January 8, 2006

The Scripture For A Successful Year - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: New Year Scripture: Joshua 1:8


The Scripture For A Successful Year-Part Two

Joshua 1:8
Sunday, January 8, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

We said last week the New Year represents to many a fresh start, a new beginning. We wish to place the past behind us and look forward to better days ahead. We want prosperity. But what is God's recipe for success?

Joshua from the Old Testament found himself in a similar predicament. With 40 years of wandering in the desert behind him, he stood on the banks of the Jordan River prepared to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. He wanted success. God provided His recipe. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that 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" (Jos. 1:8).

Solomon was about to inherit the throne from David. It was a daunting task to follow in his father's footsteps. He wanted success. As King David laid on his deathbed, God said through him: "I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn'" (1 Ki. 2:2-3).

The recipe for success as defined by our Lord as given to Joshua, Solomon and us today is a faithful commitment to the Scriptures.

This morning I would like to conclude the topic we began last week with a very practical message that is intended to exhort you to devote your lives to the knowledge and application of the Bible.


We all know our Lord's goal for all of His children is the application of His Word. As any loving father would do, our Heavenly Father has given us clear directives that are necessary to bring Him honor and safeguard our decisions. Our Bibles are chalked full with commands that express actions we are to avoid and actions we are to pursue.

Since the application of God's Word is so important, we must be serious students of the Scriptures. And since we cannot apply that which we do not know, our lives should be consumed with learning the Bible. My biblical conduct will only go as far as my biblical cognizance.

Now, it's been said there are five ways we can learn the Bible. Often they have been compared to the five fingers on a hand. We'll review the first three that we learned last week and then spend a little more time on the final two.

Listen to it!

The easiest way we can learn the Bible is to listen to it.

God promised Joshua success if he would prioritize the Word of God in his life. Unfortunately some have discounted this principle in discouragement, not because the Word of God is impotent or because God failed to come through on His promises, but rather, because they have had in their minds a definition of success that is different from God's.

You see, success is not achieving our worldly goals, as do those without the Spirit. That's failure! Success is achieving God's goal that will bring Him glory and provide for us the true satisfaction and purpose that we all seek. And what is God's goal for each of us individually and the church corporately? Christlikeness! And how will God, through the working of the Holy Spirit, make us more like Jesus? He will accomplish it through the preaching of His Word.

Therefore the primary ministry of the church is the accurate, understandable and uncompromising teaching of the Bible. Without it we will miss out on success and blessings.

The great preacher C.H. Spurgeon once said, "May I beg you carefully to judge every preacher, not by his gifts, not by his elocutionary powers, not by his status in society, not by the respectability of his congregation, not by the prettiness of his church, but by this - does he preach the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation? If he does, your sitting under his ministry may prove to you the means of begetting faith in you. But if he does not, you cannot expect God's blessing."

So there are many reasons we come to church, but the primary reason is to worship God by listening to the teaching of His Word. Based on this I give you two exhortations:

First, make every effort to attend events where the Bible is taught. Come to church Sunday morning. Participate with us on Wednesday evenings for Prayer Meeting. Join a home Growth Group. Get involved in the men and women's Bible studies.

Second, maximize your presence to get the most out of your attendance. Pray that you will receive the Word with eagerness and clarity. Prepare your hearts and bodies to minimize distractions. Take notes and review your notes. Read and/or listen to the sermon again made available to you through the resources on the website or CD's on the back table.

Take advantage of these opportunities to hear the Word of God!

Read it!

In addition to listening to the Word, we can also read the Word.

Do you remember the first time you received a love-letter? It made your day! If you were like me, you cherished that letter. You read it over and over. You dissected the grammar. You looked for meaning between the lines. Every time you thought about it or moreover read it, the letter brought great happiness to your heart. The Bible is no different. The Bible is God's love-letter written to you.

Make it a point everyday to read from the lover of your soul. He speaks to you, Christian, through the written Word. As George Whitfield once said, "God has condescended to become an author, and yet people will not read his writings. There are very few that ever gave this Book of God, the grand charter of salvation, one fair reading through."

Have you read through the Bible? If your spouse gave you a love letter, would you read only part of it? And if so, how would that make your spouse feel?

If you listened to the Bible on cassette straight through from Genesis to Revelation, it would take approximately 71 hours. This proves that the average person can read through the Bible each year with a meager investment of 15-20 minutes each day. Compare this with the Nielson statistics that reveal the average American watches more than 4 hours of television each day.

My friends, what are we communicating to our Savior who desires to have fellowship with us, when we fail to read His Word? Oh that God would give us a great passion to read the Scriptures!

