The Heart of Success

After God's Own Heart Part 3

After months of being out from this blog, I’ll continue on the series I began five months ago. This time we will be talking about success.

The reason I’ll be talking about success today is because we are in the season when many young people are entering into the new chapter of their life, the chapter of chasing after success. This month is Graduation month in the Philippines.

Many people are spending much of their lifetime chasing after success. And success by the world’s definition is having much money, becoming famous, having good connections, insured life, insured car, insured body parts, etc. This problem has even infected many Christians. Charles Spurgeon once said: “One reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.”

If we look at the lifestyle of the world and compare it to how “Christians” act today, we can seldom see a difference. We spend money as much as the worldly people spend. We look at the same entertainment the world is enjoying. We spend as much time as unbelievers watching materialistic and morally polluted programs in the television and in the movies. We download the same apps. We play the same games. We spend more time in the pleasures of this world than in the presence of God. We even allow the world to control our life by chasing after success according to the expectations of the world and not of God.

I’m not saying that striving to become successful is wrong. What I’m saying is becoming successful in the temporary things is stupid. Remember Jesus’ parable about the rich man who thought that he has everything he needed (Luke 12:20). God said to him: “You fool! Don’t you know that tonight you will die? Who’s going to take care of what you’ve earned?” What good is a man even when he gains the world yet forfeits his soul?

A Look At David’s Success

Wordly Success1 Samuel 18 talks about David’s rise in favor of the Israelites. It follows right after David defeated the giant Goliath. We will be looking on David’s life with two scopes. The first view is the outward look at David’s success:

1. He has friends (18:1-4; 6; 16). – Not just ordinary friends, he is the prince’s friend, king’s friend, women’s friend, and people’s friend. Who would not like to be friends of everybody?

2. He has fame (18:6-7; 16; 30) – David became very known to all the people of Israel. They made songs for him. He was even more famous than the king! Imagine yourself like him. Imagine it when people make a song about you.

3. He has family (18:18; 20; 27-29) – Not just an ordinary family but a royal family! If David is alive today, we can liken him to someone like Kate Middleton. Imagine yourself marrying a president’s daughter. That’s success!

4. He has fortune (18:4-5; 27). – He was given gifts. He has men with him.

5. He has a good future (18:27; 30). – He was given an important job. He would be the king’s son-in-law.

These five things—friends, fame, family, fortune, and future—are what the people of this world is chasing after. David had them. But are they the measure of his success? Are these things the only evidence of David’s success? I’ll give you a hint: in the next chapters, these things were taken away from David!

Not let’s have an inward look at David’s success.

The word “success” or “successful” or “prosper” in Hebrew is “SAKAL” (saw-kal). It appears three to four times in this chapter: 18:5; 18:14; 18:15; 18:30. The use of this word is very interesting. The word “success” in the Hebrew, particularly in this chapter means “act wisely” or “behaved wisely.” That is why, to some of the Bible versions, it says there “behaved wisely” or “act wisely” or “skillfully” (e.g. NKJV). Verse 14 tells us how David was this successful/prosperous/wise/skillful: “The LORD was with him.”

So What Now?

The first lesson is this: Success always involves character! And character comes because of God’s abiding presence. Read verse 14. David was successful or behaved wisely because the “Lord was with him.”

If you want to be successful in life take this: Be successful in character! You may not have all the things in the world but if you have character, the character based on God’s standard, you are more successful than any other people. The greatest obstacle to success is your own self. And the greatest obstacle to enjoying God’s presence is you. No wonder David, in the height of his success, was able to humble himself. He was able because he is after God’s own heart.

Interestingly, the English word “success” comes from the Latin which means “come after.” Success “comes after” following God’s own heart.

The Mark of True SuccessSecondly, success is not measured by our ability but by how we act wisely! Remember what made David this successful. What made him prosper, act wisely, behave wisely, or skillfully? Look at verse 14 again: “And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him.” This gives us the main principle: Success is not measured by gold, glory, or girl’s presence but by God’s presence. It is not about the pleasures of the world, but about the presence of God in our lives.

We must remember that worldly pleasures and success is always a struggle. It is always what the enemy is throwing at us. Remember Jesus’ temptation, it is the same thing that Satan throws at him: “Just worship me and all the kingdoms and riches of the world will be given to you,” says Satan.

