Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:7–9)Verse eight ends with “success” but now I know that is not the best translation. North American ambition reads in a contemporary spin and equates success with becoming rich and famous. In Hebrew, this word is actually the same word used in verse seven, there translated as “prosper.” My Hebrew dictionary says that it can also mean “act wisely.”
This tells me that success in the mind of God is not about making money or climbing the corporate ladder or being listed in “Who’s Who.” It is about following God with all my heart.
These verses also tell me how to do it. They say that I need to be strong and courageous, having the gumption to do what God says in a world that says the opposite. I need to pay attention to the will of God as expressed in His Word, reading and thinking about it continually. For that, I must turn off the television and abandon part of my library.
Also, they say that I need to be fearless and not confounded by the threats and confusion of life. I need to remember that God is with me, no matter where I go or what I am doing. Because He is with me, I can depend on Him to make available whatever I need. This is success.
This word obviously means much more to me than my early ambitions defined it. To make this practical, success is not getting angry when someone pushes or tries to provoke me. It is having a humble heart, knowing that I am needy and not at all embarrassed by that. It is joy in my heart during sunny and stormy days. It is responding to others with grace. It is being like Christ when everyone else is mocking Him or me. It is caring about the eternal well-being of everyone, even the people I don’t like very much.
Success is growing to Christian maturity and accepting whatever means God chooses to produce that growth. It is contentment and also zeal. It is purity and integrity. It all this and more, but certainly not about winning popularity contests, or having a great wardrobe, or a fancy place to live, or making the dean’s list, or anything I once thought was important.
For me, the key for this transformation of values is smack in the middle of that passage from Joshua where it says to let the Word of God be continually on my mind. Reading and studying Scripture exposes and cleanses sin, but also changes the way I think — and this is success.