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Success: The Right Ladder Against the Right Wall

If we consider success through the world's lense, we will focus on measurable benchmarks like wealth, power, position or knowledge. But as Christ explained to James and John in Mark 10, success in God's economy - eternal, lasting greatness - looks far different. And is much more about serving others, making room in our lives for others, than increasing the number of people who serve us.

Todd WagnerNov 16, 2008

In This Series (10)
What in the World Was He Thinking?
Todd WagnerDec 24, 2008
A Biblical Look at Life, Letting Go and Leading Out: Why We Have to Run with the Herd
Todd WagnerDec 14, 2008
Family: The Need to Define it Rightly and Lead it Righteously
Todd WagnerDec 7, 2008
Worldviews Matter. Just Ask the Congo.
Todd WagnerNov 23, 2008
Success: The Right Ladder Against the Right Wall
Todd WagnerNov 16, 2008
Believers and Their Government: What Governs Our Usefulness in It
Todd WagnerNov 2, 2008
The Remedy for Redemption: The Final Framework of Truth
Todd WagnerOct 26, 2008
Explaining Evil: The Second Framework of Truth
Todd WagnerOct 19, 2008
The Creation Foundation: The First Framework of Truth
Todd WagnerOct 12, 2008
The Importance of the Foundations of the Heart
Todd WagnerOct 5, 2008

Those of you who have endured these last five or six weeks of us diving deeply into understanding the idea of a worldview and why it matters, we are glad that you are here now because we are moving now into the practical application of what an outworking of truth is in many different topics.

Two weeks ago, we looked at a biblical worldview of government, government's purpose, why it's here, what it's for. We looked at that. We looked at different ideas of where it came from and we talked about how we can know what government ultimately should do as a servant of God if we are thinking about it correctly.

What we're really doing now the rest of the series is thinking about different topics correctly. We framed the glass through which we look through with three things. The issue of origins: where are we from? Why are we here? To whom will we give an account? We discussed the possibility that we are the products of nothing plus time plus chance, and we looked at other alternatives.

The other piece of the frame was…Why is the place that we are so broken? Why is there evil? Then the third question we asked was…What do we do about the evil that is around us? Your basic understanding of those three major pillars is the basis through which you form a foundation of truth. The fundamental orientation of your heart is going to be some expression of your understanding of those three things.

We looked at different worldviews and where they lead ultimately. Now we are working out, if you have a biblical understanding, a God-revealed lens, if you have embraced what God has said, then how will you view government? How will you view the dignity of man? We'll look at that next week. How will you view truth? How will you view family?

All these different things are ultimately determined by your basic fundamental orientation of the heart. I am most excited this week because, I think frankly, if I could only do one outworking and application from a biblical worldview, it would be this one. I am most passionate about this. As I look back on things that I've had a chance to share with these, my friends, these last nine years at Watermark, the series that I enjoyed the most, the one that I am most grateful for in my own preparation and study, the one that I will finish one day is one we did called This Is the Life.

It was a series that was basically built upon the premise that you have a loving Father who wants your life to be successful. If you want your life to be full and rich and abundant, you have a Dad who is trying to lead you that direction. He is not looking to rip you off, pull you back, and keep you away from the party scene. He is trying to set you free.

We looked at a number of different attributes, skilled ways to view life, that would allow you to have the life you've always wanted. Jesus says, _ "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." _ I want your life to be a winner's life. I want you to be successful. What I'm going to do today is I'm going to talk big picture about a biblical worldview of success.

I will tell you that this is the premise for that entire series I did, This Is the Life. You can go back and listen to how I broke it down. These are elements of a wise and successful life. Now let me just have some fun for a second with this before I show you the tragic implications of a worldview that is false.

Whenever you want to really understand a word, one of the things to go back and do is to break it down, often with Latin and Greek. Aphixes, suffixes, prefixes, all these different things that define what a word is and where it comes from. When you deconstruct a word and get to its very root, it's the best way to get a good understanding of what ultimately that word means and where it came from and its application in life.

If you went and broke down the word success, it comes from a couple of different things. The aphix, or the root word, -cess comes from a word cedere, which basically means to go, to move. When you put things before that, when you put prefixes before that, like pro-, which means before… So process is to go before. Recess is to go back. Intercess is to go between. One who is an intercessor is somebody who goes between. Suc- is the word to go under, if you will.

So success is to go under, which is why often when you really think of success, a life that is successful is a life, if you want to get right to its root, that wins. Because you go under somebody else, if you will, subvert them and get ahead of them and move before them. A successful life is a life that gets ahead. It goes under somebody to get there first. That's not a bad definition of success.

