Pitfalls of Success

May 10, 2021 at 12:54 PM 6 comments

Audio for this article can be heard here: SermonAudio.com/studygrowknow

Pitfalls of Success
It seems that success too often brings much trouble. We see this time and time again with Israel’s history and numerous kings. It is almost as though times of peace and prosperity (success) creates laziness toward God and eventually brings a person to a point of spiritual ruin.

One good example of this among many is with King Joash in 2 Chronicles 23 to 2 Chronicles 25. Joash became king while evil Queen Athaliah was still reigning. This coup was championed by the High Priest Jehoiada. He undertook to safeguard a “son of David” (Joash) and raise him up to the throne. Johoiada also took pains to safeguard the young king (who was only 7 years old when he began his reign; cf 2 Chronicles 24:1), until Athaliah could be removed.

And he took the captains, the nobles, the governors of the people, and all the people of the land, and they brought the king down from the house of the Lord, marching through the upper gate to the king’s house. And they set the king on the royal throne. So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword. (2 Chronicles 23:20-21 ESV)

Notice that “all the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet…” after the king was crowned and the queen dethroned and executed. At first, this success proved Joash’s mettle. He chose to repair the temple of the LORD, which had been treated shamefully under Athaliah. The temple had been left to rot. Joash changed that by re-instituting the temple tax though the Levites were very slow to act.

So, Joash summons Jehoiada to ask him about it. After this, things began to move. A chest was put in place to collect the money for the temple tax. Verse 10 tells us that all the people were actually happy about giving their tax to refurbish the temple; imagine that. By verse 14, we are told that everything was finished and the burnt offerings again took place.

However, in verse 15, there is a change. Jehoiada was getting old and died at the age of 130. By verse 17, Joash is already showing signs of weakness and compromise. Notice the princes of Judah came and chatted with him. They clearly had something on their minds and apparently made their request of the king, who, get this, acquiesced to them. Apparently, they wanted to continue worshiping Asherim and other idols and the king allowed it! After all he had been through he arrived to a point of being so comfortable in success that apparently existed in his land that he forgot to place the LORD as supreme. He began wandering away.

This was the beginning of the end for Joash. So God sends prophets to warn Joash, which didn’t work. Finally, God raises up Jehoiada’s own son, Zechariah (different from the Zechariah who wrote the book that bears his name), to point out Joash’s error. Joash responds by actually having Zechariah killed by stoning (v 21)!

From this point, God sends the armies of Syria to deal with it. Ultimately, Joash is assassinated by his own servants (v 25). He could not say he hadn’t been warned.

How does a person go from loving the Lord, being careful to walk in His ways, to killing a prophet specifically sent by God? It happens solely because Joash stopped fearing the Lord. When he was young, he likely feared the Lord (profound, deep, reverential awe). But when everything in the land was great without war, with prosperity, success went to Joash’s head as he came to believe God was with him so he could do anything he wanted to do.

Success Isn’t Always Success
This reminds me of some very large Christian ministries that have multi-million dollar budgets with hundreds of employees. Leaders likely believe that this “success” proves their spiritual worth and God’s blessing. Never mind that many to most of these ministries have wandered away from the truth imperceptibly over the years until they do not even realize how far they have strayed. Yet, the fact that people continue to support their ministry and that ministry essentially has no financial lack seems to prove to them that they are doing well.

Agur,the son of Jakeh wrote a Proverb that, in part, says this:

Two things I ask of you;
    deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
    and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9 ESV)

Notice he says, “give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with the food that is needful for me…” Why does he say this? Because he was wise enough to realize that in either great riches or poverty, he knew his tendency would be to “…deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord’?” In either case, it becomes too tempting for people to either become lazy with spiritual things, start to ignore God and do our own thing, or bring dishonor to God by doing things that are illegal just to help themselves.

While these ministry leaders may believe God raised them for that purpose, they also often come to believe that they are indispensable to that particular ministry. What often happens then is that family members are given high-paying slots in the company and/or are on the board that makes decisions for that company. This automatically creates a conflict of interest and makes it much easier for those in lead positions to never be questioned.

In the Old Testament, people believed wealth was a sign of God’s blessing based on the person’s inherent “righteousness.” Poor people were so due to His withholding of blessing due to a lack of “righteousness.” This transferred over to the New Testament where we note on several occasions Jesus had to correct this wrong thinking in His apostles. Not everyone born with a defect, for instance, was due to personal sin. Not everyone who is wealthy was due to God’s blessing. Wealth is often amassed through corruption then and now.

Wrong View of Success Persists
Here in 2021, too many still believe that riches with ministry non-profits are due to God’s blessing of that particular group. People see their “success” and think, “God has truly blessed them!” When we see a church with few people or a missionary who has worked tirelessly on the mission field for decades without much to show for it, we think, “God must not be with them!” This is shameful. We judge by externals. But what of the prophets? Nearly all the prophets of the Old Testament must not have been blessed by God because there was little evidence in most cases of any successes at all. In fact, most prophets were killed and most rejected their warnings. Not a “successful” ministry, was it? By the world’s standards at least.

