Whether it’s disappointments, failure, or any other emotion, the Psalms is a book of prayers and hymns that have a way of expressing our emotions in relatable and encouraging ways. Yet the first book, Psalm 1, starts with instructions. Instructions for something we’ve all prayed for at one time or another – success. The Bible says a lot about success and it’s counterpart, failure and the lessons in Psalm 1 are foundational.
It does this by showing us 2 ways to live – God’s way or the world’s.
Table of Contents
My Struggles and Psalm 1
I’ve been wrestling with this post for weeks now. Struggling with what I wanted to write and begging God to lead me. Day after day I’d open my Bible, turn to Psalms and read, yet I knew it wasn’t what God wanted me to write.
Then a friend mentioned Psalm 1 and so I opened my Bible ready to find the message in Psalm 1, eager to hear from God…
Then, while I was on a walk pouring my heart out to God and sharing my fear of failing you, my fear that the words I write would somehow fall short and not be what you need…
So, I’m opening my heart and sharing how Psalm 1 has helped me with failure and success.
A Life Full of Failures
On the outside, I’m a pretty independent woman who seems to have it all together and believe it or not, the inside is much the same. God blessed me with a strong will and a strong sense of commitment. But this often misguided strength has led to a lot of failures.
Truthfully, if I look at my life only through the lens of failure, my life’s riddled with failure.
The marriage I thought would last forever – failed.
My body that I thought could do anything – failed.
And in between those two doozies are a million other things I’ve failed at.
- I’ve failed to love my mom as I should.
- Failed to love God the way He asks me.
- Failed to treat a friend who I treasure, as I’d want to be treated.
- Failed to put others before my own selfish wants.
Failure upon failure and those are just a few.
My successes, crushed under the weight of failure. And as I was writing this list of failures I noticed my attitude soured, confidence faded, and all I know to be true suddenly seemed lost.
The Power of Thoughts
When we allow failure to lead the way, when we focus on failure instead of God and His perfect will, things can go south fast.
I’ve never thought of myself as a failure but when I look at the choices I’ve made, I am a failure.
This realization caused me to weep for all women who struggle with failure, who feel like a failure at everything.
I’m so thankful for the strong will and determination God gifted me with and how they’ve allowed me to learn from my failures and not be overtaken by them.
My prayer is that this window into my life helps you learn something very important before we get into Psalm 1.
I pray you learn that thought processes matter. Our thoughts can either build us up or tear us down. They can push us successfully forward or leave us wallowing in failure. Thoughts matter to the nth degree, and the lesson in Psalm 1 is the same.
The Main Idea in Psalm 1
As women of God, we have to recognize how destitute the world’s wisdom is. We have to orient all aspects of our lives around God’s Word because this is the life that leads to true happiness, blessings, success, and the best thing – it leads to unending fellowship with God.
But…I get it!
It’s easy to think the world’s way is the way to go, especially if you want to be accepted, successful, and prosperous. God’s given us this stark contrast in Psalm 1 because He wants us to remember our perspective should be eternal and not temporal and fleeting.
Psalm 1 helps us put life into perspective.
We can follow the world’s way or we can fervently depend on God. The world and it’s myriad of clamoring voices all offer “ways to succeed” but do they really work?
The main idea in Psalm 1 is a resounding NO!
But how is this possible when life feels like it’s littered with failures?
The answer is found in Psalm 1 and I want to show you how it’s impacted my life. I pray my struggles with failures and the lessons I’ve learned help you apply Psalm 1 to your life.
A Successful Life - Applications for life from Psalm 1
The Wrong Way - Psalm 1:1
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” Psalm 1:1
In this passage “blessed” comes from the Hebrew words “esher” and “ashar.” When you look at those words’ meanings, blessed means:
“happiness and contentment that comes from being right with God.”
Psalm 1:1 then lists three things a blessed person should avoid, three things that say a lot about success and failure.
When I look at my list of failures I quickly recognize the reason I failed at many of them. I failed because I seldom stopped to consider if the information I was using to guide my decisions was godly or ungodly – I just got advice, nodded my head in agreement, and put it into action.
Especially if it appeared to solve my problem.