Now here's the question. What will allow you to get ahead? What I want to show you is that God wants you to be successful. The problem is the word has been perverted. There is one who doesn't want you to become great in the ways that ultimately matter. He wants to distract you. One of the things I did this week is I went and looked at how different people define success.

One of the great individuals who has helped businessmen be "successful," who has done more work on leadership than probably anybody in our generation is a guy by the name of Peter Drucker. Peter Drucker has a great quote. He says this. "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." I could not agree more.

Here is the problem. Most of us are doing efficiently that which the Bible says should not be your ultimate concern. You are scrambling up the ladder, if you will, only to find out that it is leaning against… What? The proverbial wrong wall. There is one who has come to not lead you to life, but the job description of this individual, the Enemy, Satan, the Accuser, the Father of Lies is to steal, kill, and destroy.

He wants to steal your joy. He wants to kill your dignity and your reputation. He wants to destroy your hope. What he has done is he has subverted God's truth. He is a liar. If God says, "Something is of ultimate importance," he is not creative. All he does is if God says, "Go north," he'll say, "Hey, south looks attractive."

He has a major advantage because we have bought into his ways. The inclination of our flesh is to go opposite of where God calls us to go. The inclination of our world of which this Deceiver is Lord over in a temporal way… He is Prince of this world. This is his world, and God is intervening into it to redeem what is evil about it. This world's way is to go south when God says, "Go north."

We have a triple enemy there. It's our own inclination. It is the world's current. Then this loud voice which continually appeals to our flesh and reinforces what we see in the world to tell us that this is not useless. It's not wrong. It is right and productive. So many of us radically run or climb up ladders that are leaning against the wrong wall.

I have a tragic example of that. A number of weeks ago, just in fact the very first part of October, you may have jumped on some news site and you might've seen a picture of this house thrown up there. It's a house in a gated community. It was really put forth by the media right at the beginning of our little financial crisis that we were going through because it was showing how things are really getting bad.

The headline that went with it, we may not have the picture, says, "Father Kills Family and Himself, Despondent Over Financial Losses." The story talks about this guy who lives in California in a gated community. I mean a place of beauty. It showed a picture of his house with a couple of large SUVs out front.

This 45-year-old financial manager, who once made more than $1.2 million in a single deal, had taken the life of himself, his wife, his mother-in-law (some of you guys might understand that aspect), and then tragically his three children. It says here, "This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed, apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair, somehow working his way into believing this to be an acceptable exit," Deputy Chief Michael Moore of the LAPD said.

"It is critical to step up and recognize we are in some pretty troubled times," said the Deputy Chief. I want to say, "Yes, we are!" Not because of the coming financial crisis that we are living in but because men have been listening to the world's definition of success. What's amazing is that the man left two notes, one to the police and one addressed to family and friends.

He said that, as he processed this, he was going to take his own life or kill himself and his family. Those were the two options this man considered. He says he realized in the end that it would be a disgrace to his family to take his own life, so he did the more honorable thing and took them with him. Folks, this is tragic.

This article even talks about how much this man loved his kids. I believe he did as best he understood, but he did not love his kids, he did not pursue life, he did not build meaning and purpose into his life in a way that would lead ultimately to success. He had his, if you will, direction stolen. It ended in destruction and death. Folks, this is critical stuff.

Right now, some of you, I want to tell you. I know that some of you are grinding through having your world shattered. Part of the reason, gang, we are in the situation that we are in is because leaders and individuals have bought into the lie that success is going to be directly correlated with our own ability to provide comfort and pleasure for ourselves.

We have come up with all kinds of systems that we could get to success to find that way faster and so we have leveraged ourselves. We have outreached our ability to provide. Then all of a sudden, there is an accounting. We find out that we have not been wise and now there is a price to pay. Some of us are going, "Oh my gosh, what do I do now?" Well, do not do what our friend in Porter Ranch has done. What you should do is go, "I have been giving myself radically to, in the end, that which I see should not be done at all."

Let me tell you, one of my favorite little books that I've read over the last 10 or 15 years is a great book. It is a book called Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood about Joe Ehrmann. Joe Ehrmann played 13 years in the NFL. Joe went through a radical shift in his life when he understood that he had been giving himself to the wrong things.

Joe really went and looked at why he gave himself to those things. He said something like, "I listened to a culture that told me that ultimately I would be a man, I would be successful, I would get under and go before other men and be lifted up if I would just be an individual who had sexual conquest, athletic ability, and economic success. So I pursued these three things with reckless abandon." Only to find out that he wasn't a man at all. It completely changed his life.

