But here's the moral of this story: when we know Jesus, it means we live our lives for a higher purpose than just ourselves, and we treat people with love and compassion.
Let me say this: I don't know how much money you have or don't have. I don't know who likes you or doesn't like you. I don't know what your position in life is, but if you know Jesus, you're living for him and you treat people with love, you're a rock star. And don't you ever let anybody tell you any different. You may not look as good as other people say you ought to look. You may not have all of the pedigree that other people tell you you ought to have. I'm telling you, if you know Jesus, you're living for him and you treat people with love, you've got everything that is required to be a successful person on this earth. And in heaven, that will be fully revealed. I believe that Jesus is coming very soon, and in the moment he comes, the successful and the unsuccessful will be revealed.
Notice, in all 3 parables, everyone looked the same until the end. The stewards all looked fine until the end. The virgins all looked the same until the end, and the sheep and the goats were all together until the end. But when the end came, and God's standard was exalted eternally above man's standard, that's when everything became separated. You know, I loved this program today, talking about I changed my mind about success and failure. You know, we look at some of the most important people in our society, teachers and police officers, first responders, military people, on and on, and they're never going to get rich doing what they're doing. They're some of the most important people in our society. We look at rich people sometimes, even people who are immoral and people who aren't good people, but because they have money, we look at them and say, "Well, they're successful".
Solomon was an example of this: money, looks, a thousand wives. I mean, he had it all, famous, but he failed. He rejected God and he died as a failure because he accepted other Gods. He offered up children to Moloch. It was old-testament abortion. I mean, Solomon did some really bad stuff. But Jesus Christ, on the other hand, had to borrow a grave. He died broke, was rejected by his own people, rejected by Nazareth, then rejected by Israel, ultimately crucified. There's never been a more successful man in world history than Jesus Christ. See, success means I know Jesus. Success means I have stewarded the gifts and talents of my life to God properly, and I treat other people well. It's not an amount of money. If success to you means a certain amount of money, you don't understand success because you can have a lot of money and be a total failure. A lot of people have money, and they're not godly and they don't have good families and they're not kind to people and they live their lives without doing what God says.
In fact, Jesus told the story about the rich man Lazarus, and they both died. And in the Old Testament, hades was in the middle of the earth, and Lazarus the poor man went to heaven, paradise, Abraham's bosom: the rich man went to hell. And the rich man said, "Father Abraham, let Lazarus go over and dip his finger in the water and come touch my tongue". In other words, in this life, the poor man looked like a failure, the rich man looked like a success, but in eternity it was totally different. I'm saying to you right now, for you and your children, for you and your future, don't make the mistake of believing that you're a failure because you don't have all these things other people have or you're a success because you do. Success means I know God, I'm stewarding my life properly to him, and I'm compassionate with other people the way God is. If you do those 3 things, you are a success. Hope that encourages you today. I'll see you right here next time for "The overcoming life". God bless you.