But our response should be like that of Apostle Paul’s:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.     Philippians 3:8-11 (ESV)


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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in After God's Own Heart, Series, Sermons


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Taking Down the Real Giants

After God's Own Heart Part 2

Most of the sermons we hear about David and Goliath focuses on the physical standpoint of the battle. But studying further, we’ll learn that it was really a battle of two hearts. One heart is full of pride and self-sufficiency and the other, one that is after God’s own.

1 Samuel 17 sets us in a valley called Elah, where Israel’s army and the Philistines lined up to settle their differences in battle. But the Philistines one-upped the Israelite army. They have with them a giant named Goliath. The mere mention of his name alone invokes terror in the hearts of Israel’s army. By their estimation, they simply cannot match the sheer size of this monster, not to mention his weapons and armor. To put it bluntly, King Saul and his army were just too “dismayed and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:11 NKJV). Their fear simply allowed their enemy to dictate the rules of the game.

Meanwhile, far from the shouts and clangs of metal, a shepherd boy, with his sling, a staff, and a bag full of provisions for his brothers in the war zone, whistled his way to the valley.

Interestingly, the author of 1 Samuel inserted a little background about David in this story. But why talk about David? Why insert this information in a story of war? The author of the Book of Samuel could have just told the story of David versus Goliath directly. Why does God have to tell the readers about David? About who he is and where he came from? Why not just get to it? To the climax? To the end?

I found this astounding answer when I meditated on the passage. And it is this: It is God’s great display of His faithfulness to work out every details of His servants’ life to carry out His purpose. It is God’s purpose to tell us about David’s life, about his lows, his highs, his aspirations, his job, to show us that His faithfulness does not only come in every major events but mostly in every moment of our life. David has to go through cultural discrimination of being a youngest son, tough caring of sheep, cold nights and hot days, pain, to fighting lions and bears, to being called into the king’s palace and be sent out again, to be a servant. It is NOT because he is one good heroic man, but because God is faithful in shaping David’s life through the circumstances he faced throughout his life.

The Real Giants

As I studied this chapter further, I realized a lot of things about David’s character and those around him. What I came up was this: Real giants live in the heart. Yes, they walk not on earth. Giants are not invulnerable. We can defeat them if we first defeat the giants living in our hearts. Fear and pride are the two most common giants that terrorizes our lives everyday. These were the real giants that caused great terror to King Saul and his army.

Taking Down the Giants

Taking Down A GiantDavid defeated these giants first before he went up against Goliath. How? By going through all the hardships he had gone as a shepherd. Being a shepherd taught David fearlessness against predators. Being the youngest taught him humility against pride.

And so we will see that when King Saul and his army saw a terrible opposition, David saw a timely opportunity. The soldiers asked “have you seen?” But David inquired “What shall be done?” Don’t get this wrong, he is not being opportunistic. David is not after the marriage of the princess of Israel, he is not after the gold, or the free from taxes Saul is offering. David pointed it out “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” He knows that this is the time for Israel to prove, to show, to tell the world that their God, the God of Israel, is a living, powerful God.

When David’s allies fired discrimination, David forged determination. Even David’s own brother, Eliab, came against David and reminded him of his lowliness. Interestingly, Eliab’s name means “God is father” or “God is his father,” but you’ll never see that in his life. He’s just as fearful as his colleagues were. King Saul also was against David, he said “You are not able, you’re only a youth!” King Saul attacked David’s ability. He even tried to discourage David by suggesting that he should wear the king’s best armor to defeat Goliath. Where did David get his determination? How about this: “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:37).”

When the enemy trusted in the giant’s frightfulness, David trusted God’s faithfulness. “Am I a dog?” Goliath taunt. Eventually, it became one of his last words. Do I have to tell you the rest of the story? How did Goliath die? 11 feet? The stone thrown with a sling can hit as high as a 100 feet. But it’s not about how many feet high the stone can hit, it’s about how high your faith in God is set.

What giants are you harboring in your hearts today? What giants are your facing in your life today? You can take it down. Remember, the battle is the LORD’s!


