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THE SECRET OF SUCCESS –
IN THE WORLD AND IN THE CHURCH

by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, August 11, 2019

“So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6; p. 544 Scofield).


The city of Jerusalem was destroyed. The wall around the city was broken down. Nehemiah was grieved for the city. He went to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. It wasn’t easy. The city and its wall had been destroyed for many decades. But he accomplished the impossible. The wall was rebuilt in only 52 days! That’s less than two months. That would be like starting today and finishing the stone wall around the whole city on October 2, this year! It couldn’t be done. But he did it!

The wall didn’t get built easily. Some people didn’t want to work at building it. The Bible says, “The Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord” (Nehemiah 3:5; p. 543). Those nobles were too lazy to help build the wall around their own city. As the Bible commentator Matthew Henry said,

Saying and doing are often two things: many are ready to say, “Let us rise up and build,” who sit still and do nothing (commentary on Nehemiah 3).

But the wall got built in only 52 days. How did that happen? What’s the secret? Listen carefully. Today I am going to tell you the power source that got the wall built. No, it wasn’t a miracle like the parting of the Red Sea. It wasn’t a miracle like the Great Flood or the resurrection of Christ. This power source was different. It is the secret to building a strong country. It is the secret to building a business. It is the secret to making something out of your life. Without doing what I say here today, we can’t build a good church. Listen carefully. I will read some verses from the Book of Nehemiah that will tell you the secret. Turn to Nehemiah, chapter 3, verse 10. It’s on page 543 in the Scofield Study Bible. Listen as I read that verse and a few others.

“And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house” (Nehemiah 3:10).

“After him repaired Benjamin and Hashub over against their house. After him repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah by his house” (Nehemiah 3:23).

“From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house” (Nehemiah 3:28).

“After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house” (Nehemiah 3:29).

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Each man repaired the part of the wall that protected his own house. As Matthew Henry said, “When a general good work is to be done each should apply himself to that part of it that falls nearest to him and is within his reach. If every one will sweep before his own door, the street will be clean.”

Each man worked on the part of the wall that mattered most to him – the part that protected his own house. Suddenly the work got done – in less than two months! The Bible says,

“So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6; p. 544).

Each person worked on the wall next to his house. “The people had a mind to work.” This is the key. This is the answer. If the goal of each person is the same as the goal of the group – the work will get done and it will succeed! If what benefits a person also benefits the group, the work will get done. That link between a person and the group is what leads to success. Each person was helped by protecting his own house. When they all did it, the city wall was finished in record time. Today I want to talk about the application of this truth to human society, and then the application to our church.

I. First, the application to human society.

When the Pilgrims first arrived in Massachusetts, they did everything as a community. When they grew their crops and hunted animals and caught fish, they put everything into the common stock. The food belonged to the community as a whole. Today we would say it belonged to the government. What they did was called socialism. Everything went to the government, and everything came from the government.

But it failed! Some people worked harder than others. Some didn’t work much at all. But everyone wanted to eat! There was no reason to work hard, since you would eat the same whether you worked or not. When winter came, they didn’t have enough food. Many of them died. Socialism failed.

Then they changed their plan. Each family grew crops and raised animals for their own food. They got to keep what they produced. They ate what they grew. There was a reason to work. It was like in the Book of Nehemiah when every one repaired the wall “by his house” (Nehemiah 3:23; p. 543). Then “the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6; p. 544). The next winter, everyone had plenty of food! Soon they were exporting food – selling it to other people outside. What helped each family also helped the community. When the benefit of each produced a benefit for all – they had so much food they couldn’t eat it. That society went off like a rocket. Success!

Socialism failed for the Pilgrims. Socialism has failed in every country where it was tried, from Russia to China to Cuba to Venezuela today. In China, under the socialism of Mao Tse-Tung, everyone was a slave of the government. There was no reason to work hard. So there wasn’t enough food. Millions of people starved. Later another leader came to power. He said, “It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.” He cared more about results than socialism. China began to allow some economic freedom. The people could work for themselves. China began to grow. Today it is a powerhouse of a country.

Socialism means everything is run by the government. You work for the government (if you work) and the government takes care of you (if they do). The government takes the money, uses most of it for themselves, and gives a little back to the rest of us. In fact, you work for a few leaders at the top. They first take care of themselves, and maybe leave a little for you. There’s no reason to work. There was a saying in Soviet Russia, “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.”

Socialism always fails. And yet people want to do it here. Bernie Sanders openly calls himself a socialist. Many other Democratic candidates favor socialist programs. They promise everyone “free stuff.” “Free college. Free health insurance. Free everything.” But who will pay for it? Who will do the work? If America puts in socialism, our country will collapse into a terrible mess, far worse than it is now. Socialism failed everywhere else, and it will fail here.

