• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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  • May 2023
    M T W T F S S
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Success in the Sight of God

Key to SuccessMy son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3:1-4 ESV)

Success is one of the chief desires in our culture. Many people make a good living selling their formula for success in books, seminars, and on TV programs. The focus of this present cultural attitude is more about what we do and have as opposed to who we are. We define success by a man’s profession and how much money he makes. Such an attitude makes our definition of success very limited. One could argue that a person is a success because he is a famous athlete who has broken many records. However, our athlete may have been divorced three times, currently uses drugs, and never sees his children. In modern America, having lots of money may be the current criteria for success, but is dying with the most toys all that it is cracked-up to be?

When God spoke to Joshua about success, He told him: “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful 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.” (Joshua 1:7-8) God says that real success is contingent upon obeying His Word. The Bible speaks to all the issues of life, not just our professions. When we obey God’s Word, our “way” will be “prosperous.” God’s view of success focuses on who we are.

The New Testament English word “way” is translated from the Greek word “hodos.” It literally means “road – a route to a destination.” It was also used often in a figurative sense, as a “means – a vehicle to a destination.” Therefore, perhaps our focus should be on living successfully (according to God’s Word) as we pursue our goals and calling in life. This view places more emphasis on the means than the result. With God, living in Biblical faithfulness is the true measure of success. Your character is more important to Him than your portfolio.

God is concerned with right living. There is no greater success in the Christian life than living a godly life with what God has given you. Hear the voice of the writer of Proverbs who says, “… give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9 ESV)

Count it all joy, my friend. Obeying God in Christian conduct and faithfulness – in the life that God has provided you – are the only successes that count. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

Samuel at Gilgal

Our Plan Or God’s?

Why is it that Christian leaders may be deceived? It is probably because they often walk by sight, and not by faith in the Word of God. They have forgotten the advice Proverbs 3:5-6; “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Reality consists of more than material things. P. G. Matthew discusses the consequences:

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them. . . . (Joshua 9:14-15 ESV)

The ninth chapter of Joshua gives us a clear picture of what happens when God’s people do not pray. When we neglect prayer, we can be easily deceived and make wrong decisions. And when leaders do not pray, they also fail the people under them. This chapter speaks about the utter failure of Israel’s leaders—Joshua, the princes of tribes, the priests and the elders—to seek guidance from God when they were approached by the Gibeonites.

When we do not pray and consult the word of God carefully, we are deceived by Satan’s devices. Then we make wrong, rash decisions, whose serious and destructive consequences affect not only our lives, but also the lives of our descendants. Everyone who is responsible for making decisions—fathers, mothers, teachers, elders, or others—must pay careful attention to this chapter, because it is written for our warning and edification. If we heed it, we won’t be deceived, but will learn how to make correct decisions that result in blessing, not only to ourselves, but also to all those under our leadership.

The Lord had already given Joshua a certain charge before he and the people entered Canaan. Joshua was to lead Israel into Canaan and give them rest by defeating all their enemies; he was to be strong and courageous; he was to obey the entire word of God, not turning to the right or to the left; and he was to meditate upon the Scriptures and be careful to do everything written in them. As Joshua did these things, he would be successful in all that he did (Joshua 1:1-9).

Joshua had the ark, the priests, the book of the law, and God with him; his job was to simply hear and do the will of God. Yet Joshua failed to do so at least two times. We want to examine these failures of Joshua and then look at the success of the greater Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first failure of Joshua occurred before his encounter with the Gibeonites, when he failed to seek the will of God in his campaign against the city of Ai. The name “Ai” literally means “the heap” or “the ruin”; it was a small, insignificant city. Joshua sent spies to bring back a report about Ai (Joshua 7:2-3), but we are not told that Joshua inquired of the Lord or that he consulted the captain of the Lord’s host. Joshua listened to the spies’ report and apparently made his decision based solely on it.

What did the spies say? “Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there” (Joshua 7:3). How eager we are to hear from people rather than from God! As Christians, we say that Jesus Christ is Lord and that we are his servants; therefore, we should say, like Samuel, “Speak, Lord, your servants will hear and do.” But in reality we often act as though we were self-determining lords. We follow our own desires, though we would say we are doing the will of God. Joshua 8:1 tells us that God’s will in this matter was the exact opposite of the recommendation of the spies: “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land.’” The spies had said, “It is a small place; send only two or three thousand men against it. Let the others rest.” That sounded very nice, but there was one problem: It was not the will of God.

The Lord wants all of his people to engage in battle against the flesh, the world, and the devil every day of our lives. Yet often our prayer, or “inquiry,” to the Lord, is simply an expression of our own carnal desires and we are seeking God’s approval of it. This was what Abraham, the father of all believers, did in Genesis 17. The Lord told Abraham that he was going to give him a son in his old age through his wife—the old, shriveled, barren Sarah: “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her” (v. 16). But in verse 18 we see Abraham “inquiring”: “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” In other words, Abraham was saying, “Make my plan your plan.”

How many times have we tried through our “prayer” to have God alter his eternal plan and accept ours! When someone asks us, “Have you prayed about this?” we quickly say, “Oh, yes.” What we mean is, “Yes, I told God what he should do”! But God does all things according to the counsel of his own sovereign will; thus, as Christians, we are called to know and do the will of God, not our will. We are to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” and, “Not my will, but thine be done.” We are to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Christ daily. (“When We Don’t Pray”)

How Do You Fix Life’s Problems?

Check out this article by Os Hillman:

Are You Horizontal or Vertical? (via YOU DECIDE)

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