The 7 Attributes of Successful Christians (Part 2)
In this second installment of The Seven Attributes of Highly Successful Christians, we will introduce another two characteristics that contribute to our success as Christians. In Part 1 discussed the attributes of wisdom and understanding.
We are a people as called from God, outliers. This means we are outside the normal ‘curve’ of Christianity. Our calling separates us from the traditional Christian model. With God’s Spirit we can now look into the Bible and begin to understand God’s intent for all of humanity. The wisdom we receive is from ‘hearing’ the Word preached, because faith comes from hearing the Word of God. Our diligence in striving and searching will produce the fruits of wisdom and understanding.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)
We will begin to see the deception foisted on mankind by our adversary, Satan the Devil.
“Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it.” (Proverbs 16: 22)
We are required to work diligently by making ourselves available to God for His use. The Father has called us and Jesus Christ is developing us as future kings in His Kingdom. Kingship is our reward; not heaven as most of the world believes. The enticement should be to learn as much as we can and prepare ourselves for our eternal reign with Christ. That takes increased wisdom, a full understanding of God’s plan, along with the attributes of prayer and obedience, which will be presented in this installment for our comprehension and understanding.
Does God ignore our prayers? Are we in a time when God is turning away from His people? Many agonize over the myriad of social issues facing society and would like to have answers from God. Of all the attributes of a godly person, why is the answer to prayer so difficult to achieve? James 4:2-4 gives us a clue in part to that answer:
“Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Are we so involved in this world that our prayers are being hindered? Or do we unconsciously love this world more than we love God? 1 John 2:15 also reiterates the danger of worldly love:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Jesus, too reminds us in John 16:33,
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
These powerful statements indicate that too much worldliness can affect prayer. Remember, Jesus prayed all night on one occasion. Just prior to His capture in the garden, He prayed for three hours. Jesus was in fact doing what He tells us to do in Matthew 6:33,
“… seek ye first the kingdom of God… and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Jesus talked to His Father. Do we talk to God? Are we expressing our heartfelt problems, hopes, dreams, and anxieties to God? Jesus certainly asked for strength. Jesus was intent on not sinning in order to carry out His mission of saving mankind. Jesus accomplished this incredible task by praying often and with heartfelt intensity. He knew He could not do it alone! We, too, should know that we cannot do our task alone. Jesus had an awesome job in His human form. He had physical and spiritual strength for the task. We, in our infirmities and weaknesses also need to do our task even though it is less intense. The tasks are proportionate: Jesus prayed for supreme strength and died for the world. We pray for the less intense jobs we have and can be just as successful. All of us need the satisfying results of contact with our Father in heaven.
Do you ever feel that your prayers are not yielding the results you desire? Is your prayer life alive and well or does it need some spiritual medicine? Are we like James described, being friends with the world? In part, we do have numerous distractions in our daily life that may be a hindrance. Let us examine what Jesus did when he prayed in solitude.
We can begin by actually listing those distractions in our lives. Would your list include your iPod, computer, Facebook or MySpace account, television, cell phone, books, newspapers, conversational chatter, traffic noises, emergency sirens, or boisterous children playing? These may put us in the position of being a “friend of the world” but they may be distracting to our prayer life (James 4:4).
Mark 1:35 says,
“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”
A solitary place. None of the above listed cacophony of noises! Rather, total silence! In the early morning hours in a vineyard or orchard where the birds would be sleeping and only a small breeze could be heard, would be calming as white noise. The world indeed does affect us if we cannot get up that early, or the distractions are such that concentration is almost impossible. Matthew 14: 23 tells us,
“And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone.”
Solace was Jesus’ preference for prayer. He accomplished miracles because of His isolation and complete absorption in prayer. His prayers were without any clutter or worry about mortgages, retirement funds, overtime, or any personal venues of family, friends, or work related scenarios. In the context just mentioned, this world’s society might be hurting us more than we ever realized. Daniel prayed three times a day and was successful. He even had an archangel apologize for being late in answering his prayer. Fasting is also a good companion to effective, fervent prayers.
There is an example in Acts 4:31 that helps to dramatize the prayer attribute that we need to examine:
“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy [Spirit], and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
Acts 7:55 speaks of Stephen “being full of the Holy [Spirit].” Why can’t we be filled with the Holy Spirit as the examples of Jesus, the apostles, and Stephen illustrate? Can we shake our Houses of Worship? Are we able to speak with boldness and convict the unbeliever? If we are engaged to this world as James describes to us in graphic detail, we may not be successful in giving God our undivided attention and having our prayers answered.
