Faithlife Sermons

Cultivating Success

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I want to preach to you this morning about cultivating success. I am of the firm persuasion that God wants believers to be successful Christians. But, with that said, let’s be absolutely clear this morning—God’s idea of success if far different than our culture’s idea of success. God never measures you successfulness by the size of your house, or the size of your bank account. He measures it by the size of your obedience.

This morning, let me give you some suggestions on how to cultivate a successful life. It requires striking a balance between heart and mind, between spirit and flesh, and between body and soul. The balanced life lies at the heart of successful living. The balanced life like so many other worthwhile pursuits requires diligence. You learn to order your life the same way you learn to do math problems or play baseball well—through practice.

Living a balanced life requires four priorities.


    • ILLUS. When Alexander the Great was just a boy, his father had a beautiful, but untamed, stallion which could not be broken. Philip, Alexander’s father, was about to sell the horse, but Alexander begged that he might have him. Noticing that the animal was frightened at his shadow, Alexander mounted him, turned the stallion’s face toward the sun, and let him run until he was totally exhausted. He repeated this each day, and in the course of time had tamed what seemed to be an untamable animal. At sixteen years of age Philip trusted Alexander with the throne of Greece. At seventeen Alexander conquered Byzantium. By the age of 21 he had destroyed Thebes. At 25 he had conquered the ancient empire of Babylonia. And at 33 he had subdued the whole civilized world of his day. But at 34 he was dead. Alexander had learned to conquer animals. He had learned how to lead men. He had learned how to conquer nations. But he never learned how to master himself. Alexander was morally bankrupt and he drank himself to death before he had the chance to do anything with the world he had conquered.
            1. cultivating self-discipline is a life-long process
            2. self-discipline means that there will be times when you will have to say No to some things you really want to do
                1. like spending when you ought to be saving
                2. like playing when you ought to working
                3. like hating when you need to be loving
                4. like biting your tongue when what you really want to do is flame someone with your words
            3. self-discipline also means that there will be times when you will have to say Yes to some things you really don’t want to do
                1. like studying when you would really rather be recreating
                2. like being selfless when you really want to be selfish
                3. like leading when you’d really rather be following
            4. the apostle Paul talked a lot about self-discipline and used sports as an example
              • 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “You know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. So run to win! All those who compete in the games use self-control so they can win a crown. That crown is an earthly thing that lasts only a short time, but our crown will never be destroyed. So I do not run without a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something—not just the air. I treat my body hard and make it my slave so that I myself will not be disqualified after I have preached to others.” NCV
                1. Paul was a sports fan who understood that athletic competition requires a high degree of self-discipline
                2. tremendous discipline is required to keep in shape
                    1. the number of hours an athlete must train so he can win in competition is staggering
                    2. an athlete who competes internationally frequently trains eight hours a day for as long as five to ten years of his life to gain world-class form
                    3. he must push himself to the point where he will no longer experience pain, to a point beyond a second wind
            5. that’s self-discipline — you will not succeed in life without it
              • ILLUS. The greatest achievements in life are usually accomplished by people who have a singular desire that becomes the ruling passion of all they do. When Bob Feller was a child, he loved baseball. By the age of 5 he spent three hours every day pitching at a hole he had cut in the wall of his father’s barn. At 10 his father bought him all the necessary equipment and built him a ballfield on the family farm. And, he continued to pitch through that hole in the barn wall three hours every day. At 13 he pitched for a local team and averaged 20 strikeouts a game. And he continued to pitch through that hole in the barn wall three hours every day. At 17 he began playing for the Cleveland Indians. He continued to practice pitching three hours every day. As a major leaguer he had 6 seasons as a 20 game winner, 3 no-hit games, 11 1-hitters, 266 wins, and he set a record of 348 strikeouts in 1 season. He is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Bob Feller had one desire — baseball! Self-discipline made him a success.
            6. cultivate self-discipline


            1. friends are often the difference between one man’s success and another’s failure
              • ILLUS. Charles H. Spurgeon, a 19th century English preacher, once said, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.”
            2. the main business of friendship is to sustain and make bearable each other's burdens
              • Galatians 6:2 /"Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." KJV
                1. the New Century Version says it this way
                  • Galatians 6:2 "By helping each other with your troubles, you truly obey the law of Christ." NCV
                    1. this is the most important job that a friend has
                2. getting through the tough times, offering encouragement when the other desperately needs it, shoring each other up to face the unfairness of existence
            3. someone once described a friend as “Someone who knows all about you, and likes you anyway.”
            4. Lawrence Peters says, "You can always tell a real friend by the fact that when you've made a fool of yourself he doesn't feel you've done a permanent job."
            5. a friend is one who never gets in the way, except when you are on the way down
                1. a friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths
                2. a friend feels your fears but fortifies your faith
                3. a friend sees your anxieties but encourages your spirit
                4. a friend recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities
                  • ILLUS. If you were to visit the Florida home of Thomas Edison, you'd be intrigued by a path in his garden he called "The Walk of Friendship." What makes it unique is the fact that each stone was contributed by a different acquaintance of the inventor. That memorial path is symbolic. We all walk on stones of helpfulness provided by friends, each of whom brings something of value into our lives.
            6. you live the balanced life by cultivating friends
                1. you cultivate friends by being the kind of friend to others that you would like to have for yourself


