Everybody wants to have a successful year. We want a year in which we can enjoy all the blessings of God. I have a simple secret to share with you, as well as a concept from a beautiful passage in the book of Proverbs. How can you have a successful year? Well, you put together a string of successful months. How can you have a successful month? You put together a string of successful weeks. How can you have a successful week? You put together a string of successful days. Are you getting the message? How can you have a successful day? You put together a string of successful hours. Now it’s in an area where it is easier to handle.
The task may look enormous and daunting when you think of the coming year — whether it’s a calendar year or a financial year or just a year from now. So much is possible in the space of one year and so much effort might be necessary to bring your personal plans and purposes to fruition. However, if you realise that the only time you can control is not the rest of this year but right now, then you should be concerned with how to make this hour a successful hour. So take the year an hour at a time, a day at a time, a week at a time. Jesus said as much in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV). We could rephrase it in a positive form and say, “Each day has the right amount of good”. God wants us to live one day at a time, and if we do that, then it’s going to be a tremendous year.
In the book of Proverbs, chapter 3, there are some principles that we can apply to make this year a successful year.
Keep God’s principles
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart” (Proverbs 3:1). Verses 1 to 4 of this chapter are introductory and then verses 5 to 10 give us some definite principles. The “heart” in this whole passage does not refer to some inner part of your being — it’s the seat of your personal life, the mind. For example, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV). The mind is where the thinking process takes place.
I love the way the Jerusalem Bible renders Proverbs 3:1, “My son, do not forget my teaching, let your heart keep my principles.” I believe that God is a God of principle. God has laid down successful principles for all who believe in Him. God does not have a string of separate concepts to suit your life and another string to suit my life. One thing I do not believe in is what is called the “capricious will of God”, that is, He is going to bless Joe today and the rest of us can get through as best we can. If that’s the kind of God we have, then we will never know when it is our day. We will probably start looking at the stars or get our bio-rhythm calculators out and try to figure if today is going to be our good day. That is what is meant by a capricious will and it is not what the Bible teaches. Certainly God is sovereign, but since He stands behind His Word He limits Himself by it, and therefore abides by His own principles. “I the Lord do not change…” (Malachi 3:6). God’s will for you and for me is unchanging. We can thank God for that, because it means that God has laid down principles, and if we understand those principles then every day can be a beautiful day. God wants us to keep His principles in our minds. If we do, then when the need arises we can apply them.
The introduction continues, “For they [God’s principles] will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart [mind]” (Proverbs 3:2-3). As you apply the principles, you are promised a long life and prosperity, so spend some time drilling them into your mind. Computers never make a mistake, so they tell us. So who makes the mistakes? The people who write the programs or type in the information. Garbage in, garbage out. Often you have to go back to the manual, find out where you have gone wrong and then apply the principle. So spend time drilling God’s principles into your mind.
“Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:4), or as the KJV margin says, “… and good success”. As a Christian you have favour in the sight of God. Applying His principles produces good success.
The principle of trust
Here’s the first principle: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart [mind] and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). It’s the mind that trusts in the Lord. To trust means to rely on, to have confidence in a person or object. Have confidence in God with all your mind in the year that lies ahead. James 1:8 tells us that there are some people who are “double-minded”, who are “unstable” in all they do. One moment they think they should go this way and the next moment that way, and soon they are unstable, unsure, undecided what to do. God does not want us to be double-minded but to have a single purpose of trusting in the Lord.
This is a principle that you and I can apply daily. It will not cost you anything except some application, some effort. To emphasise the totality of the trust required in the Lord, the verse continues, “And lean not on your own understanding”. Many times we think we know best, but it is not so. God knows best — it’s specific and exclusive. God asks us to trust Him totally and completely.
The principle of acknowledgment
Verse 6 brings us the second principle. “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6). How do you acknowledge Him? You recognise that He is with you. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Believe these two things: He exists and He rewards with the best those who put their trust in Him. Acknowledge His presence in every part of your life — in your family, in your business, in your personal life. When you do, He will “make your paths straight”. He will guide you. The Jerusalem Bible renders it, “He will see that your paths are smooth”. Moffat says that “He will clear the road for you”. For those who believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him, it’s straight ahead down a clear road.
