4–10 June 2017.

Joshua 23 (click to read).

One day a drug dealer held a party for his closest friends. While they ate and drank and celebrated together in his beautiful home, the drug dealer stood up to give a speech. Looking around at his large home, his expensive cars, and all the riches surrounding him, he raised his glass high and gave thanks to God who had blessed him so much in life. Without God’s help, he said, he could never have succeeded so greatly.

But is it true that our successes always come from God? When we get what we want, it’s easy for us to think that. It’s easy to think that all success is good, and all success is the result of God’s work. But that’s a very dangerous idea.

Sadly, we know that in this world evil plans also succeed. We know that corrupt politicians sometimes win, and in sport sometimes cheaters take the prize. Is that success God’s work? Of course not!

At the end of the story of Joshua, Joshua looks back at everything that the Israelites have achieved and he gives thanks to God for helping them succeed. But all through the story of Israel’s history, we have seen the Israelites do so many incredibly evil things, killing women and babies, abandoning God, sinning, and causing so much death and terrible suffering. Just because they succeeded in their plans to take over the land, is it right then for Joshua to give God the glory for this? Is there even any “glory” here? Standing over the countless bodies of killed women, children, and men, and possessing a land that has been drowned in blood, is it right for Joshua to think this horrible slaughter was a blessing from the God of Love?

Sometimes the things we count as successes really aren’t; and to win at any cost is not always good. Instead Jesus teaches us what real success is, and what a good and proper life is: It’s to care for others, to act justly, and to promote love instead of violence. The only problem is that when we really act the way God wants us to, when we really live with honour, integrity, and love, sometimes we end up watching other people take the prize. We may even watch them stand and thank God for their horrible successes!

Joshua may have had good intentions in wanting to thank God for Israel’s success. But what Joshua and the Israelites haven’t yet learnt is that a successful life isn’t judged by prizes. Instead, a successful life is one where we do the right thing, regardless of whether we “win” or “lose”. A successful life is one that with integrity steadfastly follows the truth and gospel of Christ.

Pastor Stephen Lakkis