SUCCESS, FAILURE, & THE WILL OF GOD
1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,
2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.
7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Defining Success in Light of Our Text
God promised some pretty amazing things to Joshua in this chapter of the Bible. Let us take a look at them:
1. In verse 2 God said to Joshua, go over into the Promised Land for “I do give” all of this land unto you and the people.
2. In verse 3 God promised Joshua that he would give him “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon”.
3. In verse 5 God told Joshua that “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life”.
4. Again in verse 5 God said, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
5. In verse 6 God commanded Joshua to “Be Strong and of good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land”.
There were some pretty amazing promises given to Joshua here. God had a plan for his people to overcome their enemies and he laid it all out in clear terms so Joshua would miss nothing. God even used the terms “Prosper”, “Prosperous”, and “Success”. Now, there is nothing wrong with those words, if they are used correctly, but if they are used to gratify the flesh then they become a problem. We might as well admit folks, we have heard these words parroted over and over again today! The problem is this: there is a great difference in how God defines success and how man defines it.
I recently heard a preacher preach on these very verses. He spoke long and passionately about what he thought that these verses meant to us. He emphasized “Our comfort”, “Our wants”, and “Our desires”. Eventually he brought his message around to preaching about the house we live in, the clothes we wear, and the car we drive. He spent the rest of his message trying to prove that success and prosperity will assure you all of the comfort, pleasure, and happiness that you desire in this life.
Is this what God meant when he spoke to Joshua? Was God talking about pleasure and material prosperity? Does this mean when Joshua had a really tough day fighting the enemy that he was a failure? Does that mean if Joshua ever lost a battle that we was not a success?
Success & Prosperity is Obedience
In order to fully understand the promises made to Joshua you need to take a look at the commands that were given to him. Take a look at verses 7, 8, and 9.
1. In verse 7 God commands Joshua to “observe to do according to all the law”.
2. In verse 7 God also told Joshua to obey and to “turn not from it to the right hand or to the left”.
3. In verse 8 God commanded Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth”.
4. Again in verse 8 God told Joshua to “Observe to do according to all” that He had commanded.
6. In verse 9 God asked the question of Joshua, “Have not I commanded thee?”
The sad thing about that preacher I mentioned earlier on this is that he never said anything about these commands. He spoke eloquently about the blessings, the promises, the prosperity, and the success, but was embarrassingly silent about the commands, the responsibility, the consecration, the commitment, the dedication, the self-denial, and the cross!
Let’s face it folks! We are soldiers! We are in a war! Joshua was in a war! We are in a war! Wars are not pretty! Wars are not pleasant! Wars are not fought in an easy chair! Wars are dirty, grimy, sweaty, and bloody affairs! Men and women die in wars!
Success and Prosperity are not about our creature comforts and pleasure. Success and Prosperity are about obedience! Success and Prosperity are about winning the war! If we fight in this war we are going to get dirty, we are going to lose some blood, and we are going to break out in a sweat. Wars are gory affairs and no one can stay clean doing the business of fighting. Our success depends on God but it also depends on our willingness to obey that God.
When God told Joshua he would be “of good success” and that he would “prosper”, God was telling Joshua that he would win the war! Now, this is not an automatic guarantee. No! You are going to have to fight. You must obey and follow the commands of your General. Wars are not won by disobedient soldiers they are won by soldiers that have learned how to follow orders.
Joshua won because he followed God’s orders. That, my Friend, is success! Joshua knew in his heart that he would be failure if he went against God’s orders! Success & Prosperity is in the hands of the obedient! We know that we will be prosperous if we obey his voice!
The “I am blessed” crowd of today knows little to nothing about obedience. Obedience is the key to victory! God has not given a blank check of prosperity to a lazy, inept, careless, worldly, prayerless, and sinful people. No! Prosperity only comes to those that obey!
Success & Prosperity is the Will of God
Christian, I want you to hear what I am about to say: No man was ever a failure that was in the will of God. Success is living in the Will of God. Prosperity is living in the Will of God.
B. H. Clendennen said he heard a preacher say one time that, “The highest form of existence is living in the will of God.”
The modern computation of Church & Ministerial Success & Prosperity is tallied up in dollars and warm bodies occupying a spot on a pew. Brother and Sister that is not the way to determine success!
Are you in the will of God? It does not matter how successful it looks to the human eye. It does not matter how unsuccessful it looks to the human eye. If it is the Will of God, then it is successful!
The most successful woman in the whole Church, according to Jesus, was the woman that gave a penny (two mites). She was not successful because of the amount she gave but she was successful because of her willingness to give all.
Mark 12:41-44 (KJV)
41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
It was not the proud and noble that stood at the altar praying that was successful, but it was the man that beat on his chest in repentance, that man was successful.
