Sermons from Lone Rock Bible Church
Stevensville, MT
July 13, 2003

Recipe for Success
Joshua 1:1-9 (Cont'd)

As Joshua stood on the east side of the Jordan River, he knew that the God of Israel would have to give success. The “giants” were still in the land! The Lord’s formula for success included the following ingredients:

Personal resolve (1:6-7)
God’s Word (1:8)
God’s encouragement (1:9)
Extra “mystery ingredient” – what is it?

We’re in Joshua chapter 1, the first nine verses, picking up where we left off a week ago.

Joshua 1:1-9

“Now it came about after the death of Moses, the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses, My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.


Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.


No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.


Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”


I recall getting a solicitation in the mail for a subscription to a magazine, the idea behind it being if I would just sign up and send money, it would bring a happier, healthier, longer, more prosperous life.


Isn’t it interesting how readily we are drawn toward promises of some form of the world’s success? After all, who doesn’t want to be healthy? Who couldn’t use a little more money? Who wouldn’t like to improve his or her lot in life to some extent? The marketers know that and certainly make their appeals accordingly. They come to us touting successful living. I would imagine that success in our society is broadly defined as happier and healthier and longer-lived and more prosperous.


However, I would suggest that when Joshua stood on the east bank of the Jordan River, money was not his concern, nor was his complexion, nor was his thinning hair. Nor was anything that we today would so readily embrace as a standard of success. What was Joshua concerned about? He was concerned about his role in the kingdom of God, his role in seeing God’s people into God’s place under God’s rule. That’s how God defines success. Not how the world does, but how God does – living joyfully in His kingdom.


His measuring stick, His standard for success is where the Bible consistently takes us. He defines success, He also will judge whether we have been successful or not. The world is passing away, the Bible says, and the lusts thereof, but he who does the will of God abides forever. He’s the judge, ultimately speaking, and Joshua surely appreciated that truth after all he had been through for the past forty or fifty years. He was ready to go. Those things that might concern us probably didn’t affect him at all.


We have four points to cover, building on what we began a week ago. How does God create success? What are the ingredients of God’s recipe for success? It truly is our design to live joyfully in the kingdom of God and it doesn’t seem to be happening. We’re living in perhaps defeat, perhaps sin, perhaps bondage, perhaps some sort of turmoil. I’m not talking about outward circumstances; I’m talking about inward peace and joy. If that’s missing, one of these ingredients isn’t there.


The first one we talked about was living in accordance with God’s command, having God and His agenda at the center. If we’re living for any other entity, we’re not going to have a joyful life in the kingdom of God. We’re not going to understand peace. We cannot build a life successfully around ourselves. Why? Because we don’t have what it takes, and if you haven’t figured that out by now it’s time to know that. We will go back on ourselves. We’ll do it morally, spiritually, and we’ll all do it physically sooner or later. We’re not the final court of appeal. God is. We cannot build lives on jobs, on children, on reputations, on portfolios, on any of these things. We center on God if we want success living in His kingdom.


A lot of times people are dissatisfied because things aren’t happening or coming together or there’s inner turmoil, because we have an agenda that doesn’t match where God has put us in life. We’re not in line with the goals He’s put before us for the time being, and that will lead to problems as well.


Sometimes we space out the presence of God too. I am confounded at the number of those who claim to be believers who head off day after day with very little regard for who God is, for what His word says, and for His very real presence in our lives. I think, “How can they do that?” and then I turn around and say, “I’m doing it myself!” I’m forgetting that the God of heaven is here all the time, and if He doesn’t go with me, I don’t want to go there.


Personal resolve (1:6-7)


Ingredient number four is where we are today and we pick it up in verse 6. We call it personal resolve, we might also call it courage; we might just say “guts.” Here’s Joshua on the east bank of the Jordan River and it has not been a stroll in the park for him. He has giants ahead of him and disobedient people behind him. He also has to deal with his own fears. Moses is no longer part of the equation. Moses is dead. It’s Joshua and God now, and he first has to face Jericho, then he has to climb the big hill and fight all the kings and all the cities that are inland. Certainly he would need courage.