Our modern world is a marvel in many ways with all the glitz and convenience of electronics, all competing for our time. Admittedly, when praying we need solitude and a quiet place to think out our prayers, as Jesus and His followers dramatically demonstrated on many occasions. We have the advantage of modern technology, but conversely, we also suffer from the distraction of all the ‘noise’ that deflects our thoughts from being able to focus for long periods of time. Luke 6:12 records,
“And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”
On every occasion that Jesus and His apostles prayed, something grand happened: calming the sea and Peter walking on the water; casting out devils; cleansing the leper; and preaching with boldness as one who had authority. Let us pray for the spreading of the gospel, healing of the sick, strengthening those who are feeble and in need of strength to resist evil, and most of all, for the return of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ our ever ruling King of kings! Let the Spirit of God help us to be bold in our outreach and let us shake some walls as we become filled with the Spirit, as were the biblical examples of effective prayer! Jesus’ prayers were answered because He accomplished His mission flawlessly. Our prayers, too, will be answered.
One of the most heart-rending stories in the Bible is that of Israel’s first king. Saul, King of Israel was instructed by God to kill the Amelekites, including every adult, male and female, all the children, and all the animals. Saul did not fully comply and kept the finest of sheep and oxen and spared King Agag. The punishment rendered to Saul is clearly documented in 1 Samuel 15:22-23. Samuel, the prophet ended up executing King Agag by cutting up his body into small pieces, because Saul did not do the job as he was ordered. Samuel had to finish the job the king was expected to do, but failed because of disobedience. John writes in Revelation 21:8 that the fearful, unbelieving, sorcerers and idolaters will burn in the lake of fire. Saul’s punishment at the time was being removed as king, but sadly, perhaps condemned to the lake of fire. Remember, witchcraft and idolatry are worthy of eternal damnation as Samuel portrayed Saul’s grievous sin to be as John graphically confirms in Revelation. Obedience is of primary importance to God. Twenty-first century Christians need to heed this account in Samuel’s writings.
As end-time Christians, we are in the midst of blatant lawlessness: elimination of prayer in schools, promulgation of homosexuality, partial birth abortions, rampant white-collar crime, siphoning of funds from corporate accounts, political scandals in government, and decline in church attendance. If we’re not careful, we can easily fall into the admonition rendered in Hebrews 3:12-13. We become accustomed to staying home from services, not attending Feasts, lax in building treasures in heaven, harbouring hatred, resentment, animosity, and jealousy. The hardening comes as we refuse to repent and overcome. Daniel and Joseph are two outstanding examples of fortitude and mental toughness who were rewarded abundantly for their effort to obey God. God’s people today have the same opportunity to be as obedient and trusting in God to provide in our time of dire need as well. He will never forsake us or leave us if we seek His Kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).
Paul cites a serious concern for all Christians in 2 Timothy 2:24-26. Many uninformed Christians are in the throes of an adversary that is walking around seeking prey to devour. We are in a climate where church hopping is rampant. It is so very easy for Satan to walk into any church and take anyone who has been hardened and does not realize they are the advocate of Lucifer. We must remember the end times bring self-love, pride, stubbornness, high-mindedness, and betrayers. These are traits that Satan exploits upon those taken captive by him at his will (2 Timothy 2:26).
Satan instigates all the separations and splits because he takes captive all who are lacking in humility, patience, and love. Paul said, “we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Paul knew and there are many of us who know and grieve at his effective demise of unity and cohesive enthusiasm in preaching the precious gospel of Jesus Christ. Hence, we become disobedient through our adversary’s wily tactics. It takes complete unity as Paul depicts in Ephesians. Paul states that we should no longer be tossed about by doctrinal winds and the carefully crafted ways of the Dragon. Satan, when first created, was a creature of beauty, talent, and high ranking as a covering cherub. Now Satan is completely against God and us. It is similar to the Old Testament story of the man who loved a woman, who then turns to as much hatred as there was originally in love.
The first century church knew too well their adversary. All the writers of the New Testament warn and alert us, but regrettably, too many today have an agenda and hastily make mistakes that thwart our command fro Jesus Christ to preach the gospel to the entire world. Due to extreme cost, it takes a unified ecclesia to carry out the commission of Jesus Christ. Does the Lord take delight in a multiplicity of congregations who are only self-serving and not engaged in the gospel spreading task? It is better to obey God rather than men and have the whole body fitly joined together so it can edify itself in love.
Obedience is among the many tasks we have all been given regardless of our local church name. Saul lost God’s Spirit for disobedience and was removed from his position as Israel’s first King. Jesus says,
“…I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5)
With the Holy Spirit removed from Saul and the warning of candlesticks being removed by Jesus Christ, we should humbly look at the larger picture of what work must be done. The called-out ones have as their obligation, regardless of their church affiliation the responsibility to get busy about The Work of sharing the Gospel on a broader scale! It is truly better to obey than to sacrifice!
(To be concluded in the next issue of Prevail Magazine.)