Posted by on November 3, 2013 in After God's Own Heart, Series, Sermons


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When God Looks at the Heart

The Heart of the Problem

In the last article, Anatomy of the Human Heart, I introduced this series and gave a little background before we were given the story of David’s life. I learned from King Saul that whatever is in our hearts affects the decisions we make in life. Our affections influence our direction. Since the heart’s default is inclined towards making wrong choices (Genesis 6:5), we know we will have the tendency to take the wrong direction in life as well. Jeremiah said something about this case too. He said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV). This is the heart of the problem, called by theologians the “sinful nature.”

Today’s blog will focus on how God dealt with this human problem. But first, take a look at the picture below. Are the two hearts inside of the same color? Click on the picture for a larger view. After you have decided, click here to take a look at the same picture but without the colored squares.

Heat Illusion

  Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 25, 2013 in After God's Own Heart, Series, Sermons


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Anatomy of a Human Heart

heartThe heart is an important subject in the Bible. Mentioned at least 700 times in the Bible, it usually means the very center of the human personality. It is interesting to note that the very first mention of the word “heart” in the Bible (found in Genesis 6:5) reveals what our hearts usually do: “The very intention of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually.”

This blog will be an introductory article for a series of principles I will share with you from my study on David’s character. David was called “the man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22). We will be learning many things about David, his successes and struggles as a man who is after God’s own heart.

Our study in this series will focus on David’s life from a shepherd boy  to the end of his reign as a king of Israel. So we will be starting on 1 Samuel 16. To give us a little background on what was going on in this chapter, we will be mentioning King Saul in this study.

All Starts From The Heart

Samuel 16 begins with Samuel grieving over Saul’s disobedience and failure as Israel’s king. In chapter 15, God rejected King Saul because of his disobedience. God explicitly commanded King Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites, all the people and all the animals. But King Saul spared Amalekites’ king, Agag, and the best of their animals. This angered God and He told Samuel the prophet about what He was going to do against Saul. In the end, Samuel told Saul these words: “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,  He also has rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:1 – 23).

We can say that King Saul’s heart was not set before God after all. That is the very reason why he was rejected. His affection is not towards God. He set his affections toward his own glory by not obeying God’s command. So his affection lead him to the direction that he would later regret. King Saul’s story leads us to this principle: Man’s affections influence his directions. We always go to the direction where our heart leads. That is our default option. Since Genesis 6:5 already revealed that our heart’s intents are inclined towards evil, we all know that  when we follow our own heart we will always walk to the wrong direction. If this is the case, then how can we get to the right direction?

That’s what we will learn from 1 Samuel 16. I will not leave you hanging though. Here is the principle we will be tackling on the next article in this series: God’s inspection is the reference to the right direction. Whatever God finds and sees in our hearts, His instructions are always worth following.

That’s all for today. Be sure to follow this series. And join me in discovering how we can be like David, a man after God’s own heart.


Posted by on October 24, 2013 in After God's Own Heart, Series, Sermons


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I Have Decided

One failure of the church in this modern time is making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Follow Up

Who are you following?

This is the thought that has run in my mind these past few days. It is not a statement borne out of ignorance. It is clear in churches today. Many are the people who claim to have followed Christ but few are those who really committed their life to become like Him in character and even in His suffering.

David Platt once preached about Matthew 4:17-22. I learned from him the three categories of disciples in the Bible: There’s the casual disciple, majority of the people who followed Jesus and listened to His teachings fall on this category. They are the people who happened to just like Jesus and His lessons but never really digging into them. Then comes the convinced disciples. These are people who like His teachings, convinced about them and wanted to know more. But when Jesus began teaching the things that are hard to swallow, they stopped on their tracks, not really wanting to do every thing Jesus’ commanded. Lastly, there’s the committed disciple. Few belong to this category. They are people who were with the Lord wherever He went. They followed Him all the way to His arrest and after His resurrection, went on to die in spreading His message. Which of the categories do you belong?

Taking Matthew 4:17-22, Luke 5:1-11, and David Platt’s sermon, I learned the following principles:

A committed disciple of Jesus Christ lives a life of repentance. Before Jesus went on to call the first four of His disciples, He was preaching about repentance in the countryside and the villages. No once can be a serious disciple of Jesus Christ without repenting of his sins. Repentance is not a mere change of mind, it involves a change of the whole heart and actions. It is not just a one time event; it involves a lifetime of transforming the mind and heart and actions.

