Have you ever experienced outward success while privately battling internal feelings of insignificance? Have you ever smiled for the camera after receiving an award or recognition, but struggled with emptiness and worthlessness afterward? Have you ever hustled your way to professional or personal success, only to find fatigue and frustration on the other side of it? We get the dream car. The dream house. Take the dream vacations. And, after all of that, we wake up from the dream and realize… we’re just tired. I’m not sharing this in theory; I’m sharing this out of my own lived experience.
I started out in my career with an appointment to an executive-level role at just twenty-three years old and I have been blessed to experience a steady string of promotions across various sectors of business over the last fourteen years. My name found its way onto several “30 Under 30” and “40 Under 40” lists, but with every new position, recognition and relationship, I never experienced the sense of fulfillment that I assumed would come when I achieved it. Have you ever been there? You assumed that if you achieved “X” position/title you would finally feel successful, but once you achieved it, the “magical success fairy dust” faded over time. I’ve discovered that there are two types of success; success that empties and success that fills.
God desires that His children experience a success that fills. Good success.
Joshua 1:1-8 is a foundational passage of scripture for my life. Contextually, it is like a divine parentheses in the story of the nation of Israel because, immediately prior to this text, Deuteronomy ends with the death of Moses. Moses was the faithful and revered leader of the Israelites, hand-picked by God to lead them out of Egypt and into the promised land. Due to the unbelief and rebellion of the nation of Israel when God told them to take possession of the promised land, God told Moses that neither he nor anyone in that generation would see the promised land. Instead, Joshua would lead the new generation into it.
Right after Joshua 1:1-8, Joshua instructs the children of Israel to take possession of the land, so this passage comes between two momentous events in Israelite history. And what happens in these eight verses is consequential for Joshua and us today. God pulled Joshua to the side and gave him some very important instruction that was intended to set direction for him and the entire nation of Israel. God said:
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. — Joshua 1:7-8 NKJV, emphasis mine
Do you want to live a prosperous, successful life? I certainly do. And this passage of scripture finds God telling Joshua how to do both, but the Hebrew words for prosper are actually two different words. First, when God says “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,” the word translated “prosper” is the Hebrew word Sakal which means “to be prudent, circumspect, to have insight and comprehension.” In other words; God says, “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 have wisdom wherever you go.” Many people are searching the business and management section of Barnes and Noble to find wisdom when God lets us know his Word contains the power to make us wise if we know it and apply it.
Second, when God says, “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,” the word translated prosperous is not Sakal, it is the Hebrew word Tsalach, which means “to advance, make progress, succeed, be profitable.” This particular word is used sixty-four times in the Old Testament to describe God’s divine power to bring about success apart from man’s intervention, but this is the one and only time is it used to describe a man’s ability to be successful. In this one verse we find God, for the first and only time, teaching us how to translate His divine power of favor into human capacity. God says to us, “if you do this you will succeed on your own.” And that success will be good.
We tend to believe success is good by virtue of it being success. In our view, if you achieved your goal, you succeeded and, therefore, that is a good thing. But in order for there to be “good success” (Joshua 1:8), there must be success that is not good. Anything we achieve that leaves us frustrated, tired, angry, arrogant, selfish, depressed and isolated is not good success, no matter how many trappings may have come with it. Sure you got the promotion, but you can’t get any sleep from stress. Yes you grew the church past 1,000 members, but you’re frustrated and anxious from limited staff. What if God never intended for you to get that job? What if the season for growth was forced before God’s timing? As He said to Joshua, we must remain fixated on God’s Word and will more than comparing our lives with other people because the type of success God wants for us begins within. It begins with a surrender to God’s plans; even when those plans are not our plans. It requires knowing God’s Word and trusting God with our resume.
Written for Faith.Full by Nona Jones, author of Success from the Inside Out.