Success and Failure
2 Chronicles 26
3Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. 4And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 5He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.
A. Tell me what these three men have in common?
1. Richard Nixon, Elvis Presley, and Pete Rose.
2. You might think of some ties that they had, but if you thought about it, those were men who had great success in their fields of expertise.
3. Yet our memory of them is flawed by the glaring mistakes they made near the end of their time in the spotlight.
4. Today’s passage is about an Old Testament character whose career suffered the same kind of thing.
1. Uzziah’s story is also recorded in 2 Kings 15, and there by the way he’s called Azariah.
2. We find Uzziah right in the middle of the divided Kingdom.
a) Solomon is about 200 years earlier, and the Exile is about 200 years later.
b) For us, Solomon would be about as far in the past as Napoleon Bonaparte.
c) King David around the time of the Revolutionary War.
3. Uzziah did not have a good start.
a) His father, King Amaziah, made some really bad decisions that led to him fighting Jehoash the King of Israel.
b) He lost the battle. Jehoash attacked Jerusalem, and plundered both the Temple and the Palace.
4. Amaziah was eventually murdered, and at the age of 16, Uzziah was placed on the throne.
a) By the way young people, don’t think because you’re young God can’t use you to do something great.
b) Uzziah was 16 years old when God allowed him to take the throne over all the peoples of Judah.
c) Don’t think you have to wait until you’re in your thirties or your forties for God to do something great with you.
d) God can use you no matter what your age!
5. Can you imagine what that must have been like for Uzziah?
a) Your father, the King, with all his experience, has just been killed for doing a very bad job.
b) Over to you – now you try.
c) If you ever fear that you are being held back spiritually because you do not come from a devout and godly family – take heart!
d) Uzziah had a poor start in life, and God used him in a wonderful way.
I. The Secret of Success (v. 5)
A. Seek the Lord
1. The secret of Uzziah’s success is given in verse 5:
He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper (gave him success).
a) There is a whole sermon in this verse.
2. There is no magic involved here.
a) Seeking God will not give you success in the things you want to achieve.
b) It is not success for you, but success for God and His Kingdom.
3. Perhaps the key verse of 2 Chronicles 26 is v. 5, the bible says,
a) “And as long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God gave him success.”
b) Please underline this verse in your Bible! I don’t want you to forget it.
4. 2 Chronicles is a great book on leadership.
a) In recounts the life and leadership lessons of Kings.
b) And the unfortunate truth is that not many of them did well because they did what they wanted and not what God wanted them to do.
c) And the reason they failed is because they failed in keeping this verse in front of their minds throughout their all the days.
B. A teachable spirit (verses 4-5)
1. Uzziah had a teachable spirit in the ways of the Lord.
a) He knew right from wrong.
b) He was diligent for the Lord and in the fear of God.”
2. Can we do this alone? I don’t think so.
a) The more I learn, the more I’m convinced that we can’t be fully devoted to Christ without surrounding ourselves with other Christians.
b) Training, discipling, mentoring, accountability and loving support are all necessary for a successful walk with Christ.
c) Uzziah was discipled by Zechariah.
d) He was most successful while Zechariah was discipling him and giving him guidance and support.
3. Look at any truly successful Bible character, or historical Christian figure, and you will find they had a teachable spirit and God brought people into their lives to disciple them.
C. The Source of Success (v. 7)
1. Uzziah was a success because God blessed Him,
a) He became a highly successful King.
b) Uzziah’s accomplishments are listed in vv. 2-15.
c) He excels in every possible way.
d) This is not unusual for people who truly seek after God.
2. Verse 7 reminds us where his power originated: “God helped him against the Philistines and against the Arabs.”
a) God Himself was Uzziah’s source of power.
b) In no way did this mean that Uzziah relaxed while God did everything for him.
c) What we see is a man who worked hard to achieve his goals.
d) God helped him and blessed him, but God didn’t do all the work for him.
e) Working together, God helped Uzziah achieve great things.
f) Without God’s help, Uzziah would have flopped.