Sadly, what is happening in churches today is the devaluing of repentance. We have put so much emphasis on having a peaceful relationship with God and forgot that to have that relationship, we must have a change of heart first. Having a new relationship with God is essential but we must have a new relationship with sin as well.

Secondly, a committed disciple lives a life of radical obedience. Peter, Andrew, James and John were busy when Jesus called them. Yet, they “immediately” left what they were doing to follow Him. Is “busyness” your excuse not to follow Jesus Christ wholeheartedly? These fishermen were doing their job for a living yet they were willing to leave it all behind to become fishers of men. James and John even left their father alone to finish their work. Radical obedience is taking Jesus worthier than time with our friends, our comfort, or even the regard of our families.

Lastly, I learned that a committed disciple lives a life of resolute dependence. Wholehearted followers of Jesus Christ depend their life on the Lord’s grace alone. The command “Follow me” is an invitation to trust what Jesus can do. It is trusting Him and having His own way in us even if we think we are experts on what we do. It is trusting that only God can “make us fishers of men.” When Jesus called His disciples, He did not ask them to bring their diplomas, titles, medals, trophies, hidden talents, etc. with them. He just called them to follow Him and trust that out of these lowly Galileans, He would bring out people who would turn the world upside down.

I think the church should begin making committed disciples now and stop settling for casual converts. If you are a part in the body of the Jesus Christ’s church and wants the Great Commission obeyed in your local church, making disciples starts with you becoming a committed follower of Jesus Christ. However, do consider the cost. Don’t be like a man who started building a tower and failing to finish it because he ran out of budget.

The challenges of being a committed disciple: living a life of repentance and forsaking the pleasures of any sin; living a life of radical obedience and forsaking my comfort and even my family’s respect; living a life of resolute dependence on Jesus Christ and forsaking my “self-sufficiency.”

Have you decided?


Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Sermons


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Wrap Up 3: All About Worship

ImageThoughts Art Ransomed (TAR) are random reflections I regularly post on Facebook. They are thoughts from my personal meditation of God’s word, songs, and statements I find from friends and other sources. This week’s series is all worship.

#TARSeries 015: Just because the Lord Jesus Christ freed me from the slavery of sin doesn’t mean that I can follow my own self now. I’m am still a slave. But this time, of a good Master and He is worth following to the end. For I am bought with His own blood.

#TARSeries 016: Any thing I deemed more important than my LORD’s time, words, and love is an idol.

#TARSeries 017: This is how I see my worth before: I’m so special that it took a King’s death to save me. This is how I see my worth now: I’m nothing without the King who died to save me. My Lord Jesus Christ is special; for without Him, I would be a trash, a filthy rag worthy for hellfire’s fuel.

#TARSeries 018: Times of loneliness taught me this: the glorious beauty of my Master’s presence is oftentimes best felt in the silence, where no drums and guitar distortions distract your attention from His glory.

#TARSeries 019: I am sorry for thinking that worship is all about the slow songs, for manipulating people’s emotions through feel good music on Sundays, for forgetting about it on weekdays and for thinking that it is all about me.

#TARSeries 020: “When the music fades and all stripped away, I simply come, longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless Your heart. Yes, I will bring You more than a song, for the song in itself is not what You have required. You search much deeper within. You’re looking into my heart.” Always best spoken than sung.

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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Wrap Ups


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Things To Think Before I Marry

w2wuThoughts Art Ransomed (TAR) are random reflections I regularly post on Facebook. They are thoughts from my personal meditation of God’s word, songs, and statements I find from friends and other sources. This week’s series talks about marriage.

#TARSeries 009: Marriage is a bond, not a bondage.

#TARSeries 010: I am marrying a human being, not an angel. Humans need forgiveness, angels do not.

#TARSeries 011: I am an imperfect person marrying an imperfect person. I should not expect a perfect marriage.

#TARSeries 012: A husband should love his wife as Christ loves the Church, that includes dying for her when necessary.

#TARSeries 013: If I can’t give my heart fully to God, I won’t be able to fully love my (future) wife.

#TARSeries 014: How I perceive women today will affect how I perceive the woman I’ll marry.

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Wrap Ups


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