Luke 18:13-14 (KJV)
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Was Jeremiah a success? God sent him to preach to a hardheaded people that would not repent, even his own family labeled Jeremiah a traitor.
Do you have to pastor a church that runs 100 to be success? Or is it 200? 500? Or even 2,000? How about 30,000 members?
Where is the line that you cross that makes you a part of the elite and successful Prosperity Club?
I preached at a Church in Denton, Texas many, many years ago. I knew that pastor from years ago so he asked me to come and preach. When we arrived it was a beautiful building with many people inside. The building smelled of money. We were early so the Pastor invited me back to his office so we could visit before the service began. I sat down in a chair across from his desk, it looked like a football field between he and I. Then the interrogation began with, “How big is your Church? How many members do you have?” I hung my head and mumbled in embarrassment, “Around twenty five”. He replied back to me, “We run two-hundred on Sunday morning.” He then asked, “How big was last Sunday morning’s offering?” I hung my head again and mumbled, “A couple of hundred dollars.” He said, “We took up $3,500.00 last Sunday morning.” I went home that night feeling defeated. God dealt with me late that night and rebuked me for feeling embarrassed. God said to me, “Are you in my will?”
I replied, “Yes”.
“Then why are you are intimidated?”
The next service I went back to my Church and apologized to them. I told them, “I will never again be ashamed of you! This is where God placed me! I am in his will! As long as I am in his will I am successful!”
I have pastored that little Church now for many years. We have had tornadoes tear the roof off, Hurricane Rita destroy our building, we have been through Church-splits, we have had witches sacrifice animals on our doorsteps, I have went to the Church to pray in the morning and had pornographic pictures taped to the front door, and pyramids of beer cans. What did we do? We cleaned up the mess and had Church! I have had the Sheriff of threaten to arrest me, even had the church sued for property taxes! What did we do? We kept having Church!
David Livingstone was once asked about all of the dangers he faced in Africa with this question: “Are you afraid of what might happen?”
He replied, “I am invincible until the will of God for me is accomplished.”
You see, our success is not defined by the number of warm bodies we can fit on a church pew. Nor is it defined by the amount of money we can deposit in our check book. Wall Street defines success by looking at the bottom line. We in the Church, do not. We are not living in the Book of Numbers – we are living in the Book of Acts!
If you are a Pastor I want to ask you a question: Did God place in the Church where you Pastor? Are you there by divine appointment? If the answer is yes, then stand flat-footed in your pulpit, hold your head high, look the Devil in the eye (and anyone else) and preach as if you life depended on it (for surely it does). You are not any less successful than the other man. No! If you are in the center of God’s will then you are in the center of success. If you are where God wants you to be then you are prosperous.
The same is true for Church members. If you know you are where God wants you to be then do not be intimidated by the Devil. Stand firm on your convictions, faith, and the everlasting Word of God. In the end we will prevail.
Often we get discouraged when we give in to the worlds idea of success. God does not view things as the world does. God commands us and we do it. If we are doing what God told us to do then who has the right to tell us we are a failure?
Look at the successful people of the Word of God. Many of them labored for years with very little earthly success, but today we speak of their towering faith.
I have heard Brother B. H. Clendennen tell this story dozens of times about Noah but it bears repeating. Bro. Clendennen said that he was listening to Bishop Washington on the car radio preach and he said this, “Noah was the most successful preacher that ever lived”. Bro. Clendennen related that he slowed the car down to a crawl because he did not want to miss a word. Bro. Clendennen thought, “Noah was not successful the way we counted success for he only saved eight souls.” Then Bishop Washington proclaimed, “Everybody that Noah did not save, he damned!” Noah’s message affected every human on planet earth. That, my friend, is success!
Today we would say anybody with eight people in their Church was a failure. But, not God! Noah was successful, not because of results, but because of faith that led to obedience. That is the only success that God will recognize.
Even Gideon understood that success was not dependent on how large of an army he could field but rather on obeying God’s instructions.
Judges 7:2-7 (KJV)
2 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
3 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
4 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.
5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.
6 And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.
7 And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
Today this would just not sit to well with most religious people. Instead of Gideon hanging on to the 32,000 men that showed up, he obeyed God and whittled the group down to a mere 300. This is growth is reverse! What Pastor of a 32,000 member church would run off all of the cowards and test the people until he got the size down to 300? None! But, this is exactly how God worked. Was Gideon successful? The answer is unequivocally, yes. His success was hinged on his faithful obedience to God.
There are many other examples in the Bible of men and women that obeyed God even though the immediate results spelled out disaster. They just kept on plugging along faithfully. Some died in the faith others did exploits. Are those that died failures? No! They are no less of failure than those that lived to ripe old age. Success is not based on human reasoning, but it is based on our faithful obedience to God’s Word. That, my friend, is success and prosperity.