3. Uzziah is an excellent example of what is required to be successful: Depend on God and work hard.
a) Sometimes, I believe we make too much a mystery of success.
b) The scriptures are filled with examples of this simple pattern.
4. If you want to be successful in your life, then:
a) seek the Lord and
b) accept instruction and
c) work hard and
d) depend on God’s help
(1) Be willing to listen to God, willing to learn, willing to work, and willing to acknowledge that it is God who is doing it all and you will be successful beyond your greatest dreams!
II. The Nature of Success (vv. 4-15)
a) English Prosper = To be successful, to thrive, to be rich.
b) But the Hebrew words translated prosper, prosperity, prosperous in the Bible mean far more than financial riches. They mean,
(2) well being,
(4) health and
(5) progress in all that you undertake.
2. Success: Which of the following spells success to you?
a) Being able to afford a newer, larger home.
b) Leading your neighbor to Christ.
c) Finally getting that promotion.
d) Seeing your children walk with the Lord.
e) Enjoying a stable, happy marriage.
f) Achieving your career goals.
g) Having the support of many good friends.
h) Watching God change lives through your ministry.
i) Making enough money to provide for all your needs and many of your wants.
j) Having a quiet time every day.
3. Most of us would chose most of the above as good indicators of success.
a) Yet God’s definition of success and failure doesn’t look much like the world’s—or even, sometimes, to the believers.
b) In the Scriptures, I see a picture of success that gives hope and comfort to those who fail in the world’s eyes.
c) I also see a sobering wake-up call to those who have achieved outward success but failed in the things God counts most important.
4. What does this passage say about success?
B. Uzziah’s success (vv. 4-15)
1. We see Uzziah’s success being worked out in very practical ways. Four areas are highlighted in the story:
2. If you want to learn about spiritual warfare, it’s all here!
a) Firstly, he fought the right enemies.
(1) He fought the Philistines, not the people of Israel, at the beginning of his reign, and then moved on to other groups as God directed him.
(2) I would like to spend a whole sermon on this vital principle – fight the right enemy.
b) Secondly, as well as attack, Uzziah concentrated a lot of energy on defense.
(1) Don’t attempt to fight if your defenses are weak.
c) Thirdly, he concentrated on providing a good supply of food.
(1) You can’t fight if you are not being fed properly – and we could spend a long time describing what makes for a healthy and balanced spiritual diet.
d) And, lastly, he prepared beforehand for battle.
C. How does God spell success?
So, if outward success isn’t important to our Lord, what is it that God looks for that brings success?
What will make Him say “Well done” when He looks at our lives?
1. Faith. (Hebrews 11:6)
a) One clue is found in Hebrews 11. Let’s take a look at a bunch of unnamed believers described in Hebrews 11:35–40.
(1) These men and women were tortured . . . taunted . . . persecuted and thrown into prison.
(2) Some died cruel, grisly deaths.
(3) Many were destitute, wandering “in deserts and mountains, [living] in caves and holes in the ground.”
b) If these men and women lived today, I don’t think the world would say they were successful!
c) Yet God says that in His eyes, they were commended. Why?
(1) For their faith.
(2) In Hebrews 11:6, we learn that “without faith it is impossible to please God”.
d) God is looking for people who will trust Him.
(1) We may make mistakes, even very bad mistakes.
(2) We may never look good to those around us.
(3) But if we are living by faith instead of fear, in trust instead of in panic, if we are relying on His strength instead of our own, we will never be failures in His eyes.
2. Obedience. (Philippians 2:8-10)
a) Another clue to what pleases God appears in Phil. 2.
b) We learn that God has exalted Christ to the highest place in heaven, giving Him the “name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9–10).
c) Why this place of honor?
(1) Because, according to Phil. 2:8, “he humbled himself and become obedient to death.”