Joe Ehrmann did what I'm going to encourage you to do today, which is to figure out where you should ultimately give your life, and how you should define this idea of success. Success is not something you pursue. Success is really, biblically, something that you yield to, something that will come underneath you to allow you to win.

Now let me just show you why I know God is for you in this. Because what do you think God would say if you went up to him and said, "God, I want more than anything else to be a success. I want to be a man who other men look at and go, 'That is a man. That is a woman. That is beauty. That is greatness. That is glorious.'" If anybody could be a man or a woman most fully defined and revealed, you would be that guy.

Would God go, "Who do you think you are that you would make that request to me?" I want to tell you something. God is more delighted with that question than any other question you can ask. In fact, God defines sin as anything that takes you away from being that. Now let me just carefully inject right here.

When you talk about success… In too many churches, you turn on the TV instead of coming in here in the morning, and you listen to a lot of guys talk about success, and they're going to define success too often in the way that this gentleman in California pursued it. I will tell you straight out that word success is translated many different ways.

The word prosperity is in there. That word success is in there, but you have to understand a biblical view of prosperity and a biblical view of success. If you equate prosperity only with financial means, you have missed the message. In fact, Jesus says, and we'll quote it a little bit later, that you can be rich in the materials of this world and be absolutely impoverished.

In fact, we are told in different places that if you pursue greatness that way, this is 1 Timothy 6:9. Listen to this. _ "But those who want to get rich…" _ Those who define success by wealth. They, _ "…fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction." _ See also my story from October 6.

If that is how you define success as, listen to those words. Ruin, snare, foolish, harmful, destruction. Yet how much of our lives are built after chasing success that way? Look at Jeremiah, chapter 9, verses 23 and 24. This is what it says. _ "Thus says the LORD, 'Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom…'" _

I'm going to say to you again. This is the first step to success. Do not think that success and your understanding of how to achieve it is native to you, that you innately get it, and that you are wise in and of yourself. In fact, the Bible calls this person an idiot. Idios. Let me break it down for you.

It comes from a word which basically means to own, to operate your own business. So an idiot is somebody who just says, "Hey, mind your own business. I'm going to mind mine. I will do what I want to do and define truth the way I want to define it and create my own worldview the way I want to create it." As if you are God. God says, "That isn't going to get you very far in life."

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, _ "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom and let not the mighty man boast of his might…" _ Because God laughs at the strength of men. God says, "Your whole life is going to be a shrinking of your valor." I'll show you the commentary on that of the wisest man that ever lived in just a moment. _ "…let not a rich man boast of his riches…" _ Why?

Because your riches are fleeting and they are a vapor, and if you have them, Deuteronomy 8:18-20 says, you have them because God ordered your life in such a way that he might provide them for you. Why? Not so that you can think you're great and put yourself ahead of others but, really, so you could become a servant of others and share the greatness of what God has given you in order to further his purposes and invest in that which is of ultimate import.

_ "…but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me…" _ You want to be successful? The word success in Scripture really is best defined as blessed, happy. That you have been an individual whose life can be defined ultimately by a blessedness. _ "'…but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,' declares the LORD." _

"What you need to do is delight yourself in me and I will lead you to a successful life." Watch this. Mark, chapter 10. I love this section of Scripture. If you've been around me at all, you'll hear me talk about this because this is the character and nature of your God. You have to get this. God is not a cosmic killjoy trying to hold you down and rip you off.

He is trying to set you free. He is trying to lead you to life, life indeed, not life of illusion, not life of a moment, not life that is temporary, but a life that is lasting. Gang, your Father wants you to get ahead of others and to be a man above all men, but you will not get above and stay ahead of all men when you invest in fleeting things.

Our friend John Ortberg wrote a great book if you want to read about one particular insight into this called When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box. He talks and uses the metaphor, and I've done this myself. I've played my kids in Monopoly, and sometimes they dominate me and sometimes I dominate them. But at the end of the game, it all goes back in the box.

This weekend a year ago I played in a golf tournament with a bunch of guys, and we won the use of a Bentley Continental GT Convertible for four days. It's a $200,000 car. I picked it up Friday. I've been driving it all week. If you see me and you're wondering why the building isn't built, this isn't the reason why.

I had more fun yesterday. I called anybody I knew who loved cars and go, "Come get this thing. Take it. Go. It is un-stinking crazy believable." But Monday, it all goes back in the box right where it belongs. I don't care if you own your little Bentley. I don't care if you own it. You're renting it. At the end of the day, you won't even be able to drive it and you're going to go back in the box.