    • ILLUS. A friend once asked the great philosopher Aristotle what the difference was between an educated and an uneducated man. The great philosopher and teacher thought for a moment and then replied: "The difference between an educated and uneducated man? The same as between being alive and being dead."
            1. I believe in education
            2. the Bible teaches that knowledge and wisdom are worth more than precious metal or costly gems
              • Proverbs 20:15 “There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.”
            3. I do not mean to imply that you must be receiving formal education for the rest of your life
                1. I do mean to imply that if your going to live the balanced life you must commit yourself to self education


    • “I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven ... ” (Ecclesiastes 1:12–13, ESV)
            1. Solomon was a man who had a thirst for knowledge
                1. he informs us that he applied himself to his studies to discover virtually everything he could about the world around him
                2. never be satisfied with just ‘liv’n for the weekend’!
                    1. sadly, this is what so many in our culture live for
            2. be a life-long learner
                1. you need to develop an appreciation for music and art and theater
                2. you need to learn about the natural world that you live in
                    1. it’s a beautiful and wonderful place—discover all you can about it
            3. be a Reader
                1. books can take your mind to places your body may never be able to go and can expand your mind beyond the confines of time and space
                  • ILLUS. Mark Twain wrote: “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.”
            4. be a Traveler
                1. save your money and go places
                2. whether it be Johnson’s Shut-ins, the Johnson Space Center, or Johannesburg, South Africa travel will enrich your mind and enhance your life experience
                  • ILLUS. The writer Rudyard Kipling wrote: I keep six honest serving-men [They taught me all I knew]; Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who
            5. the balanced life is maintained when you cultivate your mind and continually learn new things
                1. a man who will not learn is a bigot
                2. a man who forgets to learn is a fool
                3. a man who dares not to learn is a slave


    • “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14–15, ESV)
            1. never stop learning about Jesus and His life
              • ILLUS. Eliza Hewitt, was raised in the Presbyterian Church and spent much of her adult life working with children. She was a firm believer in the importance of Sunday School and teaching the bible. Part of her ministry included writing hymns, three of which can be found in our Baptist Hymnal. One in particular teaches us:

More about Jesus would I know, More of His grace to other show;

More about Jesus let me learn, More of His holy will discern;

More about Jesus in His Word, Holding communion with my Lord;

More, more about Jesus, More, more about Jesus;

More of His saving fullness see, More of His love who died for me.


            1. be faithful to God and His church all of your life
              • ILLUS. A young man was about to graduate from High School. He was excited about commencement and looking forward to the fall when he would begin college.

“And what will you do when you graduate from college?” asked the young man’s uncle the day before graduation.

"I’ll go to medical college and learn to be a doctor,” replied the eager young man.

“What then?” continued the uncle.

“I’ll heal sick people and make a lot of money.”

“What then?”, again asked the uncle.

“I’ll get married, buy a house and raise a family,” said the nephew.

“And then what?” quired the uncle.

“I guess I’ll eventually grow old and die,” said the now thoroughly confused young man.

“What then?” persisted his uncle.

“I suppose I will meet God.” said the nephew.

“Ah, my dear nephew,” said his uncle, “I was wondering where you were going to put God in your program of life.”

            1. God wants all of your life for all of your life!
                1. young people, don’t wait until you are about to die to think about God
                    1. you may be too late if you wait
                2. decide today to put God and the things of His kingdom first
            2. and be a Christian— I mean a real Christian
                1. I am not talking about one of those back-slidden believers who haven't darkened the doors of a church in only God knows how long . . .
                2. I’m not talking about one of those nominal Christians our nation’s congregations are so full of who play the game of church so they can feel good about themselves the rest of the week . . .
                3. I'm talking about being the kind of believer who will stand up in the devil’s face and say, "Yea, I'm a Christian. What are you going to do about it?"
                4. I’m talking about being the kind of believer who will stand up for Jesus on the college campus, and in the work place and in one’s community and chant, “I love Jesus, yes I do. I love Jesus, how ‘bout you?”
                  • ILLUS. Sadly, unless you make a choice, right now to stay committed to Christ and His Church, you won’t do it. Seventy percent of the teenagers who were active church-goers while in high school will drop out of church altogether when the go to college.
            3. if you want to live the balanced life you cannot wait until the end of your days to think about God or live for Jesus
                1. if you commit your ways to Him, you will find the greatest joy that can be experienced in this world
                2. and when you finally come to the end of your days you will feel that you have lived your life wisely and well

Let me end with this verse from the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s the same verse I read to you at the beginning of the message: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) NIV

The first three priorities I mentioned, are priorities that will give you success in this world. Self-discipline, Strong Friendships, and a Well-educated Mind are the instruments that will bring you much success and happiness in life. But when you stand before God, they will not earn your entry into His Kingdom. What will make a difference is what you did with Jesus. Have you accepted Him as Savior? Are you living your day-to-day life under His Lordship?

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