And…I was purposeful about who I went to for advice, often choosing to get advice from those who’d most likely agree with ME (Ugh)! What a recipe for failure that is.
On the other hand, it took me awhile before I began obeying God’s voice instead of silencing it.
The Lesson in Psalm 1:1
Right here, in Psalm 1 God gives us the recipe for true success and it’s found when we stop getting advice from people who’re not following God’s law. One commentary says the blessed, happy person
“keeps at a distance from them, as he would from persons or places infected with the plague, for fear of the contagion.”
With coronavirus currently dictating our social interactions, this explanation paints a very clear picture. If I know I’ll get coronavirus from someone, I won’t walk, stand, or sit anywhere near them. But…
Think about sin and the people we go to for advice.
The main lesson Psalm 1:1 has taught me is that:
True lasting success comes when I flee from sin and run to God.
- What are the three things Psalm 1:1 says a blessed person does?
- What do you think this means?
- How could doing these things keep you from failing, make you more successful, or make you happier?
The Way to Succeed - Psalm 1:2
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:2
But…It’s such a powerful word, especially when it’s used to convey God’s will for His children’s lives. This “but” connects the things Psalm 1 says we should avoid to the things that lead to our success.
Me, I spent much of my early Christian life reading God’s Word but not meditating on it, and because of that I continued struggling with failure. Not because I wasn’t learning, God’s Word changes us even if we’re not meditating on it, but because I wasn’t fully grasping and understanding what God asked of me. But…God used my failures to teach me the value of delighting in and meditating on, His Word.
Notice the progression here?
First, you delight, and then, you meditate.
The Lesson in Psalm 1:2
God’s Word should give us such pleasure that we squeal with delight thinking about it. This delight is what leads us to meditate and chew on Scripture all day long. Then, the meditation allows God’s Word to change our will as it penetrates our mind and heart.
If you learn only one thing from Psalm 1, I pray you learn this:
Meditating on God’s Word is like taking long drinks of life-giving water. Water that transforms you and allows your roots to grow unshakably deep. And, you’re about to see that deep roots are important to a successful, blessed life.
Compare what these two verses say about success and failure.
- Which of them are you doing?
Ask the Holy Spirit to shine His light into all areas of your life. Be bold and ask Him to show you everything, the good and the bad.
- What are some ways you could put Psalm 1:2 into action?
- What expectations do you have of the “blessed” life Psalm 1 promises?
The Way to Prosperity - Psalm 1:3
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:3
This verse is where those roots I just mentioned come into play, and it wasn’t until I understood the value of letting God’s Word direct my steps that I became a “tree planted by streams of water.”
My failures have also taught me another important lesson that’s found in Psalm 1:3.
The Lesson in Psalm 1:3
That lesson is that true prosperity, true success is found when I’m planted by the source of life-giving water, Jesus Christ. Here, I always have what I need and my roots have been able to grow deep, strengthening, and securing me.
Even when storms come (and boy does my body give me a lot of them), I’m unmovable and can look beyond the pain.
What’s beautiful is that this leads to “bearing fruit in its season.” Even stormy and failure-ridden seasons.
Abiding in Jesus means I can depend on Him to calm the storm, and depending on the Holy Spirit means I can produce fruit, even on those horrible awful really bad days (Galatians 5:22-23, John 15:5).
Everything about us can flourish and show signs of a vibrant, healthy life – all because of where we’re planted and what we’re drinking.
This doesn’t mean hard things won’t happen to God’s children, they do! What it means is that something good and prosperous can come from even the toughest of things.
We all should want deep roots because when we’re planted, we prosper.
- How does Psalm 1:3 indicate you’ll prosper?
- How would this look in your day-to-day life?
- What difference is there in God’s definition of success vs. the worlds?
- Why would knowing this matter?
The Useless Way - Psalm 1:4
“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.” Psalm 1:4
Often it seems like the ungodly have it all together, are always successful, and never fail, but…
It’s not true, and boy ‘oh boy did it take me awhile to figure this out.
I was always picking “successful” people’s brains, trying to learn their secret to success. I’d read their books, try and put their self-help steps in-place and still – I failed.
Thankfully, God opened my eyes to His definition of success. When I realized worldly success and prosperity was fleeting and blown away by the wind, the brains I picked and my choice of self-help books changed.