You will not be successful if you give yourself to fleeting things. The Bible says have some fun with it, but make sure you have fun. You know how I had real fun with this Bentley? I haven't driven as much as others have. I've taken the blessing that I got from this little silly golf tournament and I said, "Come take this thing. Enjoy it."

There's a guy who came over to my house. We had a leak between the walls. He came to look at it. We had that big rain the other day. We had water coming down through some doors. He came over to look at it and he kind of out of the corner of his eye looked at my back in my driveway. I could tell by the way he looked that this guy was a car guy.

I go, "You see my toy?" He goes, "Yeah I see your toy." I go, "Do you want to drive it?" He goes, "What?" I said, "Well, you have to go get something, right? Take this." I gave it to him. He drove it right over to a friend's house. It was fun to take a blessing that I had and share it with others in a way that gave them joy for a fleeting moment, because that's all that stuff is. It's fleeting. It's going to go back in the box.

You know what real success is? I love this statement by Ortberg. He says it really, really well. He says this. I even wrote it down so I'd get it right. I write stuff down when I'm quoting it because I can't remember good quotes sometimes. He says, "Wise people…" Successful people. "…build their lives around what is eternal and squeeze in what is temporary."

Now that's genius. That's well said. "Not the other way around." Do you know what the problem is with Christians? We build our lives around that which is temporal and then we squeeze in the eternal and so we look just like this world. I want to tell you. I know all kinds of men who can answer the questions of salvation eloquently who are orthodox in their doctrine.

I know individuals around Dallas and around the country who rightly divide the word of truth intellectually and who mock atheists and agnostics, but who, in a practical way, ignore the Scripture, and do not apply it to their lives. They, in effect, are atheistic in their fleshing out. I see men who are wealthy. I see them not living a life of blessedness.

I see them living a life of destruction. I see their family suffering. I see their kids being orphaned. I see the world around them not really admire them though they have much wealth. These guys profess Jesus, but do you know what I really see them doing? I see them working the eternal around the temporal, and it is a tragedy.

I want to tell you. Do you remember I talked about government? The reason our government is struggling is because we, the church, have lost their job. The job of government is to prosecute evil and to protect us from terror. The job of the family is to educate. The job of the church is to reprove, rebuke, remind, correct, and care.

The reason the family has a perverted view of success, the reason our government has put things into place that would allow America's economy to move forward toward successfulness is because the church didn't say, "Whoa! That is bad thinking." We have put men in positions of influence and power who do not think with a mind of Scripture, who do not know the warnings repeatedly given in Scripture related to debt.

So we just keep spinning this little top. All of sudden it's starting to unwind and slow down and fall. Everybody goes, "How did this happen?" God would say, "Because you have given yourself radically to that which in the end should not be done at all." God loves you. I'm going to tell you guys, Jesus, God the Father, wants you to be prosperous and successful, but you can't…

Can I just say this to you? If you don't read your Bible, if you don't meditate on God's Word, if you don't say, "Wisdom and a good plan for success is not native to me. It is innate in my being," then you will never be successful. You will have fleeting moments of getting ahead, and the world will go, "Wow, look at that!" And they will forget you in an instant because somebody will move ahead of you later.

When you go back in the box, when all your stuff goes back in the box, you're going to wonder why you chased that ladder, why you climbed against that wall. God is trying to call you out now because he loves you. Let me show you. Mark, chapter 10, verse 35. Why God… He wants you to be successful.

_ "James and John…" _ Two of Jesus' best friends. _ "…came up to Jesus, saying, 'Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.'" _ I love this because I always think Jesus is going to go, "Hey, haven't you learned anything from me?" But watch what God says. "All right, let's see where these guys are at."

I love this. How about if you started your prayer, "God, I want you to do for me whatever I ask." What do you think he'd say to you? He goes, "I'm listening." That's what he'd say to you. Jesus says, "I am the visible image of the invisible God. So you want to know what God is like? Watch me. If you've seen me, you've seen the Father. If you know me, you know the Father. So start your prayer this way. 'Hey, God I want you to do whatever I ask.'" "I'm listening."

Then they say this. _ "Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory." _ "Put us under and ahead. Let us go before everyone else." Now what do you think God is going to say to that? "You selfish pig. Do you know…?" No, do you know what he is going to say? He goes, "All right. Let me ask you a couple of questions. Are you willing to do whatever you need to do to get what you ask for? I want you to be successful, sons. I want you to be glorious, men."