There are some times in the Christian life where there is confusion between two forces that need to be in balance. On the one hand there are those Christians who would say, “Here I am facing this challenge,” whether it’s work or family or health or some sort of challenge, “I’m just going to let go and let God.” Then recline in the lap of what we might call, “Whatever God wants to do, I’ll let Him do it.” Had that been Joshua’s posture, he and those teaming throngs would still be on the east side of the Jordan River.


Others, on the other hand, when faced with the challenge say, “Let’s go!” and immediately explore every conceivable opportunity and exhaust all earthly resources in order to solve this thing as though God weren’t part of it. On the one hand, God is left out. On the other, God is overrun.


It seems to me this Christian life – whether it’s you or me or Joshua – needs to be understood in some sense as a co-op. Could God fix it and solve it without me? Sure He could. Is there a time for me to step out and make something happen? Yes, there is. I think that the balance may be effectively understood by a picture, perhaps you’ve seen it, of a Grandpa and little granddaughter in a rowboat. She’s seated on the bench in front of him, her little tiny hands are on those oars and Grandpa’s great big old hands are also on the oars. You can see by the look on her face that she’s straining for all she’s worth. “I’m going to row this boat, Grandpa.” But he knows, and deep down she knows, that if Grandpa doesn’t pull on those oars they’re not going anywhere.


It’s sort of like that with God and us. He expects us to step out in wisdom, but always with the knowledge that if He isn’t granting grace, nothing ever will happen. That stepping out part is for us to do. That’s resolve. At some point we have to take a step, make a move. He says, “Joshua, you’ve got to be strong and courageous.” Why does He recommend courage? Courage is frequently necessary. It’s wanting, really, in our world today. In our culture and in our society you don’t have to have courage. You’ll get along just find. Just go with the flow; just do what everybody’s doing. That takes no guts whatsoever.


The Bible says in this fallen world, to stand for God, to be a vessel of His Spirit, takes some courage. We walk a narrow path, Jesus said, with high stakes. Foolish or fleshly decisions can bring destruction to us. It takes courage to be wise and to have resolve in the direction of wisdom. It also takes courage because the world and the flesh and the devil will always offer resistance and distraction. It takes courage to stay focused.


Courage is nothing more than doing what we know God wants us to do even when we’re afraid or nervous or anxious or reluctant or unsure. When God’s word is clear He wants us to move forward, that movement is characterized by courage – doing what He wants, even though we’re afraid.


Joshua probably could have found safer places to be. Perhaps he wished away his position from time to time just because of the foes that he knew would await him. But he was encouraged, “Be strong.” How did he get courage? I have a formula: When it comes to the will of God and it’s clear -- God wants us to pick up the phone, God wants us to make that approach, God wants us to say the words, God wants us to drive a stake, to make a stand.


Step one is reassess. What is God’s will? What is the circumstance? Write it down. Then go before God and say, “Lord, I see this as your will. The Bible seems to speak to it directly or in principle. By your grace I will do (whatever).” Or, “By your grace” (here’s a good one), “I will not do (whatever).” We know then we’re acknowledging God’s wisdom; God’s will, God’s presence and then we resolve and step forward.


We assess, and we step forward, and we do it again and again. Practice, until practice becomes habit, and habit becomes character, and resolve becomes part of who we are as Christians.


God’s word (1:8)


Ingredient number five is God’s word. God’s word is very, very clear in verse 8. And by the way, Joshua 1:8 is one of the first verses you should memorize.


This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

This book of the law shall never leave your mouth nor shall it ever leave your mind. Talk it, and meditate on it if you want success.


