How do you define success? Most people would say that success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose in life. Success would be obtaining the favorable or desired outcome of a goal. No matter how you define it, everyone wants to succeed. Only a fool would set out in life, planning to be a failure. So, if we all want to succeed, how can we best do that?
N. Garnett, Jr., a Certified Crop Advisor for Southern States, expressed one of the most comprehensive definitions of success I have seen. He said, “I define success as having a job that you enjoy and enables you financially, a spouse and family that loves and cares for you, children that make you proud by who they are and what they do, having the freedom to worship a loving God, and being able to contribute to the betterment of your fellow man. I am so blessed!” (Inc.com, December 18, 2014).
Booker T. Washington shared an insightful definition of success. In “The Story of My Life and Work,” (1969, page 51) he wrote, “I have learned that success is to be measured, not so much by the position one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” The energy, wisdom and tenacity required to overcome obstacles, may result in more satisfaction in success than the outcome.
The promise of success is most helpful when failure seems imminent, or the task seems futile. Joshua was in that intimidating place as he stepped into the shoes of Moses, probably the greatest leader of all time. During the previous 40 years Moses had endured while leading two million people of Israel from Egypt, through the desolate Sinai desert, to the border of the Promised Land. Through those four decades of turmoil Joshua had aided Moses. But now, Moses had died and the mantle of leadership fell upon Joshua. God said, “now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel” (Joshua 1:2).
No doubt Joshua was terrified at the task God called him to do. Thirty-eight years earlier Joshua, with Caleb, had been two of the 12 spies who had explored the land, only to have their report rejected by the people of Israel (Num. 13:1-16). Israel did not trust God, so were condemned to waste 40 years of aimless wandering.
Now, to encourage Joshua, the Lord outlined His plans for him (Joshua 1:2-4). God assured Joshua of His own presence, “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you” (verse 5). Then the Lord followed with fresh words of encouragement, saying, “Be strong and courageous” (verse 6). . . “Be strong and very courageous” (verse 7). . . “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORDyour God is with you wherever you go” (verse 9).
In the midst of these reassuring words, the Lord promised Joshua success if he would follow three steps, “. . . for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (verse 8).
What are the steps God said would bring success?
First, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth….” God’s power, even in battle, would inevitably be connected with His Word. If Joshua spent time in, and was familiar with Scripture, it would bring success and blessing in other, more tangible ways. The “book of the law” was the writings of Moses, who penned the first five books of the Bible. For success, first Joshua needed to be familiar with Israel’s history, God’s laws, His commands and blessings recorded in God’s Word. These words were “not to depart from your mouth.” The Word was to be on his mind and lips.
Secondly, “You shall meditate on it day and night….”God said if Joshua would methodically meditate on Scripture, he would be successful. The Hebrew word for “meditate” means to coo, mutter or read in an undertone. Meditating on Scripture means to think about every word of the verse and seek ways to apply it to ones own life. As you meditate on Scripture, it will increase your understanding of God’s desires for your life. The one who is “blessed,” or successful, is the one who finds delight in God’s Word and meditates on it day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).
The Third step for success was to “be careful to do according to all that is written in it….” Someone said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is not what you want, but what you do, that makes a difference. Joshua was to “do according to” what was written. It is easy to acknowledge obedience, to nod toward the value of doing something good, and yet fail to do it. Doing God’s will is the most important part of Christian service. James commands believers to “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).
As Joshua spent quality time in Scripture, meditated on it and lived it out in practical ways, he led the people of Israel to victory while God made his way prosperous and granted him good success.
If you want success, these three steps will work for you as well. Practice a daily quiet time of reading the Bible. Meditate on a verse or two that is significant to you. Then obey the desires of God for your life. No matter what happens God will consider the results a success.