Chasing empty things

BY JOHNNY O. TRAIL — What is success? The dictionary defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” People have varying definitions of what successful living is all about. Sadly, many are chasing a definition of success that has no spiritual underpinnings.

Those living in the age of Samuel were guilty of chasing “vain” or empty things, 1 Samuel 12:19-21. These Israelites were guilty of chasing vain things when they departed from following the Lord God with all their heart. They wanted a king so they could be like all the nations around them, 1 Samuel 8:5. The crucial point they missed was that they already had a king—Jehovah God, 1 Samuel 8:7. In their request for a human king, they rejected the king of the Universe!

Christians do the same thing when they allow their affections to be divided. Paul cautioned the brethren at Colossae against this very problem. He writes in Colossians 3:1-3, Continue reading “Chasing empty things”

Where never is heard…

How should you respond when someone has a negative assessment of your work or your character? Did you know that critics in history have, wait for it, sometimes been wrong?

You are not a failure just because someone said you are. You are not a failure just because you made a mistake. You can become something of value in spite of what others may think of you, if you possess the right degree of determination, and if you turn your life over to the God who can change you for the better. Continue reading “Where never is heard…”


“So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'” (1 Samuel 16:6-7 NKJV).

In my opinion perhaps the greatest challenge to missionaries is the development of indigenous leadership in areas where the church is young and opportunities for training are limited. How quickly can a new convert develop the spiritual maturity required of elders, deacons, and preachers? How quickly may we begin to trust those of different cultures of which our understanding is imperfect? Just when should we begin to push for independence and self-reliance on the part of mission churches? These are difficult questions with few obvious right answers. Continue reading “Potential”

The factor bigger than rain clouds and hurricanes

Ecclesiastes 11Some of the most successful businesses today were launched during hard economic times. They are proof that favorable circumstances don’t determine success.

Things can go very right when everything looks bleak.

That seems to be the theme of Ecclesiastes 11:1-6.

Most everything Solomon says in the book has to be tested by revealed truth elsewhere in Scripture, because he looks at life “under the sun,” or without the divine perspective. But near the end, he gets it right.

The passage appears to be in a chiastic form with three elements. The outer pair of ideas (verses 1-2, 6) encourages action, amazingly enough, because of what we don’t know!

The inner pair (verses 3, 5) of affirmations mentions the Great Unknowns, perhaps our very reason to take action.

Then verse 4 brings the central piece of the paragraph: If you live by the bad that might happen, you’ll never do anything, and nothing good will happen that ought to happen.

Isn’t this a tremendous lesson for Christians and congregations who live to do the work of God?

Times appear bleak, results seem nil, the temptation is to draw back and wait for better days.

Nuts! says the Lord (my translation).

Now is the time to get out there and sow the message of salvation in Christ, more than ever before.

Man is a lousy forecaster. Human eyes can’t take in all the factors. The human brain doesn’t have enough computing power, nor do his computers have enough data, to accurately tell the future.

Only God knows — and determines — the future.

And that is why we should work. Hard. Long. Untiringly. Because God is in it.


Just as I have planned, it will happen

God's SovereigntyMan is full of plans and projects. Sometimes they work out. Sometimes he manages to successfully conclude them, other times, they’re a flop.

God’s projects, on the other hand, always work out as he wants them to. This infallible success is a two-edged sword: it works for the good of those who love him, but for the ruin of those who forget him.

To the nation of Assyria, the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, “Be sure of this: Just as I have intended, so it will be; just as I have planned, it will happen” (Isaiah 14:24 NET).

At that moment, the plan was to punish the Assyrians, for their disdain for the evidences of the only true God. And in case they thought they could free themselves from punishment, he said further,

“Indeed, the Lord who commands armies has a plan,
and who can possibly frustrate it?
His hand is ready to strike,
and who can possibly stop it?” (verse 27).

The answer is obvious: No one can stop God from fulfilling his purposes. But isn’t that how man thinks? He believes that, by his power, intelligence, or money, he can avoid God’s punishment and even win applause for his cunning.

God, however, is not a man who changes his mind at the last minute. Neither does he compromise his holiness, to ignore our evil. He acts by principle, not by playing favorites.

On the other hand, the person who seeks him with his whole heart has the same certainty of salvation.

Even the punishment which God sends upon some is often part of the salvation of those who submit to his will. Every act of God contributes to fulfill his greater purpose of saving, in Christ, the obedient.

God will fulfill his plan. It remains for me to decide on which side of that fulfillment I will fall. As Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians,

“Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit” (Galatians 6.7-8).

When we decide to insert our plans within God’s project, we’ll have much greater chance of success here on earth, and we will be sure of success in eternity.

Who deceived whom?

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30, ESV).

Linda had been a cheerleader, perky, petite and pretty. She was always surrounded by admirers; a myriad of boys would have been thrilled to have her just acknowledge them. She didn’t have to work hard at school, or on her personality. She had all she needed — pretty blue eyes and a personality as sweet as cotton candy, and perhaps as substantial.

Sarah had been the “plain Jane” in high school, quiet and competent. She rarely stood out in class, in fact worked at not standing out. But she buried her brown head in books and studied. By the time she graduated from college, she had exchanged the horn-rimmed glasses for contact lenses, but more importantly, she had begun a career in advertising, and had become an interesting person, with depth and keen perception. Continue reading “Who deceived whom?”

Jesus Grew

by J. Randal Matheny

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and with all the people.
Luke 2:52 NLT

The cross of Christ had significance because the man who hung on it was different from the others. The Romans crucified three men that day. Hardened soldiers crucified thousands of people. But only one man’s suffering brought redemption.
Jesus’ life and death are bound together. Any attempt to diminish his divinity and undermine his uniqueness inevitably removes redemption from the equation of the cross. Some attempt to exalt the nobility of the way Jesus died. But nobility still does not take us into the presence of God.
Only the boy who was in his Father’s house, about his Father’s business, who grew in all ways as the perfect specimen of humanity, only the man who was God in the flesh, could effect the reconciliation between heaven and earth.
The perfect man, that ideal life, was sacrificed in order that the Spirit of God might dwell in our hearts and make us like him.
Without diminishing our need for diligence, zeal and the sweat of our brow, in order to grow in the grace of God, as we polish off our plans and resolutions, we must remember that the crucifixion of Christ remains our power for transformation, our energy for ministry, our means to growth and success.