T. Pierce Brown

If all the persons who have spent millions of dollars buying self help books on how to be successful in some endeavor would use the same kind of devotion in following the principles of success found in the Bible, there would be a great increase in happiness and work for the Lord. The Bible is full of stories of success and failure. Some who start life with great promise of success failed miserably before they finish. Some who start as evident failures eventually succeed. Success is in the reach of all, but there are rules and conditions for achieving it. In a boxing match, if a fighter quit the first time he was hit, he would never win. If a farmer sows seed and stops because he sees saw briers come up before the seed does, he is a failure as a farmer.

We see some interesting principles as we look at the story of Joshua told in Joshua 1:1-9. The first principle is that he had courage in the name of God. The word “courage” is used three times in four verses. It takes courage to try to build when others are trying to hinder and tear down. In Nehemiah 4, when Sanballat and others ridiculed and made fun, it took courage to build the wall in spite of it. It took courage for David to face Goliath with only a sling and a few stones. The truth is, he did not have only a sling and a few stones. He had God. Daniel’s courage in doing right, though surrounded by enemies and faced with a den of lions, is another evidence of its value.

Courage is not a failure to recognize difficulties and blindly go on. Courage is not even the absence of fear. Courage is the quality that helps a man to recognize the source of his strength, and, depending on it, move on in the face of disaster, difficulty, danger or death. Of course courage in the face of danger should come easier if we have on the whole armor of God (Ephesians6:13).

Another quality of Joshua that helped him to achieve a life of success is that he had a fixed purpose. It may be related to courage, but it is different. For example, in a battle a man might be pinned down by machine guns in three different positions. He might attack one, change his mind and start toward one or more of the others. He might thus demonstrate courage, but not have a fixed purpose. Daniel showed both. Paul had both. When he said in Philippians 3:13, “This one thing I do,” he indicated that singleness of purpose. Some 60 years ago, I was picking blackberries with my mother. I saw a bush several feet away that looked like it had better berries than the one at which I was working (or playing). I left mine and went to the next. Before I had picked it clean, I saw another some distance away that looked better, and went to it. After some time and probably several miles of travel, I had only half a bucket full, while my mother had twice as many, having had a fixed purpose of picking one bush clean before moving to the next.

Some of us have never learned the difference in real goal setting and wishing we had or could obtain some desired end. Setting a goal involves having a fixed purpose, and definite plans about how and when to accomplish it. In Philippians 3:13, Paul said, “This one thing I do.” He had a specific goal for which he was striving.

Third, after having set one or more goals and developed a fixed purpose about attaining them, there needs to be perseverance. Joshua had it. There are dozens of inspiring examples around us and inspired examples in the Bible of such perseverance. It is said that Thomas A. Edison made about 3000 experiments before he succeeded with the electric light. As a boy, I enjoyed watching ants. To see them with a burden ten times as heavy or bulky as they, come to an impediment in the way, and persevere with various maneuvers until they succeeded in their task was of value to me. Without knowing it, I was following the suggestions of Solomon in Proverbs 6:6 and Proverbs 30:25.

Paul says in Galatians 6:9, “Be not weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” Jesus says in Mark13:13, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” John records in Revelation2:10, “Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer; behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” There is little doubt that many have failed because they simply failed to persevere. They turned aside, like Atalanta after some “golden apple,” temptingly tossed by Milanion. Like the fabled Atalanta, most of us would not have swapped our freedom or success for one or three apples, golden or otherwise. It is only when we assume that we can “eat our cake and have it too” that we succumb to those kinds of temptations.

As necessary as courage, purpose and perseverance are to real success, they are not enough.  Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:5, “And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully.” David understood that, as we see in 1 Samuel 24:6, when he was tempted to kill Saul. It is recorded, “And he said unto his men, Jehovah forbid that I should do this thing unto my lord, Jehovah’s anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he is Jehovah’s anointed.” To strive lawfully, one must not only know the law, but do it. To those who think we are not now under any law, because salvation is by grace, this may not make sense. It is still imperative. James1:22puts it this way, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Uzzah discovered it too late in 1 Chronicles 13:10. King Saul discovered it too late in 1 Samuel13:13and15:26. I hope my beloved brethren will not discover it too late.

Opposition is no excuse for failure. Faithlessness of others or failure of others is no excuse. Lack of knowledge is no excuse. In fact there is no good reason for us not to succeed in anything God wants done. We need to be able to see what is failure and what is success. If one did not understand the purpose of God, he would have assumed that Christ hanging on the cross was one of the world’s greatest failures. It was a grand success, for it accomplished the purpose God had in mind from before the foundation of the world.

If you are really interested in success, “choose ye this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Find out what kinds of things God wants done. Then develop a sincere purpose to do it. Have the courage of your convictions, once you have convictions. Set specific realistic goals, not merely have hopeful wishes. Persevere in the face of any difficulty. Make sure you contend lawfully. When a person does that, there is no doubt that his life will be a success.

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