I am of the belief that things are darkening terribly in this world as we watch Romans 1 play out in real time. Churches have been and remain closed or limited throughout the USA with some pastors facing serious legal problems. In Canada, two pastors have been arrested for daring to go against the health policies of Canada’s government. Pastors James Coates and Artur Pawlowski have both seen the inside of prisons and both pastor churches in Alberta. You can read more about their situations in the latest post by Elizabeth Prata. Pawloski was literally hunted like a dog and made to kneel on a busy street while law enforcement arrested him. They could’ve simply arrested him at his church (which he forced NO ONE to attend by the way). All he did was open his church doors. People came. It is absurd what is happening in parts of so-called civilized western society.

I think Christians need to seriously question why certain Christian ministries are so successful and I’m not suggesting that every ministry is questionable. But questions should be asked. Are they compromising the truth? Are they sidling up to “Caesar”? Who are they in bed with and why? The name of the game appears to be worldly success at all costs. Because of it, these wolves seem willing to do whatever the government tells them, without thinking, without asking any questions, without seeking guidance from the Lord.

I understand that In the beginning of CV-19, no one really knew what was going on. Now, there’s no excuse. You’ve either contracted CV-19 and gotten over it or you’ve built up a natural resistance to it. The idea that we will have to wear masks indefinitely (per Fauci), is ridiculous and will do more to ruin people’s health by compromising their immune systems than keep them from getting sick.

Why do Christians persist in accepting a wrong view of “success,” which often translates to mediocrity instead of true spiritual depth and reality? Is it possibly due to Christians being way too involved with the Babylon culture of today. It forces us to see things through the eyes of the world instead of through the biblical lens.

Wealth (success) today is often seen to mean that God has His hand on that person’s life. I know of pastors of smallish churches who consistently preach the Word in and out of season. Their ability to exegete and expositionally preach the Word is a true gift from God and something they have dutifully fanned into a flame. Yet, these pastors, who work hard to care for (not lord over), their flocks do not minister to thousands and thousands of people. Compared to seeker-sensitive churches who boast thousands of people every Sunday, these pastors and their churches are not “successful” by the world’s standards. How about by God’s standards? Are they doing what they are supposed to be doing? It seems so even though they have far fewer numbers to show for it.

I view my “stats” here and on my Sermon Audio page and while I’m tempted to think, “Oh woe is me, I only have so many reading my blog or hearing my messages,” the truth is that articles and audio messages actually get into at least 40 countries worldwide. I see not only which country my messages get into but how many times a message has been heard or an article read. My point is that the people who read my blog and listen to my audios may well be unchurched people. Most of these people are in the USA but a fair number are in other western countries like Canada, South Africa, Germany, the UK, Trinidad, Slovakia, Malaysia, Israel, SIngapore, Ethiopia and many other even smaller countries. I’m not bragging. I’m simply stating that knowing this helps me to realize it is not the size of ministry that God looks on. It is the quality of ministry that God approves.

Success has snares that I’d prefer to avoid. The tendency to move away from the Lord is very strong with success. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be found unreliable to Him. I don’t want to grieve Him. It is better for me to never have success as the world labels it to lessen my chances of ever thinking that I’ve gotten too big for God and don’t need Him any longer. May God forbid that from happening!


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New Age’s Intentions, Pt 2 Discerning the Times: Easy to Fail


  • 1. Jen B  |  May 10, 2021 at 4:44 PM



    • 2. modres  |  May 10, 2021 at 4:44 PM



  • 3. Jen b  |  May 10, 2021 at 4:18 PM

    Very good point on dietary influences. I was just reading how the entire U.S. food pyramid was based on now debunked “science” which has led to an overweight and sicker population. Many of us were raised at the start of the cereal and frozen processed foods craze; while eggs, among the worlds healthiest foods was sidelined. Then everyone went on cholesterol meds that made people sicker…BTW, ”Lucky Charms”?! Occult in plain sight.


    • 4. modres  |  May 10, 2021 at 4:26 PM

      Yep! Exactly and because old habits die hard, most of us don’t even comprehend that the “food stuff” we eat is actually killing us by weakening our immune systems, creating leaky guts, and a host of other problems. We then go to doctors who, instead of telling us anything about the food stuff we consume, simply prescribe numerous pills for what they think ails us.

      Here’s a case in point. Over the past week, I was starting to have a really weird reaction. My skin started itching, I was getting headaches and slight irritability as well as a complete lack of energy. I couldn’t figure it out, so I prayed about it. Over the course of several days, it seemed to me that several new SUPPLEMENTS were causing a problem. I decided to set them aside and see if it cleared up. Within three days (it takes at least 3 days for whatever we eat to get completely out of our systems), which is TODAY actually, I am starting to feel as though I’m back to normal. So, here is an example of what supplements (not even medications), can do.