Evangelist Robert Sumner in his book The wonder of the Word of God tells of a man in Kansas City who was severely injured in an explosion. His face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He had just become a Christian when the accident happened, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible. Then he heard about a lady in England who read Braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in Braille. But he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been too badly damaged to distinguish the characters. One day, as he brought one of the Braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. Like a flash he thought, "I can read the Bible using my tongue." At the time Robert Sumner wrote his book, the man read through the entire Bible four times" (Quoted from: Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 35).

Meditate on it!

The third way we can learn the Bible is through meditation. This is specifically the discipline that God commanded to Joshua. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night" (Jos. 1:8a). The same command applies to us today.

Right away this word brings up negative connotations, so allow me to explain how worldly meditation differs from godly meditation. Worldly meditation involves emptying your mind, while godly meditation involves filling your mind with Scripture. Worldly meditation seeks to conger a new imagined reality, while godly meditation seeks to dwell on the things that are true and already revealed in the Bible.

Meditating on Scripture means to reflect, ponder and consider what you have just read or heard. It means to think deeply and frequently and extensively about the truths in God's Word. As one pastor said, "We need to chew, sallow and digest the Bible so it becomes part of our lives (Kent Hughes).

The Psalmist said:

  • "I meditate on You in the night watches (Psm. 63:6)."
  • "I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders (Psm. 77:6)."
  • "I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds (Psm. 77:12; cf. 145:5)."
  • "I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways (Psm. 119:15; cf. 119:78)."
  • "I will meditate on Your wonders (Psm. 119:27)."
  • "I love (Your commandments); and I will meditate on Your statutes (Psm. 119:48)."
  • "I…meditate on Your word (Psm. 119:48)."
  • "I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands" (Psm. 143:5)."

Study it!

Another key component is to study the Scriptures. This is the fun and challenging process of digging deep into a verse or a topic. Its intended goal is to discern the true meaning of a particular passage.

General reading seeks to see the forest while study concerns itself in the analysis of the particular trees. Or as Jerry Bridges said, "Reading gives us breadth, but study gives us depth" (The Practice of Godliness, pg. 51).

It is often during these times when the Lord shows truths firsthand that we feel ourselves closest to the Savior. If you have never studied the Bible, you are robbing yourself of joy and depending too much on the work of others.

Consider the church in Berea. The Apostle Paul arrived there on his second missionary journey. He instructed the people. And after hearing from possibly the greatest human teacher and theologian our world will ever experience, the Bible says these Bereans "received the Word with great eagerness" but also "examined the Scriptures daily to see (whether the things Paul said were true)" (Ac. 17:11). Don't believe everything you hear without personal investigation. Be a student of the Scripture. Know how to study the Bible yourself!

Many Bibles have built in study tools such as the NIV or MacArthur Study Bible. All of these study tools can also be purchased in individual volumes as you will see in a moment. Computer resources are even available that are more affordable, less cumbersome and much quicker.

Study tools include:

  • Cross-reference guides - Comparing a verse with a similar verse found elsewhere in the Bible.
  • Concordances - Finding where a particular word is found elsewhere in the Bible.
  • Topical Bibles - Guides to research a topic throughout the Scriptures.
  • Handbooks - Information regarding the author, recipients, date, purpose, theme and outline of a specific book in the Bible.
  • Atlases and background commentaries - Geographical, historical and cultural information that helps us understand the environment that surrounded the biblical authors.
  • Lexicons and interlinears - Tools that assist in understanding the original language in which the passage was written.
  • Commentaries - Scholarly explanations of a particular text.

Study the Bible! I encourage you to begin today. You can do it! As R.C. Sproul once said, "We fail in our duty to study God's Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy" (Knowing Scripture, pg. 17).

Start small. Within time your techniques and competence will improve and you will grow in your understanding and appreciation of the Bible. As Paul told Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

Memorize it!

We must listen to the Word, read the Word, meditate on the Word, study the Word and finally, memorize the Word.

Some of us find this discipline much easier and enjoyable than others, but there is no excuse to be lax in this area. Each of us have the capabilities and responsibilities to have a few verses hidden in our heart.

What are the benefits to memorizing Scripture?

First, it greatly aids in our evangelism. Our Bibles might not always be with us and it is embarrassing, not to mention simply wrong, to misuse a verse when sharing our faith with another. We are more effective if we have key verses prepared in our minds when defending the faith and declaring the truth.

Second, Bible memory aids in our daily fight against sin. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17b). Jesus used it to fight the devil (Mt. 4:1-11) and we would do well to follow in His footsteps. Possibly nothing is more effective to conquer sin than reciting in our hearts a specific Bible verse that will counter the specific temptation. As David said, "Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You" (Psm. 119:11).

