Many people are attracted to Messianic Judaism because of the intellectual stimulation it affords; it also allows them to learn the true meaning behind misinterpreted scripture, and this is good. However, there is an element to intellectual pursuit that is self-defeating. When intellectual pursuit becomes only the means to accumulate knowledge without the power of G-d therein, it only promotes pride and self-aggrandizement. If you honestly conclude that is the case, then you need to ask yourself, Is not the pursuit of “religion” to bring us closer to the Almighty? If the only thing you are experiencing in your pursuit is knowledge, without the power thereof then you have failed. For there is another side to Messianic Judaism, and this is the side that is more important, the side of living the life of a Torah Observance Messianic Jew. That side has more power, works more miracles, and says more to unbelievers than all the knowledge of the world. True religion is dynamic; it is a way of life more than an intellectual discipline. Discipline brings us to the lifestyle, but if you are missing the essential element of spiritual awakening than you have failed.
Most people, believers included, hold to the conventional wisdom that to be number one you have to take care of yourself first. What is missing in the equation is spirituality and contrary to this philosophy, Yahshua taught and emphasized servant hood, the idea that the way to succeed is to put others first. That is the spiritual element missing in the world’s definition of personal success.
Successful entrepreneurs in the business world contrary to conventional wisdom learn by default what Yahshua taught. They have discovered that the surest way to success is to put your employees and customers first, in effect to become a servant to them.
So, why is it that believers who should know better do not learn from Yahshua or even from contemporary secular examples? If you study your Bible as you should you will recall that In Matthew 23:11 Yahshua said, “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Here Yahshua emphasizes and gives us the key to success. A simple formula, but one based upon the Word of G-d. How can it fail? It cannot, but Yahshua also adds other elements to the formula for which we need to be aware.
Servant hood is essential for success, but Yahshua also teaches us that we have to set priorities if we are to be successful. In Matthew, 6:33 Yahshua can be seen summing up His entire corpus of teaching with this message, “Seek first the kingdom of G-d and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Yahshua is saying to us that obtaining the kingdom of G-d is necessary if you want success, personal satisfaction and achievement in your life. If that is what you want, then you must heed this command of YHVH/Yahshua. Just because you profess salvation does not mean that your seeking or righteousness is complete, no it actually means that your journey is just beginning. Recognition and subsequent commitment is a necessary prerequisite to both spiritual and earthly success. Unfortunately, it is easier said, than done.
Most of you have no problem with setting priorities and that is not the problem but being distracted from them is. We become distracted from them all too easily it seems, letting other things crowd them out. All too often, we go off on tangents, letting other cares disrupt our priorities, dissolving our focus and commitment. In the real world, our actions betray our profession of our commitment to G-d. We break promises, procrastinate and let the “good” or expedient things crowd out the “best” things. We make a promise to do something at a given time, fulfill a commitment, or meet an obligation and instead we go to a movie or do some other thing rationalizing that we need the diversion and change of pace over fulfilling our obligations. G-d is pushed aside, our actions proclaiming more earnestly than or professions that He is not real to us. Instead, we fear the ridicule of humanity more than the wrath of G-d and we let the “good” things push out the “best” things to the detriment of our spiritual growth. . Unfortunately, because of our estrangement from G-d we fail to realize, that Yahshua had the right idea, that priorities for our lives are not incompatible with successful living, in fact adhering to them is essential to a believer’s successful life and testimony.
If you promise someone that you will meet him or her at a certain time on a certain day for fellowship and the opportunity suddenly presents itself for you to attend another function that you earnestly would like to attend. What do you do? Make some excuse to not meet the other person, lie to him/her about some emergency or illness, do you rationalize that you can meet them anytime, or do you forego your desired pleasure and meet as you previously arranged. If we conduct ourselves as Yahshua and the Bible teaches, we will meet the person as promised, putting that person first before our own pleasure. In the annual of G-d’s time, how do we know what importance that meeting may be to the other person? We have set our priority and if we have lived up to it, we have kept faith not only with that person, but also with G-d.
Judaism has an illustration to drive this point home. It goes like this. A wise man once said that big people are big in the little things of life; it is a man who makes things big or small. A great person utilizes seemingly little things in important ways, while spiritual midgets can debase the most significant things. For example, money, which is often a lethal spiritual poison, can be the source of intense love of G-d in the spirit of: “You shall love HaShem your G-d…with all your resources (Deu. 6:5).” You can help your fellow man with your resources therefore becoming a partner with G-d or you can hoard all your resources gathering material things unto yourself neither helping your self or others for riches tends to turn you away from spiritual things.