(2) On every occasion Jesus did what God told Him to do.
d) God is not so interested in the results of what we do; He wants to know if we are being obedient.
e) In many cases, our obedience will not look successful:
(1) Missionaries may labor for years without fruit.
(2) Parents may follow godly principles of parenting yet end up with rebellious children.
(3) We may lose a business contract to someone whose proposal is less honest than ours.
(4) But if we have done what God asked of us, we are successful in His eyes.
3. Relationship. (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
a) Finally, God measures our success by the depth of our relationship with Him.
b) This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me.” Jeremiah 9:23–24
(1) The cry of God’s heart is for His people to know Him.
(2) God knows us intimately—and He wants us to know Him intimately as well.
(3) He sacrificed His beloved Son so that our relationship with Him might be restored.
c) If we are seeking God with all our hearts and souls, we will come to know and to love Him.
d) Jesus said the greatest commandment of all is to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
4. Pressing on toward the Goal
a) So, what is success, in God’s eyes?
(3) Intimacy with Him.
b) In short, continually growing to be more like Jesus.
c) If we are pursuing these things, we cannot be failures.
III. The Loss of Success (vv. 15-16)
A. Loss of success begins with pride
1. If you look at where Judah had been when he came to the throne 40 years earlier, it is incredible what had been achieved through one leader who was being faithful in seeking God and continuing to learn.
2. The problem is, Uzziah had achieved so much that he thought he could do anything.
a) He started well, but didn’t finish.
b) Uzziah fell to pride.
3. Pride is not always wrong.
a) God takes pride in us.
b) A workman is supposed to take pride in his work.
c) If we don’t take pride in what we do, there is something wrong.
4. The problem is not in what you feel, but what you do with that feeling.
a) If you fail to acknowledge God, ‘Look at all I have achieved with God’s help’ becomes ‘Look at all I have achieved on my own.’
b) You become like Uzziah, and say, ‘I can do anything’, and ‘The rules don’t apply to me.’
c) That is a dangerous position to be in.
B. Pride can lead to unfaithfulness.
1. Uzziah is not remembered as the leader who brought Judah to a golden age rivaling David’s and Solomon’s empires, but he is remembered as the “leper king.”
2. Pride led to Uzziah’s downfall (v. 16)
a) He became unfaithful to the Lord!
b) 15 In Jerusalem he made machines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, until he was strong. – “until”
(1) You will not be honored by God
c) 16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.
3. God’s response:
a) He afflicted Uzziah with leprosy as he stood in the Temple wanting to burn incense to the Lord.
b) Azariah, the priest said – “You can’t do this!”
c) So God separated Uzziah from the people by giving him leprosy.
d) God excluded Uzziah from the Temple by giving him leprosy.
e) God replaced Uzziah with his son Jotham who reigned in his place
(1) As a leper, Uzziah was denied burial in the royal tombs at Jerusalem. Rather, he was buried in a field (26:23).
What are the lessons for us? I want to give you three as we close in addition to the ones that we’ve kind of pointed out along the way.
1. Number one, let’s realize from Uzziah’s life that no genuine success is possible apart from the Lord God.
a) It was God who prospered Uzziah. God helped him.
b) If you’re enjoying success of any kind, it’s a blessing from God, don’t ever forget that.
2. Second lesson that we should surely learn from Uzziah, is that there are few tests like the test of success.
a) This might surprise some of you, but there are more people who can handle it at the bottom, than there are who can handle it at the top.
b) Success is a very dangerous place to be. And if you get there, if God blesses you with success in your life beyond your imagination, walk humbly, walk quietly, and walk gratefully in the presence of God.
3. And the third lesson, the God that blesses is also the God who can undo those blessings.
a) The same God that gave Uzziah riches and health, was the same one who looked at him in the temple, and said let there be leprosy.
b) Don’t ever let pride swell in your heart to the point that you think you’re the one who calls the shots.
c) God has never tolerated that!
d) Humble yourself before the Lord!