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In Joshua 1:8, God comes to Joshua and says, “this book of the law will not depart out of your mouth. If you read it, if you meditate on it, if you live then you are going to have good success”. We have taken that verse and we have applied it to our own lives. In one sense that works. In another sense it doesn’t. We are not Joshua; we are not about to go into a foreign land and be told to conquer and utterly destroy these people. We are not in that specific context or specific situation.

However, in another sense that promise does work for us. Here is the problem, though: how do we define success? Unfortunately, in the 21st century we, even as Christians, define success in a couple very limited ways; namely, healthy and wealthy and if our families stay together, we must be successful. But God, I think, has a very different definition of success. Success throughout the Scripture is obedience to him and his word and faithfulness, loving God, keeping his commands. That is God’s definition of success.

Would anyone say that the apostle Paul, who was ultimately beheaded, was not successful? You read about the prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New Testament, most of which were killed for their faith. If we say that success means we are going to live a long happy life and we’re going to be wealthy and healthy and that is our definition of success, then we have misunderstood. Even the promise that God made to Joshua was not one of prosperity or wealth. It was one in which “I will be there to help you do what I’ve asked you to do, if you follow what I tell you”.

I like to think of Philippians 4:13 as sort of a New Testament counterpart to Joshua 1:8, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. We take that verse and it becomes our blank check, that we can do anything through Christ. Even in that immediate context Paul was saying, “I’ve learned how to be poor and destitute, and I’ve learned how to have a lot. Most important thing is for me to be content with what God is doing in my life.” So, in that since I ask what is harder to be when I am wealthy or to be content when I am poor. Paul is saying if God calls me to something difficult, like God called Joshua to something difficult, I can do it if he calls me to it. I can deal with my thorn in the flesh, I can deal with being beaten, ultimately, I can deal with dying for my faith. That is a different kind of success than we like to think about, especially in American Christianity. In that sense, yes, following God and living out His Word and obey Him and living out a life of faith does bring success but it is success the way God defines it not the way we tend to define it.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Zac Durant