Perhaps you were raised in a Christian home or in a Christian setting and from the time you were little you were probably told, “This is the Bible, this is God’s Word, you’ve got to memorize it. Read your Bible, pray every day, it will make you grow.” On and on and on, until perhaps you heard it so many times the profundity of it escapes you. But isn’t it interesting that as Joshua is poised to literally make world history, this is the key. You want success? The B-I-B-L-E, Joshua, is key.


I ask this question. What has made Boeing, and Lockheed, and MacDonald Douglas and Piper successful companies in the twentieth century? Clever marketing? Supply and demand? Perhaps in part, but fundamentally what has made those companies successful is that their airplanes fly. Their stuff works. They have, at some point, a team of designers who created excellent designs and then those individuals responsible for building in accordance with those designs, built according to spec, and as a result, their airplanes fly. We get on airplanes without a thought, but if they only flew part of the time or part of the way, we’d be a little more reluctant, wouldn’t we? Why? Because our lives depend on it.


What about our life? In scripture we have a designer who designed us and created us and keeps us going. He’s written out in a book the blueprint for our lives and it amazes me how many of us, even as Christians, will make that optional. “Oh, I guess the Bible does have something to say about that, but I really want to do this.” We’re bad that way sometimes. We have it right in front of us. It’s life itself and the Bible is the blueprint.


Joshua is told to tell other people. “You shall speak of these things when you lie down and when you rise up and when you walk by the way.” That just wasn’t just to Joshua; that was to all of us. Tell other people who God is and what God has done and what the Bible says. Tell others. He says also, “Tell yourself. Meditate on these truths day and night.” Keep them always a part of your conscious thinking, bouncing every situation, every decision off those clearly stated in the Word of God.


The Holy Spirit of God has done a couple critical things for God’s people. The Bible says the Holy Spirit is the architect of the Scripture; He is the inspiration behind the Bible. All Scripture is God-breathed, God’s Spirit. He’s responsible for what what we have as Scripture. He put it there. He made sure it is today as it was and as it ought to be.


The other thing He did, other than putting together the Scripture quite literally, He made you and me alive in Christ. The Spirit of God is the agent of God who comes into the soul of a person and quickens him to newness of life. He’s a busy member of the Godhead. He has orchestrated Scripture; he has saved and indwells the believer.


Something happens when the believer who has the Spirit interacts with the Bible of the Spirit. It is as though a spiritual circuit is literally completed and power results, life changing results. Things happen. We take on more of the mind and character of Christ because we, as the Spirit’s house, have interacted meaningfully and consciously and accurately with the Word which is of the Spirit. A circuit is completed and things change


It isn’t just for platitudes and so someone can make money printing Sunday school and VBS curriculum that we talk about the Bible being important. The Bible, as it’s written, is important. What did Joshua have? He had everything he needed in the Scriptures, the written word. He had the first five books at this point in history, but in those first five books of the Bible that Joshua had in his calloused hand, he had a contract with God in his hand. A written, understandable, legible, contract that would not change. A contract, a covenant with God.


In that same document he had a thorough history of all that God had done with His people up to that point. He had the historical record. He could refer back to what God had said, to what God had done, to where the people had gone wrong, to anything they may have done right. It was there, the historical record was there for him, in writing. He could read it, he could understand it, he could tell it to other people. They could read it, they could understand it. There is value in the printed word and the Bible here is talking about that printed word, the objective written word.


Further, he had an account in those first five books which he held and which he read, an accurate description of the character of the God of heaven. He understood how God thought, he understood how God’s heart worked, and what God’s will was and was not. He could see it, he could read it, and he could remember it. He had 50 years, at least, of living it that he could compare with what he was reading and he had the terms of God for success. “Do this, honor Me, follow Me, love Me, serve Me and I will bless you.” He also had terms for failure. “Turn your back on Me and this is what’s coming.” He had it right there, a proposition in front of him.