The first Greek translation of the Old Testament is called the Septuagint, because it was prepared by seventy people. They translate this verse in the same way as the King James version does in II Timothy 2:15, “rightly dividing” your paths. The picture is of us coming to a fork in the road. God will guide us as to which road to take. He will direct your path, He will guide you in the way you need to go. I need God’s guidance this year, and I am sure you do too. If I had to believe all the guidance I’ve read in the newspaper over the last week as to what is going to happen in the next twelve months, I could go crazy. In fact, I would probably say, “Stop the world! I want to get off”. Thankfully, as I acknowledge Him, He will direct my paths.
The principle of reverence
The next two verses give us our third principle. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7-8). To fear the Lord means to have a reverence for Him, the God Who made the heavens and the earth, the God Who sent His Son to die on the cross for you and for me. Have a reverence for God and shun evil. Perhaps by now you have noticed that nearly all of these principles have a positive and a negative side to them. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (the positive), and lean not on your own understanding (the negative)”, and here again, “Do not be wise in your own eyes (the negative); fear the Lord (the positive) and shun evil (the negative again).” Turn your back on those things which are not going to be effective in your life this year. Make what some people call a quality decision not to do certain things, because they do not contribute to your success.
The result of applying the principle is clearly stated, “This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones”. The word “health” is also translated “medicine”. God’s health care plan is a spiritual medicine that you can administer every time you put God in the right place in your life.
The principle of giving
One further principle is given in verses 9 and 10, and this one hits the wallet or the purse. “Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). They were to honour God with their money and the first portion of the crops, “off the top”. God is not saying He wanted their capital, so relax, sit back and enjoy the rest of the chapter! What God is saying is that he wanted the first portion of their income — the income that has been produced by employing their capital and sufficiency.
In Old Testament times the believers had been trained to give the first 10% straight off the top, no questions asked. Every now and then there were special offerings that they were required to make. Someone has calculated that the Jewish people were giving close to 25% of all their income to God. The firstfruits, the first part, was God’s system of taxation, because it was a requirement. In fact, God said that if they did not give it then He would charge them interest. It would have been cheaper to borrow from the bank than to take God’s rightful firstfruits.
We are not under that system but we are to apply the same proportional principle: “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). We are to give out of our income. We, too, honour God by our giving. It’s not enough to go through this year and say, “Yes I trust in God, I acknowledge Him, I reverence Him, but I don’t want to give”. If you do this, you will have a pretty miserable year and will have to work it out for yourself when things don’t go right. However, honour Him with the firstfruit of your crops and “then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine”. That certainly sounds like prosperity to me!
New wine is a figure of prosperity and affluence in the Bible. So God’s promise is available to you and God’s principle is for you to take the first step and give Him a percentage of your income. Give it in faith out of what you have. You may not know how you are going to get by with the balance but you will, because it’s a principle. Now it is on God’s shoulders to fulfil His part of the principle and guide you in a way that will fill your barns with plenty. A similar statement is given in Malachi, chapter 3. “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'” (Malachi 3:10).
God says to test Him out, and you do it by giving. Take your hands off your gift and thank the Father for giving you those rich, divine, prospering ideas that are going to fill your barns to overflowing. It’s a great principle and I’m glad so many Christians believe it and apply it because it helps keep their lives going, it helps fulfil their desires. It is, in fact, an investment in their future.
So God has four principles for us to apply in order to have a successful year. They are simple principles that anyone can apply. If you are marking your Bible, underline these words: verse 5, “trust”; verse 6, “acknowledge”; verse 7, “fear”; and verse 9, “honour”. “Do not forget my teaching, let your heart [mind] keep my principles” (Proverbs 3:1 Jerusalem Bible). And remember, to have a successful year you start by making today a successful day, making this week a successful week.
Copyright © 1995 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/.
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