By setting priorities and keeping to them you have established a plan that keeps you in charge of your energies and activities, and commitment will help you develop the determination to accomplish your plan. If you merely give lip service to your spiritual and physical life then you want for at each challenge, you will follow the course that caterers to your physical desires and self-gratification. The course you take will either develop your reputation as a person of his word or the converse, one that cannot be trusted to carry out what he/she says they will do. Moreover, you must remember that your reputation not only reflects upon you as an individual, but also upon your testimony as a believer, and even upon the group, you represent. How many times have you heard, “Ah, I’m not going church, Christians are just hypocrites.” Why is that sentiment so prevalent in our society? You know and I know it is because Christians by and large have a “church” life on Sunday, and another life devoid of the virtues they profess on weekdays. Is that the characterization we want as Messianic believers? I think not. It’s important to understand that if you don’t have your priorities in place, you can only react to circumstances, however, priorities that make a plan possible also puts you in charge and you become proactive and not reactive.
However, a plan resulting from the right priorities requires adequate preparation because inadequate preparation produces inadequate results. Fortunately, we have Yahshua’s example to guide us. To those and to this society of instant gratification we need to take note that Yahshua prepared thirty years for His ministry of 3.5 years. Secondly, Yahshua’s example was established upon the right foundation, Torah. This foundation of knowledge was the basis of all His actions, which He executed faithfully and brilliantly. If we are to succeed, we too must do the same thing. We have to be knowledgeable and have Torah consciousness, which brings us to Yahshua’s summation of our first priority, delivered earlier. And for those that see no worth in Torah or the Old Testament please remember that in Yahshua’s time the NT was not written. Yahshua also taught us about the value of preparation in His teaching. In the parable of the foolish virgins, who were caught without oil in their lamps and when the bridegroom came they being with out oil missed the wedding; so also does the parable of the servants, who did not perform their assigned tasks and were not ready to meet their master upon His return. They thought the master would be away for a long time so they wasted time and received the master’s wrath when he returned unexpectedly. In these two examples, we see servant hood, but lack of commitment and diligence in carrying out a plan. As a result, they fell short and missed the kingdom. How many of you see yourselves in these two examples? Yahshua’s own amazing accomplishments proves the essentiality that by working your plan it brings success. There is an old saying, Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. This might sound simplistic but there is a lot of truth in that saying.
If you are to execute your plan, you must make sure you are free to do the things only you can do, the things you are committed to do or the things that are expected of you because these are the things upon which you will be judged. Vistas of a bright and glowing future may be in the cards for you, but at the present, you have a job to do and you will be judged for how you handle your present job. In the Gospels we see that Yahshua was devoting His time to teaching the essential work only He could do. We see further in Acts that the Apostles also had to question what they were doing and identify the essential thing for themselves instead of attending to the logistical needs of the congregation. Both Yahshua and the Apostles had to be free to do that which they were prepared to do. Not once in the entire scriptures do we see Yahshua having to deal with the logistical operations of His ministry. This is important for you to learn. It is absolutely essential that rabbis or teachers not become bogged down in the logistical operations, care and maintenance of a synagogue or congregation if the enterprise is to be successful. Yahshua did not get involved with details, He used His staff for those. If He had to leave His essential calling of teaching, to devote time to logistical operation and maintenance of His ministry, what message would you and I be reading from the gospels today? It would be far different story. One of the greatest dishonors to a rabbi or leader of a congregation is for him/her to become trapped into the handling of all the small details of the daily running of the synagogue. Personal success requires you do the things you are called to do, and the things upon which you will be judged.
As a Messianic Believer, you must deal with absolutes. In today’s world, society denies any absolutes of life. We are inundated with academic pundit pontificating that it is not politically correct to insist on absolutes. They teach that two diametrically opposing thoughts can both be true, because there is no absolute truth. This philosophy has filtered down even into the professing “church,” its seminaries and leadership. Look into your own heart and you will see the seeds of this philosophy residing there; if it is not already an overgrown garden. It is practically impossible not to be contaminated by it for it appeals to our selfishness and self-promotion. Biblically, it is greed, and self-will. It is nothing less than rebellion against the order and will of G-d. It is sin. We who identify ourselves as Messianic Jews cannot buy into such a way of thinking, for if we do not have G-d’s absolutes as our guide then who are we? The proposition of no absolutes is so ridiculous that if you were to tell a secular businessperson to run his/her business without absolutes they would deem it utter nonsense and a guarantee of failure. On a more personal level, consider this; if you are the spiritual head of your family, if you have a position of authority and trust in a synagogue or at work, and you conduct yourself by the world’s standards and philosophy, are you honoring G-d by your actions? Perhaps you are, but it is not the G-d of the Bible. Yahshua insisted that some things are right and some are false. Yahshua never equivocated. Sincerity did not count with Him, if what you believed was sincerely wrong. A lack of absolutes leads to shoddy living, a shoddy life, and shoddy results. It breeds contempt of authority in those around you and contempt of you as well. If you want to live successfully then you must teach the right way, insist on the right way, and be an example of the right way. We must follow Yahshua’s example.