      The truth seems to be that if we eat correctly, we will get most of our nutritional needs from that food. If we eat fast food and highly processed foods, we will NOT even though much of that food is “enriched” with vitamins. Too often those vitamins cannot be absorbed because they’re simply added in and our bodies often remove them through our waste. High quality natural foods already have the vitamins embedded in them naturally, by God, so our bodies were actually designed to absorb those vitamins.

      My wife and I have eggs every day for breakfast and we’ve been doing KETO (with gluten free and dairy free) for a number of years. It pays off.

      Aside from occultic asides in Lucky Charms, it is so over the top with High Fructose Corn Syrup (not even regular sugar), that it’s ridiculous. Years ago, these things were sweetened with regular sugar. People should take the time to watch what they eat.


  • 5. Jen b  |  May 10, 2021 at 2:59 PM

    Blessings Fred, thanks for these insights. Isn’t Joash, also the one who found the Torah and reinstituted the Passover? I have always wondered how, Israel, with all they had could go from David’s time and in a few generations not even know about the Passover! It was as if the written Word had become an ancient relic, but not helpful or appropriate for instruction and wisdom. Just like our day, churches say they believe in the inerrancy of scripture, but immediately look to humanism and psychology to fix what ails us. A very stark reminder to stay in the fear of the LORD. Especially now as we see younger generations being raised completely devoid of any attachment to Biblical thinking. In fact, I can think several young adults right now, all struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts (2 of these are “christian” homes). All because of the departure from the fear of the LORD and His Word.

    This morning while reading in Genesis, I noted God pruned Abram of the lot connection before reaffirming His covenant. Just like we must be willing to allow the LORD to prune our lives of unGodly people and thinking. As one commentator said of Abram, “he had the world’s goods, but the world did not have him, whereas lot had the world’s goods, and the world had lot”. Too many Christians, myself, have the the world’s goods and the world has had us. May it not be any longer.

    With regard to the churches and covid….perhaps we are reaching the point where there will be a “famine of the hearing of the Word of the LORD”? Who knows that God has not used this to judge and chasten the American church which is largely humanistic/Babylonian. Not sure about your region, but I can tell you, being in the “belly of the beast” so to speak in terms of apostate Christianity, that any solid teaching going on is not occurring in any churches near me. None. Not even the so called Bible churches, which are all syncretism and psychology. It was about 7 years ago I realized that if I were to used of God to lead someone to faith, I would have to disciple them myself, without a local church, since I could not in good conscience send anyone to a local church.

    Thank God He has allowed for instruction via the internet, including your ministry which I pray God will continue to use to encourage and equip us in obedience and fear of the LORD.

    Sorry for the rather disconnected thoughts today


    • 6. modres  |  May 10, 2021 at 3:53 PM

      Hi Jen, the king you’re thinking of was Josiah (2 Kings 23). Easy enough to get them mixed up with such similar names. At one point, I’d like to have their names and order of reign memorized, but who knows?

      I guess what amazes me is how quickly any of us can make poor decisions based not on Scripture but on how we feel about something. I’m realizing that more and more in my own life, how important it is to remain as true to His Word as possible. I can only think of a few people in the entirety of Scripture whose personal sin we are not aware of, like Daniel. I’m sure he sinned, but since he was also a type of Christ, that may be one of the reasons the Lord chose not to focus on any of his sins.

      I also often wonder what things would have been like had David not sinned, first by lusting after, then committing adultery with Bathsheba, then having her husband Uriah killed in battle. It was because of that, the Lord saw fit to bring judgment via the consequences of David’s sin, even though it is clear that God forgave David. God did nothing to reverse the natural consequences of David’s actions. His son Absalom turned against David because of David’s hypocrisy and that whole sinful situation with David started the ball rolling on the division of the nation.

      I agree with you about what’s happening within Christendom today by way of the introduction and even invitation of humanism into many churches. I really feel sorry for kids being raised now because it will take a great deal of personal perseverance and prayer by parents to raise these children in light of God’s Word. Others might disagree with me, but I think the other part of the problem is the way people eat. Most take absolutely no thought about what goes into their stomachs. They live on fast food and/or highly processed foods which can do big damage to our digestion systems. I think this plays a great deal into the problems of sickness, depression and general malaise that affects many to most in society. But to your point, it also does not help that people are so devoid of God’s Word.

      Yes, isn’t it interesting what God did with Abraham? God set out to prune him of the connections of this world and Abraham obeyed.

      It’s very possible that CV-19 and related issues are allowed by God for the purpose of separating the wheat from the chaff and to siphon off the dross. America needs chastening, but maybe it’s beyond that? Maybe God is deliberately allowing USA to go under His arm of judgment? Seems to be the case.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Jen. I didn’t see them as “disconnected.” I think I see what you’re getting at. 🙂


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