What does it mean to be successful? Does it hinge on the number of achievements we can stockpile in life? On the amount of friends we gain? On the size of our bank accounts? The world around us may very well shout, “Yes! Those are exactly the things we should use to measure success!” (And we hear those shouts loudly and clearly, don’t we?)
But God’s definition of success is vastly different, and in his mercy God does not leave us to guess at what his definition is. In these first three verses of Psalm 1, the Lord lays out three characteristics that help define what the life of a “successful” Christian will look like:
Characteristic #1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” The first characteristic of a “successful” Christian has to do with our attitude towards sin. The Lord wants us to realize that whatever shapes our thinking will also show in our actions. He wants his holy will for our lives, as he reveals it in his Word, to be what guides us, rather than the advice and values of those who oppose Christ.
Characteristic #2: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The second characteristic of a “successful” Christian has to do with our attitude towards the Lord’s Word. The Lord wants us to make meditating on it, thinking it through carefully, and reflecting on it a top priority in our lives. For in his Word is where we find guidance for how he wants us to live. It’s where we see the forgiveness we have in Christ for every time we fail in our lives of Christian living. And it’s where we receive the Christ-centered motivation to set our hearts on the Lord’s will once again.
Characteristic #3: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” The third characteristic of a “successful” Christian has to do with our attitude towards others. The Psalmist says that those who regularly fill up on God’s Word are like trees planted by streams of water. That is, they are healthy trees, trees that produce fruit from which others benefit. The Lord wants our Christian lives to do the same. Christ’s love for us moves us to love others, and his service to us moves us to serve others.
The Lord makes a great promise to those who set their hearts on living this way: “Whatever he does prospers.” This means the Lord will guard us from dangers that threaten our soul, we will be regularly renewed and strengthened through the Word of Christ, and we will live to serve and benefit others.