II. Second, the application to our church.

I said, “If the goal of each person is the same as the goal of the group – the work will get done and it will succeed! If what benefits a person also benefits the group, the work will get done.” That link between the person and the group is a key to success. I showed what it meant for society. Now I will tell you what it means for our church.

What is the link between you and the church? We can’t build a financial link for people. We can’t pay them to come to church. In a way we tried that, by giving people food and lots of other things. They took what we gave them and then left our church. We can’t give you money to come to church or pay you to help with the work of the church. It doesn’t work anyway.

When the missionaries went to Asian countries like China and Korea, some people came to the meetings because the missionaries gave them rice. They were called “rice Christians.” But the rice Christians were not real Christians. When persecution came, they walked away. In 1949 the Communists took over China. They persecuted the Christians and they still do it today. The rice Christians went away. In the house churches in China there are no rice Christians, only real Christians who love Jesus and suffer for Him. And they have had the greatest revival in the history of the world. More than 130 million people have become Christians in China. In China there are more Christians in church on Sunday morning than in America, England, and Europe – combined!

What is their secret? What is the link between the individual Christian and the church? They don’t get paid to be Christians. No rice Christians there! No payment, only suffering. Yet there is a powerful link between each Christian and the church. The goal of each Christian is the same as the goal of the church. Each Christian prays hard for the church. Each Christian works hard for the church. Each Christian suffers for the church. Each Christian goes to the meetings and does everything he can to help. No one complains. No one starts a church split. The goal of the Christian is the same as the goal of the church – to win souls for Christ, build up the Christians, and glorify God!

If you make the growth of the church your goal – to win one Oriental for Christ – we will succeed. As Matthew Henry said, “When a general good work is to be done each should apply himself to that part of it that falls nearest to him and is within his reach. If every one will sweep before his own door, the street will be clean.” If you will do your part, the church will do well. Come to the meetings on time. Pray every day, and be ready to pray in church. Read the Bible and learn from it. Read the sermon manuscripts and learn from them. Don’t expect “the church” to do everything for you. Whoever you are, do everything you can to help. President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” In that he was right. I say, “Don’t ask what the church can do for you, ask what you can do for the church!” Then do it!

Where does the link between the people and the church come from? I will give you two ways. First, a great deal of that link comes from culture. I live close to a Korean neighborhood. One morning I drove down a street in Koreatown. I saw old people sweeping the sidewalk in front of their houses and apartments. I saw other people with an inner-city culture who left their sidewalks in a mess, and even put out more junk there.

Why did the Koreans clean their sidewalk? Nobody paid them to do it. They didn’t get in trouble for not doing it. It was in their culture. It was something they naturally did. They just did it. The inner-city people didn’t. The Koreans prospered. The inner-city people didn’t. When I came to Los Angeles almost fifty years ago, that neighborhood was dark and scary. Today the area shines with the lights of towering businesses, bustling stores and restaurants, and brand-new apartments. There are Korean churches on almost every block. There was no government plan to build these things. There was no government plan to clean the sidewalks. The people did it because their culture was good. They have “a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6). They built a great community because their culture is good.

That’s the kind of person who can help a church. A lazy person who won’t work and won’t keep their promises, won’t do it. People who study and work and save their money and sweep their sidewalks can do it! That’s why I saw Korean churches on almost every block. They can build churches, and they did! People who have “a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6) can do it!

What about you? Work to build a good culture in our church. Think of the Koreans and Chinese who built churches. They can build churches and keep them. The secret isn’t complicated. Think of the Koreans and Chinese and bring one of them in. The Orientals have a better culture. Bring in one Oriental. Bring an Oriental only, Chinese or Korean.

There is a second part of the link I spoke of. That link is salvation. If you have no relationship with Jesus, you won’t think of Him much and you won’t do much for Him. But if your sins are washed away in His Blood and you have new life in Him, you will love him and want to serve Him. Jesus said, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8; p. 1008). If you have received Jesus’ gift of salvation, you will be glad to bring in one Oriental and build up the church.

Some of you have not trusted Jesus. You don’t have a link with Him. The church doesn’t mean much to you. In fact, your own soul doesn’t mean much to you, or you would be interested in having Christ forgive your sin. Don’t go on in a meaningless life until you die. Don’t die and face God without the Blood of Christ to cover your sin. If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, please come to the front of the room now. Amen.


THE OUTLINE OF

THE SECRET OF SUCCESS –
IN THE WORLD AND IN THE CHURCH

by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

“So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6).

(Nehemiah 3:5. 10, 23, 28, 29)

I.    First, the application to human society, Nehemiah 3:23.

II.   Second, the application to our church, Matthew 10:8.