In fact, as I said, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. When men choose not to do what God wants, but they choose to do evil, the absence of good, they become less glorious. They climb the wrong ladder. They give themselves to the wrong things. What Jesus says in this moment is, "I'll tell you what. At the end of the day, the Father is going to announce who has been successful.

What you guys need to know is that he is watching you. What you need to know is that the temporal is not where you will ultimately accomplish your success. Success is how you live in light of the eternal. The world," Jesus would go on to say, "defines success by the number of men that you can bring under you so you can be ahead of them. I define success by asking you how many men are you under? How many men do you serve?"

In other words, the greatness of a man can be determined, not by how many servants he has, but by how many people he serves. Folks, you want to invest yourself in the eternal and work in the temporal? Then you have to start every day with, "Lord, what can I do as a steward of God because I love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? What can I do for the good of man who, Father, you love enough to express their ultimate value in saying it was worth your very life in the form of man to bring them back into relationship with you?"

There are four things which are eternal: God, his Word, people, and reward. What God says is, "Come and find success this way." He says that, "When I was here, I did this." _ "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." _ Don't be like the people who don't know God, who take their positions of power and lord it over others, who try and gain things to put themselves in gated communities.

You kick out your gated communities and you go serve men. Take your Bentley and let others ride in it. Build for them a place where they can find comfort and truth. Make your life an instrument of peace. "I want you to be great," he says. "But you have to quit listening to the lie that it's about an ability to satisfy your pleasure and about an ability to fund your program, about an ability to crush another in competition."

Don't get under them to get ahead. Get under them to lift them up and you will be successful. Now look, folks. This is what I mean. We can sing songs all day long about who God is, but we will be atheistic in our worldview if we don't live the way I've just described. God says, "I want you to live. I don't want you to sing about a biblical worldview. I don't want you to articulate a biblical worldview. I want you to live with a biblical worldview."

In other words, Jesus says, _ "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock." _ That's the one whose foundation of success will not be shattered or shaken. Those are Jesus' words. Here's the problem with America today. Those who know God's Word are not building their life on it.

We look just like them. We are mixing the eternal in while we're focused on the temporal. God says, "It's hurting them. It's hurting you. It's hurting me. That is a lose-lose-lose. You want to glorify me and help them and make yourself successful? That's called a win-win-win. Then listen."

So success is not something, ultimately, guys if you try and do something to get. The first thing you must do to be successful is acknowledge that you have no idea how to design a game plan that you might be successful. You humble yourself. You go to him and say, "Lord, I want you to do for me whatever I ask of you. What do you want me to do for you? I want you to lead me."

My buddy was teaching us one time. He talked about when he was in a foreign country. He didn't know anything. They didn't speak English. He was in Russia, specifically. He said, "I didn't know what food to eat, what food not to eat. I didn't know where to go, where not to go. I didn't know anything, but I had a translator. I had a guide. She was my life.

Everywhere she went, I went. What she told me to eat, I ate. When she told me to not drink, I didn't drink. When she told me to interact with certain folks and when she took my words and made them make sense to those people, when she explained to me what I should understand about that culture, I clung to her. That is a great illustration for how we need to live."

Because you are aliens in this way of success, in this ultimate accomplishment of meaning. God says, "Depend upon me." The beginning of wisdom is to know that the game is rigged. The old Catholic priest in the movie Rudy had it right. He said, "I've come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts: There is a God…and I'm not Him." What he is saying is, "My worldview is informed primarily by the fact that I am created, that I am accountable, that there is one who is beyond me who has fixed laws in this universe, and in vain do I kick against the goads.

A goad is a long stick that a shepherd would use to drive animals. He would put that stick right in the tender part of that animal. That animal can kick all day long, but he is going to hit air. He can be violent and that little stick rightly placed will move him where he wants to go no matter how violently he challenges that goading.

God says, _ "It is hard for you to kick against the goads." _ You are kicking at air. "There are laws that are fixed. This is where you will find yourself blessed and in no other place. You cannot find. I cannot offer life and peace apart from me because life and peace do not exist apart from me. Pleasures exist apart from me. Illusion exists apart from me. The praise of men exists apart from me, but it will not make you successful."

Now watch. If _ "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…" _ what do you do? You say, 'I need what you have and I don't have." Look at Proverbs, chapter 4. I love this little section here because it's when God starts to unpack this truth that I'm expounding for you and talking to you about.

Proverbs 4 says, _ "Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding…" _ I want to say again, look, the father in Proverbs 4, is a man I'm going to introduce you to in a minute. He is saying, "Listen to me, boy. I want you to be successful." I had a moment with one of my kids this week.