Another aspect of being successful as a Messianic Jew is that we cannot sugarcoat the process. Yahshua told His disciples that there would be terribly difficult days ahead for them. In fact, He tells us contrary to the church and society’s message that we are to expect adversity and persecution. In John 15:20 Yahshua reminds us: “ Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” Yahshua also said in Luke 14:26 emphasizing our life priority that “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Unrealistic expectations are a curse for the righteous life. If we remember Yahshua’s words we will not be guilty of exclaiming, “I thought it would be different” or I was told I could expect something else.” We must not believe or set our expectations upon glossy glamorized pictures of the Messianic Life. Obviously, we also are not to paint an unrealistic picture of the Messianic life for others. That does not mean we are to be morbid, but we are to be realistic. Unrealistic expectations have ruined more lives and turned more people away from the truth than any other thing in the name of religion. We may present the Messianic life in the best possible light, but we should not oversell it by neglecting the negative aspects of a believers life, for when adversity comes it seems we have sold a lie. Yahshua did not so how can we sell something we cannot deliver. Neither should we take on responsibilities that we cannot deliver. We may show the upside but we should also advise others what will be required of them for personal success. The ones that really count will appreciate the challenges and your honesty. We must not downplay the responsibilities of leading a Messianic life for it requires long hours in study, belt tightening, commitment, giving and experiencing tough times. YHVH said we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, and with all our might (Deu 6:5). That means He is first always: spiritually, physical (emotionally or soulishly), and first to receive our material resources. We should approach G-d with our eyes wide open if we are to successfully tackle life and be sucessful.
Personal success also requires that we accept our place. Yochanan the Immerser was great because he knew his role. In John 3:30 he told the crowd “He (Yahshua) must increase, but I must decrease.” That should be the motto for all Messianic believers. It is a sign of servant hood. Too many, adhering to the world’s philosophy of being number one often seek to be the “stars” by self-promotion or by trying to take the limelight for themselves. They in the grips of self-promotion deny the enterprise and its leaders their rightfully earned position. Yochanan who was the perfect public relations officer for Yahshua practiced his craft with integrity. He further showed us the importance of perfect timing in the way. Furthermore, he saw his role as an important activity to promote Yahshua as the star of Messianic Judaism. He told the public the story they needed to be told, and he set a high standard for us to practice. Truth is always the highest standard for good public relations. Tell the truth, tell it well, and in time it will benefit Messianic Judaism as well as you. We have much to learn from John the Baptist in how to be a team player.
You must bear good fruit to become personally successful. In Matthew 7:17 Yahshua says:” Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” That sounds rather obvious doesn’t it, but its truth can be lost in appearances. If you are constantly late for appointments, social occasions. making deadlines or tardy in fulfilling obligations you may think its no big deal. You’ not the only one. If you put off doing what needs to be done for some other opportune time, so what, everyone else does as well. Unfortunately, you, like the majority of them are producing bad fruit and in effect establishing a normal biblically unacceptable standard for society. It may not be the end of the world you suppose, but your tardiness and procrastination has a negative effect on everyone else around you. It engenders negative attitudes in all that your actions impact. Especially those that depend on you. This then creates behavior in those impacted that is alien to a true believers lifestyle and warrants condemnation and guilt. A seemingly unimportant action or lack of action on your part does affect those around you contrary to common belief. If you see a job that needs to be done and do not do it, if you procrastinate, show disrespect by being late, or ignore an obligation, you produce bad fruit, which in turn produces bad fruit in those you impact, and Yahshua equates this with evil fruit.
There is a Midrash that drives home the points I have been trying to make. Let me close with it. The Midrash Tanchuma states, “HaShem does not give greatness to a person unless he has been checked and tested in an insignificant area. It is only then that HaShem causes him to ascend to greatness.” The Midrash gives the example of two world-renown individuals: David HaMelech (King David) and Moshe Rabbeinu. David as a shepherd would take his flock into the desert to graze, because he was concerned that if they would graze closer to the community they may graze on lands that were not his and thus he would be in violation of stealing. Even if David had not taken his flock into the desert, he would have been careful and vigilant not to allow them to graze in a location that was not his. Nevertheless, David conducted himself in a manner that was above reproach. Even if it were remotely possible for the sheep to steal, this was not acceptable to him. Therefore, David was chosen to be the king of Israel. The Midrash is teaching us that through one’s actions, which seem to be insignificant, one is chosen for greatness by HaShem. And let me remind you that being late, failing to fulfill obligations or procrastinating is also stealing.
Similarly, Moshe also lead the flocks of his father-in-law into the desert to graze out of the same concern. HaShem said to Moshe, “Since you were so faithful in your responsibility to your flock, because you wanted your behavior to be above reproach, you shall lead My flock (Israel).”
Yisro (Jethro) as well, from an insignificant act at the beginning of the Parsha opened his household and gave his daughter unto marriage to Moshe because he understood from something that seemed to be unnoticed and insignificant to others, that Moshe was a person who was very special and unique. It is through one’s behavior that is normally unnoticed that one reveals his true character.
Rabbi Milchamah b. David