Most blessed of all, he had God’s promise in writing. “I will do this. I will be with you” He had it all, and he had it all in the written word and so do we. This isn’t just something we make up. Jesus himself said as far as the law is concerned, talking about the written Old Testament, “not one speck of it will ever change until heaven and earth pass away.” Jesus was adamant that the Scripture be untouched, unchanged, untweaked, always available to the understanding of the mind of the believer. It’s up to the believer to put it in there. That came from our Savior, and He’s the One, by the way, who was raised from the dead. If it’s good enough for Him, it’s good enough for me, and for all of us.


God’s encouragement (1:9)


God’s encouragement – that’s how I label verse 9,


Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Be strong and courageous. Doesn’t he say that about three times? Notice what God doesn’t say to Joshua here. He doesn’t say, “Look, Joshua, go out there; see what you can do, take good notes, and report back to me.” Not at all. He said, “I will be with you.” His name, Yahweh, means, “I am always present.” He said it to Moses. When Jesus went back to heaven, leaving His disciples behind, He said, “Lo, I am with you always.”


At the end of the book of Revelation the very same point is made once again to all the saints, “I am always with you.” That’s encouragement from the Lord. He’s there to offer us encouragement.


Now here’s a question. We need encouragement from time to time. How do we get that? Sometimes we fall back on “I’m going to trust God just to do something in me.” “I need encouragement, I need uplifting, I need something, I’m down, I’m just going to trust God to make it happen.” Maybe He will. But there’s another side to that.


Remember when Jesus was talking to His disciples (Mark 10) and they’d had a discussion with the rich young ruler who walked away sad because he had a lot of possessions and didn’t really want Jesus, at least at that time. They were amazed that anyone who had all those resources couldn’t get to heaven on their own power. Jesus said that it doesn’t work that way. “You need to leave everything and follow me.” Peter said, “I think we’ve done that.”


In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus goes through a list. He says, “If you’ve done this, that means you now have brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and houses and lands and farms. You now have resources, a lot of resources.” Us, other believers, the body of Christ – that’s what He’s talking about. Jesus literally, physically ascended to heaven. He leaves His body, His representative body behind – the church. The same Holy Spirit who animated Jesus now animates his representative body -- you and me. He expects certain things of the church.


The other day when I was praying, I was expressing a bit of distress because my dear son James had been gone for nearly two weeks and we hadn’t heard from him. That wasn’t good for me or for his mother either. While I’m praying, the phone rings. I answered the phone wondering if it could be the Lord. It wasn’t, it was Ron Price. His first words were, “Just called to tell you not to worry if you hadn’t heard from James.” I thought, obviously God is in this thing, so that helped.


Then I got to thinking about the principle that was at play here. The Bible is so repetitive when it comes to talking to those who claim to be Christians about loving one another and serving one another and regarding one another highly and meeting one another’s needs and bearing one another’s burdens and praying for one another. There are a lot of  “one anothers” in there. Why is that so?


Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, lives in His people. This is what He would do. That’s why that’s He tells us to look like Him, because He truly lives within in us. The “one anothers” are for the representative body of Christ.


So pray for one another, encourage one another, prop one another up, confront one another when that’s necessary. Always love one another because that’s how God comes through so frequently with the messages that He wants for you and me. God’s encouragement frequently will come from other believers and I think that’s great and that is as He would have it to be and certainly we would as well.


Mystery ingredient


Those are the ingredients for success, and there’s one more. The mystery ingredient for success, for joyful living in the kingdom of God, is time. This is character building, this is stretching and changing and molding and making a person different. If we cannot have the patience to let God do that work, we will not be living very peacefully even in the kingdom of God.


Joshua would be five to ten years beyond this point, once he gets in the Promised Land, just doing conquest things, settings things up and making things go, filling the role that God called upon him to fill. It always takes time and we need to dial that in as well, as we ponder the formula that God has for our success in His kingdom.


That success begins with knowing Him. If we have surrendered our hearts to Him, if we have put all our trust in Jesus only, we have relationship and the rest of these ingredients now apply.

Jim Carlson 2003, Lone Rock Bible Church, Stevensville Montana, USA