He, with a good heart, wanted to do the right thing. He took a run at an application of execution to help what was a troublesome situation in isolation. It caused great heartache and pain and had him called into a conversation with those who were over him. We got a phone call that said, "Hey, we need your help because we just got this message from your boy and we don't understand it."

We go, "What message?" We looked at the message, and I could see his heart in that, but on a scale of execution and wisdom, it was well down the food chain, if you know what I mean. I went and I said to my son, "Son, did you pray before you did this?"

"No."

"Did you read God's Word before you did this?"

"No."

"Did you ask your father, who loves you, how you might execute on this good-hearted maneuver that you are seeking to employ?"

"No."

"How did that work out for you?"

He basically said, "I struck out. I swung and missed at all three opportunities for greatness." It was a great opportunity to just talk through that. The Scripture says in Proverbs 19:2 and 3, _ "Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs." _

In other words, if you start charging through this land like you know the language and you know how to find life in and of and on your own, you will find yourself in the wrong part of the city. Then verse 3 says, _ "The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the LORD." _

In other words you go, "God, how in the world could I have gotten here in this mess with my wife over there and me here? With the world on top of me and I'm in bondage to that which I thought I would be never in bondage to?" He says, "Hey, it wasn't because you listened to me. You were a little hasty. You didn't pray. You didn't discourse with me. You didn't study what I revealed to you, and you didn't seek counselors who loved me and knew me."

I said to my boy, "We have to go make this right. I love you. I'm for you. I'm going to show up and we're going to make it right." We did, and it was a glorious thing. I couldn't have been more proud of him. But we said, "Let's make sure we get the lesson we need to get from this thing. Let's not go 0 for 3 ever again in those areas." Proverbs 4. Listen to this.

_ "Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction. When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, then he taught me and said to me, 'Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live; acquire wisdom! _

_ Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is…'" _ Now what do we know from Proverbs, chapter 1, verse 7? _ "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…" _ But watch this. He said, "Because that's true that you ought to have a right understanding of who God is, that you're accountable to him, the beginning of wisdom here is acquire wisdom."

Proverbs 23, verse 23 says, _ "Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding." _ Joshua 1:8: _ "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." _

That word success… There are many of them, three different words that are used for success. It's the idea, "Then you're going to live the mighty way." It doesn't mean you're going to be better funded than the other person. It means that you are climbing up a ladder leaning against the right wall. Folks, the key to success from a biblical perspective is you are a humble individual who marches according to the Word of your Father who loves you and wants you to be glorious.

The world will tell you you're glorious if you drive a Bentley. It is on loan, people. The world will tell you you're glorious if other men serve you. No. God says, "Great men serve others. Great men use their wealth to encourage and serve others." Then a little rocky road, as my buddy says, another place where they mix in a little weekend away, but what they don't do is mix in a little eternity, a little 10 percent here and there, a little hour in the week. No, they live for eternity and mix in a little world. That's success.

I told you about this guy who wrote Proverbs 4. I love this. Look at 1 Kings, chapter 3. This is why this guy was so smart. Because he had the same conversation that James and John did a few years earlier. He had pleased his father and his father said, "Boy, I'm going to give you a gift. Take whatever you like, and I will give it to you." So this is what he says. He's about 20 years old when he says this.

First Kings 3:7-9. This is Solomon. _ "Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in." _ He has assumed a position of humility. You want to be successful? Gang, here it goes. Have you prayed? Have you assumed yourself to be a child and said, "Daddy, I don't have a clue. What do you have to say?"

_ "Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil." _ "I don't need to go to the tree of university. I don't need to go to the book of philosophers. I don't need to, on my own, figure out what is right and wrong. I want to go to you, the good one. You tell me what is right. You tell me what to pursue and I will pursue it."

One guy upon hearing this said, "Hey, Solomon is about 20 years old. That would put him to be about a sophomore in college." Again, I love to do this because you break down sophomore, sophos and moros. It comes from two words. Sophos, which means wisdom, and basically moron. So a sophomore is really a smart idiot. That's a sophomore.

They're not a freshman. A freshman knows nothing. He is a child. He is completely dangerous. He will shove anything in his mouth. He will put three beers in a funnel and fire it down because he thinks there's life there. The laughter of familiarity right there. After doing that, after putting on your freshman 15, after being a fool and realizing that didn't work out for you, you all of a sudden become a little wiser than a fresh man. Now you are a smart idiot.