I love how the great theologian Charles Spurgeon described chaff: “Intrinsically worthless, dead, unserviceable, without substance, and easily carried away.”
Boy is he right, and I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want any aspect of my life characterized that way.
What about you?
The Lesson in Psalm 1:4
When we allow the truth of God’s Word to direct all aspects of our lives we’re guaranteed to succeed according to God’s standard for success. We can also find comfort knowing that the God of all grace will use our mistakes and promises to hold us secure.
A child of God can’t be blown away.
- What have you failed at because of worldly guidance?
- When you think of the ungodly being driven away by the wind, how does it motivate you to obey the message in Psalm 1:1-3?
The Lonely Way - Psalm 1:5
“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” Psalm 1:5
When I think about my life before Christ, it’s humbling. Humbling to realize all that God redeemed me from so I can stand before Him as part of His righteous congregation.
As I wrote these words a smile spread across my face and filled my heart. Such gratitude, such undeserved gratitude.
One day, I’ll share my whole testimony because God reached into the pit of hell, pulled me out, and claimed me as His own. If you’re not a Christian, know that nothing you’ve done can keep you from God. And, if you are a Christian, the same holds true.
But this verse also shows the bleakness of our world. Even people who think they’ve lived the most prosperous, successful life will stand before Jesus and come face-to-face with their gravest failure.
Their failure to recognize their need for God will leave them forever banished, thinking of the ONE thing they failed at, their failure to believe in Jesus.
The Lesson in Psalm 1:5
Friend, you and I have hope. We’re promised a blessed life both now and for all eternity.
Our sin-ridden failures have been forgiven. No matter what you’ve failed at, no matter what is making you feel like a failure – if you call Jesus, Savior and Lord, you’re part of the righteous congregation.
I know, I know. You know this and hearing it again doesn’t solve your failure struggles. But, but, but…It does!
Take some time and think about success from an eternal perspective.
- Does it change your current view of success and failure?
- Why or why not?
The Lords Way - Psalm 1:6
“For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalm 1:6
Back to where I left you…the solution to your failure struggles.
When I had to quit my job because my physical body stopped doing all I expected of it, I felt like a failure.
I’d tried for years to keep myself healthy, to prevent side effects from developing due to my autoimmune diseases, and to keep my twisted spine straight. But,
God had different plans.
He had a different path for my life and over the last 9-10 years, He’s been slowly showing me the way He wants me to go. He hasn’t healed my body and so far, it keeps getting worse. But…
He has healed my heart, mind, soul, spirit, and will. God used my failed body to draw me to Him in ways I’d never imagined possible. By the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I’m able to put a smile on my face and serve God, despite the pain.
The Lesson in Psalm 1:6
I don’t know your struggle right now but I know what it is to hurt, to suffer, to experience loss, to make mistake after mistake, to feel like nothing you do is done right.
I get failure, but I also get God’s sovereign plan for our lives.
The last lesson on success and failure from Psalm 1 is this:
God has written your life story. He knows what’s best for you and wants you planted securely by the water, delightfully meditating on His Word. Because from this place, you’ll learn to see life as God does, and you’ll recognize how God defines success.
- How does it make you feel to realize God knows the path of your life?
- Do you trust Him enough to rely on His Word to direct your steps?
- To do everything?
Isn’t Psalm 1 beautiful? There’s so much we can learn from these six verses. So much, that I’m challenging you to memorize Psalm 1 and start meditating on each verse over the coming week.
But, I also want to leave you with one last lesson from Psalm 1:
No matter what’s happening around us, we can have confidence that God will show us the path to take (Psalm 16:11).
Woman of God, hold your head high, spend your day meditating on God’s Word and allow it to change you from the inside out. Be proud to follow Christ, even if it causes others to criticize you.
And remember, remember, remember:
You are not a failure. You’re a child of God, a co-heir with Christ.
Would you ask the Holy Spirit to help you see your failures as God does? Ask Him to show you how God’s using all things for His glory and your good (Romans 8:28).
Because when your perspective changes, you’ll find yourself walking down a success ridden path.
Until next time...
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Check out this post: How to Trust in the Lord: The meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6