You probably know someone who has received Christ and has gone on to serve the Lord with great effect. You've witnessed dramatic changes in his or her life.
You may also know someone who has been a failure in the Christian life. There has been no discernible spiritual growth and no change in his or her character.
Why is it that some people succeed spiritually, while others fail? Answer: because they choose to.
Philippians 2:12-13 tells us, "Be even more careful to put into action God's saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him" (NLT).
There are some things that only God can do, and there are some things that only we can do. Only God can save a person. Only God can forgive and forget our sins.
But having said that, only we can believe. Only we can repent. Only we can follow. God will not do that for us. He has given us a free will with the ability to choose. So success in the Christian life comes down to our willingness.
Can others look at you and see the changes in your character and in your conduct? Can others tell that you have indeed become a follower of Jesus Christ?
It is one thing to be a brand-new believer. But it is another thing to have known the Lord for one year, five years, ten years, or more, and live in a state of arrested spiritual development.
That is why we need to realize that one of the foundational principles for spiritual success is reading, studying, and having a love for the Word of God. Everything we need to know about God is found in the Bible. So we must learn to love it. We must learn to study it. We must learn to memorize it. If we don't, then we are not going to succeed spiritually.
Before I became a Christian and began reading the Bible, I didn't know what to believe or what to think. But then, as a 17 year-old kid, I discovered how relevant the Bible was to my life.
Now, a few decades later, it is still relevant. What's more, I know it will continue to be relevant for the rest of my life.
Some Christians won't take the time to read the Bible. Yet the Bible tells us how to live. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do" (NLT).
Success or failure in the Christian life depends on how much of the Word of God we get into our lives on a daily basis and how obedient we are to it.
There is an alarming trend in the church today, and that is to get away from Bible exposition. In some churches, the congregation doesn't bring their Bibles anymore. When a minister gets up to speak, instead of allowing the Word of God to unfold and letting the text determine the direction of the message, he will use the Bible to support the points he is making in the topical message he is giving that day.
How much better it is to let the Bible text unfold, line upon line, precept upon precept, word upon word, verse by verse. We can't get away from the Word of God. If we do, we will suffer, and we will not succeed spiritually.
If you look at the life of a person who is in trouble, you will find that in almost every case, that person has disregarded what the Bible says. But if we will govern our lives by the teaching of Scripture, we will find that instead of becoming foolish, we will become wise.
God is not out to ruin your life. He wants it to be fulfilling, and He offers you happiness as you live by His Word.
But the Bible must be more than a prop — it must be your guide. You need to read it every day, and you need to obey what it says. If you do that, then you will have spiritual success.