Sermon: “Prosperity & Success”

Author

On Joshua 1:1-9 “Prosperity & Success” 

Joseph Stowell, in the Moody Monthly Magazine, wrote, “What is success? In my book, one ingredient of success is meaningful time with my children. As a friend of mine observed, ‘I have yet to hear of anyone who, on his deathbed, wished he’d spent more time at the office.’ ” How would you define prosperity and success? How would your parents, your family, define prosperity & success? At this moment in your life, would you consider yourself successful?

G. S. Bowes wrote, “Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state of debauchery. Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken from the knights he had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison. Few noted his passing, and he left this earth completely unmourned. Julius Caesar, ‘staining his garments in the blood of one million of his foes,’ conquered 800 cities, only to be stabbed by his best friends at the scene of his greatest triumph. Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years in banishment.”

Worldly success only provides so much comfort and satisfaction. A person can have more money than one needs. But without someone or people to share that money with, it is a lonely life. A person can have fame and popularity. But without real friends, it is a lonely life.

God’s definition of prosperity and success encompasses the world’s definition, which is fame and fortune, and eternal consequences. God’s definition of prosperity and success is not limited to ourselves, but to future generations, unto eternity. Let’s take a look at today’s Bible passage.

Joshua chapter 1. 1After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2“Moses My servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites. 3I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates – all the Hittite country – to the Great Sea on the west. 5No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Success can mean that we continue the work started by someone else. Joshua continued the work that was given to Moses. Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt. They wandered in the dessert for 40 years because the people rebelled against God. After that entire generation died, Joshua was to lead a new generation into the Promised Land.

Can you imagine the task at hand for Joshua? Training the men to fight. Planning strategies to conquer the Promised Land. Caring for the needs of the people under his leadership. Do you think Joshua was ready for the work set before him?

God said to Joshua, 6“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” It was God’s promise to the forefathers of the Israelites. And God chose Joshua to fulfill this promise. 7“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  8Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Prosperity and success come as a result of obedience. I’m talking about God’s definition of prosperity and success – you will have all that you need on earth, and you will inherit eternal life. You will also be a blessing to those around you. Prosperity and success come as a result of obedience.

Perhaps this is why some Christians have the mentality that God owes them for their obedience. I have remained sexually pure before marriage, therefore God should give me a good husband. I have remained faithful to my husband, therefore God should give me healthy children. I have served the church faithfully, therefore God should never allow me to have cancer.

Prosperity and success does come as a result of obedience. Not because God wants to restrict us or torture us with rules. But because obedience to God’s Law is the best way; It is the most healthy way to live; It is the way that does not waste time.

“The story is told of a new bank president who met with his predecessor and said, ‘I would like to know what have been the keys to your success.’ The older gentleman looked at him and replied, ‘Young man, I can sum it up in two words: Good decisions.’ To that the young man responded, ‘I thank you immensely for that advice, sir, but how does one come to know which are the good decisions?’ ‘One word, young man,’ replied the sage. ‘Experience.’ ‘That’s all well and good,’ said the younger, ‘but how does one get experience?’ ‘Two words,’ said the elder. ‘Bad decisions.’ ” Today In The Word, November, 1989, p.23.

With God’s help, we can make less bad decisions. The more we trust God because we understand God, that His Law is for our own good, we will be less likely to make bad decisions and waste time, and instead, travel on the path God has planned for us.

God continued to say to Joshua, 9“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” The unknown is scary. And God understood that. God knew Joshua’s heart. Why else would God tell him, “Do not be terrified?” That is a lot of responsibility, caring for an entire nation.

God reminded Joshua, that his purpose in life has been set by God. God had commanded Joshua to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. What God commands, God will equip. And Joshua’s courage would not come out of thin air, but it would come because God will be with him, wherever he goes.

Joshua’s courage would take time to build, because that courage comes from having a relationship with a living God. Angus J. MacQueen wrote, “When [CLICK] James Garfield (later President of the U.S.) was principal of Hiram College in Ohio, a father asked him if the course of study could be simplified so that his son might be able to go through by a shorter route. ‘Certainly,’ Garfield replied. ‘But it all depends on what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak tree, He takes a hundred years. When He wants to make a squash he requires only two months.’ ”

Our trust in God doesn’t happen overnight. Our obedience to God’s Law doesn’t come naturally. Our courage to attempt great things for God is not immediate. Our faith in God isn’t complete the moment we are baptized or confirmed. It is a relationship. How boring would life be if everything happens or is completed in a snap of a finger?! If we are able to understand God just like that, then God is not big enough to help me or guide me or have a plan for my life.

Even though you and I are not in the business of conquering land, or having to lead an army into enemy territory, the decisions we have each day can be daunting. Choices become harder the older we are. Where to go to college. Where to work. Who to marry. How many children to have.

As God said to Joshua so long ago, God continues to say to us today, 9“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Whatever you find yourself doing, find God in the midst of it. Then it isn’t so scary, because the Lord is with you.

If what you are doing is what God has commanded you to do, then God will equip you – God will give you all that you need to succeed. It will most likely not be success overnight, because then you will not grow, and you’re going to be so bored!

God is interested in each of us becoming who God has created us to be… complex, interesting, loving, forgiven children of God who radiates Jesus everywhere we go.

Today in the Word, July, 1990, p. 17, “In the spring of 1883 two young men graduated from medical school. The two differed from one another in both appearance and ambition. Ben was short and stocky. Will was tall and thin. Ben dreamed of practicing medicine on the East Coast. Will wanted to work in a rural community. Ben begged his friend to go to New York where they could both make a fortune. Will refused. His friend called him foolish for wanting to practice medicine in the Midwest. ‘But,’ Will said, ‘I want first of all to be a great surgeon… the very best, if I have the ability.’  Years later the wealthy and powerful came from around the world to be treated by Will at his clinic… the Mayo Clinic.”

Be strong and courageous. Trust in the living God. Allow yourself to be used by God for God’s glory, and you get to witness God’s power, God’s majesty, and you get to be a blessing to those around you, where your actions have eternal consequences, to share the hope you have in Jesus Christ. In God’s book, you will be successful.

 

The Rev. Marianne Lin

Author Bio: Marianne was born in Taiwan, immigrated to the United States with her family in 1983, and settled in California. In 1990 her family moved to the Big Apple. She graduated from Benjamin N. Cardozo High School and SUNY Stony Brook. Before going to seminary she worked for two years in the accounting department at a retouching firm. She graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in May, 2001, and has been serving as the English Ministry pastor at Taiwan Union Christian Church in Astoria, Queens, New York, since September, 2001. In her spare time she enjoys watching movies, reading Harry Potter books, and talking with friends, whether in person or on the phone. She also enjoys having one-on-one conversations with young people and welcomes questions about faith, life, and relationships.

 



Categories: Sermons

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