Third, Bible memory naturally aids in our ability to remember Scripture to be used in evangelism and our fight against sin, but also guidance (Psm. 119:24) and meditation (Psm. 119:97). It has been said that we remember only about 10% of what we listen to. We remember only about 20% of what we read. We remember only about 40% of what we study. But we remember almost 100% of what we memorize.

When I was first saved 15 years ago I memorized Paul's letter to the Philippians. It revolutionized my relationship with the Lord. In second grade I memorized Psalm 100 as a children's neighborhood Bible study. It's still there to this day. Our own children either though their teachers in Sunday school or our work in the home have each accumulated an arsenal of dozens of verses apiece that will always be cemented in their hearts.

Do what works best for you. Possibly you can listen over and over to the Bible on cassette. Possibly you can make your own cassette tapes that you listen to on a regular basis. Possibly you prefer note cards you keep in your pocket that you can review throughout the day. Possibly you prefer little verses scattered all over the house in strategic places (like the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator or above the clock) that you are forced to read on a regular basis. Develop a system and keep at it. Get an accountability partner. By God's grace and a little effort you will not be disappointed.

So we must listen to the Word, read the Word, meditate on the Word, study the Word and memorize the Word. Christian, I hope you are making every effort to pursue these required disciplines.


Now if we stop here in the process, our efforts are meaningless in the eyes of God. Yes, we must engage the mind and impact the heart with Holy Scripture, but all of it culminates in the application of what we learn. Donald Whitney said, "I still maintain that much of Scripture is plain and straightforward in its meaning. Our problem continues to be more of a lack of action than comprehension. The words of Scripture must be understood to be applied, but until we apply them, we don't really understand them" (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 59).

We are responsible to practice and obey what we have gleaned from the written voice of God. As James so memorably said, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (Jas. 1:22). Or Paul in Romans 2, "For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified" (Rom. 2:13). Or Jesus in Matthew 7, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Mt. 7:24).

So as we move to the second point, we must not only learn God's Word, but we must also do God's Word. We must be like Ezra who "set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it" (Ez. 7:10).

Knowledge of the Word and application of the Word are two inseparable necessities. They are individual sides of the same coin, if you will. We must maintain a balanced approach to both of them. Just as there are countless in the church who are trying to follow God without a keen understanding of His Word, there are countless especially in many Reformed circles who are zealous to rightly understand the Word, but lax in the application of what they have learned. Often these people will die for the smallest of doctrine, but demonstrate nothing about an awareness of love, forbearance and patience with others.

Bible knowledge for its own sake is idolatry. The great evangelist D. L. Moody once said, "The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives." Yes, we must know Holy Scripture, but the ultimate goal of Scripture is not information, but transformation. The Word of life must never be removed from life in the Word. Knowing the Bible without applying the Bible is like planning for a vacation, but never going on the trip.

According to Joshua 1:8, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night." And here is the purpose. "So that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it."

As we grow in our knowledge of the Word, we will grow in our love for the Author of the Word. Our relationship will deepen. And as we grow in our love for the Author we will display that love, as Jesus said, through obedience (Jn. 14:15). Complete, not partial obedience. Immediate, not delayed obedience. Joyful, not grudged obedience.

God's glory is at stake! How can we call Him Lord and be indifferent to His commands (Lk. 6:46; Mt. 7:21)? Your joy and blessings are at stake as well! Jesus said, "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them" (Jn. 13:17). And "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it" (Lk. 11:28).

Do you want to have a successful and prosperous New Year according to God's standards? Well then, how about submitting to God's instruction and revolving your life around a commitment to the Word of God both in knowledge and in application? If Joshua wasn't too busy to accomplish this, neither are you. For God would never give you too much where this mandate for His child should suffer. If necessary, make some choices that reprioritize or reorient your schedules.

Pray that God will give you a greater appreciation for the Scriptures. Pray that they will be your daily spiritual food. Pray that you will develop a heart like Job who said, "I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12). Or Jeremiah who said, "Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart" (Jer. 15:16a). Or Jesus who said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." (Mt. 4:4; cf. Jn. 4:34).

May we as the body of Christ go forward in 2006 with an individual, family and church commitment to be guided and governed wholly by the written Word. May we love, learn and live by the Scriptures. May we give unqualified supremacy to the Bible both for our joy and the glory of God. May we live by Joshua 1:8: "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that 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."

other sermons in this series

Dec 30


Five Directives For A Successful New Year

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 16:10–24 Series: New Year

Jan 1


To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain

Preacher: Craig Baxter Scripture: Philippians 1:19–26 Series: New Year

Jan 1


Old Necessities for a New Year

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:16–19 Series: New Year