You know that you don't have a clue, and so you start to, maybe, listen. Now the problem is that most of us don't learn that when we're 20 or juniors or seniors. We become graduates, who take on the world still as fresh men, who do not know that they need a Father to guide them toward success. They ruin lives: their own and others.

Solomon, though, said, "You want to know what the key to success is? You get wisdom." _ " __ Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding." _ Look at Psalm 90. Great psalm. I love this. It's the prayer of Moses, the man of God. Now I want to tell you this about Moses. We don't have time to turn there, but if I did, I'd take you to Exodus 33, verses 12 through 18.

This is Moses. Moses is going to tell you how to be a great man. Moses was called the most humble man on the face of the earth. The reason he was called the most humble man on the face of the earth is because Moses did what Solomon did. Solomon was called the wisest man on the face of the earth because Solomon knew what Moses knew. That is that, "I don't have a clue. I'm a child."

Moses is coming down off Mount Sinai, and he says to God, who tells him to go, he said, "God, I'm not going anywhere unless you go with me. I refuse to move until you have spoken and promised to move. If I have found favor in your sight, let me know that I may know you. If your presence doesn't go with me, I'm not moving. I'm sitting right here. Not as a stubborn child who wants to do what he wants to do, but as a wise child who says, 'Daddy, speak and I will go.'''

Folks, that's the way you have to live. Now look what Moses said. This man who was humble… This is what the Scripture says in 1 Peter, chapter 5, verses 5 and 6. This is Peter, the good friend of Christ, the one who the church of wisdom was going to be built on. Peter in 1 Peter, chapter 5 says, _ "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders _ [your shepherds]_ ; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility…" _

I love that because the word for pride in Scripture is typhoō, which is wrapped in smoke. So many of us wrap ourselves in smoke in impressive clothes, impressive addresses, impressive careers and prestige and power and possessions. God says, "It's smoke, you prideful fool, and there will be a day when God will go pfff! and you're going to be there naked, just like the wizard, your little midget self behind a giant curtain.

All of Oz is going to go, "Oh my goodness. There is nothing there." He says, _ "…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time…" _

You want to be successful? You wait for the one who ultimately defines success. Moses was humble. This is what Moses says then in Psalm 90. Watch it. _ "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." _

What is the primary means through which Moses defines success? He starts with a biblical worldview on the issue of origins. Look. _ "You turn man back into dust and say, 'Return, O children of men.' For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew." _

Men who are successful and glorious and beautiful like the flowers are as temporary as the flowers. _ "In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away. For we have been consumed by Your anger and by Your wrath we have been dismayed. You have placed our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence. For all our days have declined in Your fury; we have finished our years like a sigh." _

Guys, I have sat next to the bed of billionaires who just months before that paraded their greatness and arrogance before men. I have sat there and they have asked me for an ice chip that they might have a moment of relief that all their money could not bring them. I gave them that ice chip and I gave them everything I knew about the Savior and told them.

I said, "Listen to me. Listen to me. You have squandered much of the decades of life that God has given you, but maybe now in God's mercy and grace as he lets you slowly move toward judgment, you can become as a child again and acknowledge the arrogance and foolishness of your ways. All that you have put trust in cannot save you now, but the one who you have spit at and scoffed at and mocked with your behaviors and your practices calls you to come and trust in him."

Moses says your life will end in a sigh. I want to tell you, gang, you want to live your life in such a way that others will look at you at the end of your days and say, "That man got under me to serve me. That man did not suppress me for his own pleasures. That man did not exploit me for a good weekend. That man did not ignore me so he could feel unchecked in his self-comfort. That guy got under me."

What I will tell you is that you want your life to end with a video like I'm going to show you right now. We've been doing this little "Thanks for making room for me" stuff that we're trying to all order our lives and use our resources in a way that would provide a home and a community that they could come into and meet their Savior.

You know, I was thinking about this. The reason I wanted to move this to right here is because I want my life to end with this. I want my life to end with a video of people at my funeral taking turns saying, "Wagner made room. Wagner loved me. Wagner spoke the truth to me in love. Wagner served me.

Wagner did not love my praise. Wagner loved me. He spurred me on. He reminded me of what was true. He boasted in God, and the reason he did that freely is because he knew he had an infinite God to share so it wasn't a way to say that he had something you could not. He said, 'Come and dine with me at the table of my Father and make him yours.'"

Folks, that's who we want to be as a church. You want to be a successful church? Then you won't go to a place where you like the music or the seats are comfortable. We will make room for others. We will be disciples and make disciples. I want you to imagine when they say Watermark, the body of Jesus Christ, that they say, "You, the servant of Jesus Christ." Imagine this being your funeral. Then imagine this being our church. I'll just say this.

