“Success” in life can be described in countless different ways, since it is usually based on an individual’s personal criteria – their aspirations, their values, their cultural heritage, and so on. That being said, what is success in the eyes of one person may be judged as total failure by another. This is seldom satisfactory in the eyes of most people because we like to receive recognition for our successes from others, and this leads us to seek out others who are like-minded and most likely to provide the compliments and affirmation that is so welcome.
But for the believer in Jesus Christ there is a much higher goal with a far greater reward than any human recognition and praise could ever confer.
And, unlike almost every endeavor in human life, this type of success is not dependent on our physical or mental or financial abilities, or our willingness and ability to comply with a long list of rules. God does not measure our success in life by any of these criteria or achievements – even though our friends, family or peers might do so.
In this first article on the subject we will introduce some aspects of this goal, and in subsequent articles we will explore practical applications of Biblical teachings that will assist us in achieving the only true measure of success – when we hear Jesus commending us for having lived our lives “successfully”. The Christian life is a journey, a “race”, a “fight”.
We shall explore what “successfully” means, and how we can achieve this goal no matter where we are starting from, or what our circumstances in life may be.
To set the stage, let’s start with a look at Joshua – one of my favourite and most-admired characters in the Bible.
His experiences as one of the spies that was sent into the Promised Land, his stand on the issue of whether the Israelites should go in to possess the land, and his subsequent assignment to be their leader after a wait of 40 years, reminds us that God looks for faith, integrity, faithfulness and perseverance in His people, among other things, which we will discuss as we explore this topic.
Joshua had proven that he was a strong and determined man when he took his stand with Caleb in opposition to the opinions of the remaining 10 spies who advised against proceeding into the Promised Land, yet God had some interesting words for him when He called him into the leadership role. 3 times God repeated the injunction to “be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:6-9) and added a phrase which I believe is very significant. He said:
“… do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
God was not exhorting Joshua to recapture either his physical strength or the relatively youthful enthusiasm that he had displayed 40 years previously, when the 12 spies were sent out, but he was telling him to remain “resolute, unmovable and steadfastly minded”, with his heart and mind fixed on the principles of God’s Word. He was pointing out the fundamental importance of knowing, believing, declaring and living by God’s principles and speaking forth God’s Word as it was established in his own heart. Isn’t this exactly the way we are to walk by faith today, according to James 1:22-25?
But we’re not finished yet. Look at the last sentence quoted above: “… YOU will make YOUR way prosperous …. You will have good success”.
God was not promising Joshua that he would be able to cruise through the next months and years of his life on “autopilot”, without any responsibility for the achievement of success. On the contrary, he fairly and squarely put the responsibility for his personal success, and the nation’s success, on Joshua’s shoulders. This left no room for Joshua to pass the buck, or to simply hope that a miracle would be waiting when he felt overwhelmed. It also gave him no license to assert his own authority whenever he felt like it. Success was to be contingent on Joshua’s knowing God’s principles, committing to them, and applying them at all times.
Joshua had only a fraction of God’s Word available to him compared to what we have today; we have much more to embrace and to walk in. We have Holy Spirit as our teacher. We have a new and better covenant with God than Joshua had.
We have every reason to be prosperous and to have good success – if only we would do it God’s way.
In fact, God has a plan and a purpose for your life – it’s not the same as Joshua’s, obviously, but it’s just as important to God. And your personal sense of achievement and success will be truly achieved only if you know and follow His plan and principles.
It is our desire to help you “fight the good fight and finish the course (or race)” [2 Timothy 4:7]. The Bible has much to say about these “principles” that we have mentioned – what they are, who they apply to, and examples of them in practice.
In the next article we will introduce some of the basic requirements – and some homework (!)