We are waiting to finish what we have. I don't want to mingle these too much, but I will tell you. Man, I am glad I'm investing here with my life and with my resources to put up a home, to be a part of a house, to be part of a body where folks can say this to you for the glory of the Father, the good of them, and for your blessedness, successful church. Watch this.

[Video]

Leon Johnson: You want me to start from the beginning?

Noella DeTourris: Can you read the last one? Can you cut and do the last one?

Gloria Gilpin: Well, the reason we actually came to Watermark is to bring up the average age.

Cummings Family: Look at the camera up there. See the camera?

Bobby Gilpin: That may be why you're here. I'm much younger.

Jill Sale: This is it. Okay, here we go.

Paul Rutherford: I was raised in the church by my parents. Got to college, lost my faith. Senior year came back to Christ. Now choosing a church, a friend of mine invited me to come on Tuesday nights to the Porch. I just found a place where people are so open and so fresh that I can just belong here. So thanks for making room for me.

Noella DeTourris: Thank you for making room for me.

Cummings Family: Thanks for making room for us.

Shawn Minix: I was on staff as a student pastor for several years at another church. We never really experienced deep community until we came to Watermark. God, through Watermark, has changed our lives tremendously. It's been a blessing.

Amy Minix: Thank you for making room for us.

Paul Bailey: Thanks for making room for me.

Guillalim and Sandy Coffner: We love coming to Watermark because it makes it easy for us to worship as a family, with the staff and the volunteers helping us, so thank you for making room for us.

Erica Zeplin: My mom died unexpectedly, and I moved to Dallas, and I left my church home back where I was living. My first year here, I did kind of a church tour, and I really never got connected in any of the churches that I attended. A friend suggested that I try Watermark, and within 10 minutes of being here, a girl approached me and asked me to go on a bike ride with her. Within about two weeks, I was connected in Celebrate Recovery. So thanks for making room for me.

Taylor Family: Thanks for making room for us.

Jill Sale: Thanks for making room for me.

Gloria and Bobby Gilpin: I want to say thanks for making room for us.

Leon Johnson: I come to find a flyer on my door, and it was from Watermark's Celebrate Recovery. I had done the A.A. Twelve Steps, but I decided that I really needed more.

Wendy Wolff: My friend Ann Piper invited my son Jake and me to experience the Kaleidoscope program, and as I kept coming to Watermark, I built a relationship with the community who was following Christ.

Harold Sellers: I gave my life to the Lord right after I was incarcerated. I walked with him for the whole time that I was incarcerated. I only had one problem, and that was when I was going to the churches there. There was so much hypocrisy. Nobody really loved the Lord. They were just lip service.

Leon Johnson: Lo and behold, I found myself actually loving the Celebrate Recovery and the services on Sunday.

Wendy Wolff: And this is one of the places where I became clean and sober and built my relationship with Jesus Christ.

Harold Sellers: I wanted to continue to grow, continue to serve God. When I got out, the Lord led me to the Union Gospel Mission. When I went to the Mission, I felt at home there. While I was going through the Mission, there was Watermark coming here. It wasn't just one or two, three volunteers. It was 20, 30, sometimes even more.

Leon Johnson: I just can't explain it. It is wonderful to be welcome.

Harold Sellers: I made the decision that this church was for me. I want to serve, and this church is a church to serve.

Wendy Wolff: Thanks for making room for us.

Leon Johnson: Thanks for making room for me.

Harold Sellers: Thank you. Thank you so much for making room for me.

[End of Video]

Gang, I want to tell you. See, don't you want to die with that? A parade of men who are going to show up and say, "I am in the kingdom because of this life. I walked with the Savior more fully because of this life." That is success. You guys live for the eternal and you mix in the temporary in a way that doesn't violate the eternal Word of God. Don't do it the other way around.

You were made for this, people, to be glorious. You were made to worship. That you know about your Father. When you worship him, you become great. What kind of great Dad is that? When you say, "Father, teach me," he says, "I'm going to teach you to be great." Worship him. If you don't know why or how, will you come up? I'll stand here until no one wants to talk. If you know that, will you stand and sing? Will you go make room for him in your heart so that you will live as he lived, making room for others?


About 'What in the World are You Thinking?'

How do you look at the world? What influences your perspective on the challenges and people you interact with every day? In this 10-part series, Todd Wagner explains why your worldview ? the lens you look at the world through ? matters. You?ll discover what it means to have a biblical worldview, and how our failure to look at the world through God?s "lens" impacts our lives, culture and our world.