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Defining Success | Psalm 1

Let me ask you an important question. If you were to make a list of the most successful people in the world, who would you put on the list?

Certainly, some of u would include names like Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Presidents Lincoln/Kennedy. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Mother Teresa?

How many of you would choose a man named Cyrus

Curtis? Wow I am surprised you left old Cyrus off the list because he and his wife Louisa have a true rags to riches story.

Cyrus started his own 4 page newspaper at the ripe old age of 13 using a handpress he’d purchased for a whopping $3.00 Cyrus built the circulation of his Young America paper to over 100 copies a week.

Then, a fire completely destroyed his entire operation. Undaunted, Cyrus continued to pursue his career in journalism and a few years later he was offered an advertising position for a small paper in Boston.

Eventually, the owner of the struggling paper would hand over ownership to Cyrus and for the next 5 years, he operated the paper learning everything from business to marketing to advertising. That Boston newspaper would go out of business.

It was then that Cyrus moved to Philadelphia and met his bride to be, Louisa. He then bought another struggling weekly magazine no one seemed to want and he turned it into a great success.

Perhaps you heard of it. It was called The Saturday Evening Post. But Cyrus had also begun a new publication called The Tribune and the Farmer.

At first it wasn’t a blazing success. One of the features of the publication was a so called Woman’s Page which Cyrus wrote himself.

One day his wife, Louisa read the Woman’s Page and promptly informed her husband that the material he was writing was absurd. Cyrus said, “Well honey, if you don’t like it, then why don’t you write it!”

And she did and soon after, Louisa’s Woman’s Page became so popular that it was eventually turned into a separate magazine called, The Ladies Home Journal.

 Without a doubt we would call them successful. But success comes in many forms/ways. Psalm 1 tells the tale of 2 lives living in stark contrast to the other.

On one hand is the tale of a successful person. On other Hand is the life of a wicked/ungodly person. These few verses equal the recipe for success in God’s eyes.

The Psalmist begins by telling us that a successful person is one who does not always follow the crowd. We both know not easy to do.

When Walt Disney came up with a brainstorm, he would pitch the idea to 10 different people. If they were all against it, he would immediately go to work on it. Walt Disney had learned that conventional wisdom was not always right.

The Psalmist tells us that a righteous person walks to the beat of a different drummer.This is a person who has character/sticks by his/her decisions before acting upon them.

The Psalmist is telling us to think before we act on a decision. We don’t normally think before we act. We act and then think “what a dumb idea!”

Years ago, a young boy entered a grocery store and asked the grocer for a box of Duz detergent. The grocer was puzzled and asked why he wanted a box of Duz.

The boy said that he was going to wash his cat. The grocer said, “Young man, you shouldn’t wash your cat with this kind of soap.” However, the boy insisted that it would be okay.

A few days later, the boy returned, and grocer asked the cat. “Oh, he died,” said the boy. The grocer said, “Well, son. I warned you not to wash your cat with Duz detergent.” The boy replied, “The soap did not hurt him a bit. It was the spin cycle that got him.” It is the spin cycle of trials that often get us.

When someone invites us to join them in their foolishness, do we stand with them? Do we sit down and eat with them?

Who we stand, sit and walk with will reveal what kind of person we are. Choosing friends is important because your friends will carry u when u can no longer stand.

The Psalmist steers us away from ungodliness and into delightfulness. Did u know that the Hebrew word for delight is chepes which means to desire or place value on.

As Presbyterians, God’s word is where our counsel is founded upon. It shows us where to walk, stand and sit. It is the Word of God that shapes our principles.

When we hear the same words over and over again, they become a part of our persona. Like your mother/father telling you to chew with your mouth closed. You remember it forever.

It is the same with God’s word. As we hold on to Spiritual truths, God promises to guide us by His spirit. Successful people are people with principles and successful Christians are people whose principles are shaped by the word of God.

They know the difference between right and wrong. They are committed to doing what is right. But success by deceit is not success at all. Some will realize short term economic benefits thru deception and dishonesty.

There are those who may realize short-term economic benefits through deception and dishonesty but ultimately, peace and contentment come through the practice of God’s truths.

A cigar smoker once bought several hundred expensive cigars and then had them insured against fire. After he’d smoked them all, he filed a claim, pointing out that the cigars had been, in fact, destroyed by fire.

The insurance company refused to pay, and he sued them. A judge ruled that because the insurance company had agreed to insure the cigars against fire, it was legally responsible. The company had no choice but to pay the claim.

Then, when the man accepted the money, the company had him arrested for arson.

The Psalmist tells us that we cannot defy God’s laws and word and be truly blessed. Eventually, like that man, it will catch up to us.

But meditating on God’s word and taking some time tested truths and using them will strengthen our marriages, our relationships and those around us.

Like not allowing the sun to go down upon your anger as Paul tells us in Ephesians. Take care of any animosity within the day. If you take that to heart, clear out your anger in the same day and begin the next day anew, you will begin to develop excellent character.

Or taking Paul’s advice in Corinthians and allowing love to rule the day. He says love is patient…are we?  He says love is kind….are we? He says love does not insist on its own way?

What do you do when you don’t get your way? Do you complain and make everyone around you miserable or do you allow love to cover your soul?

Jesus tells us in the Gospels to forgive others not 7 times but 7 times 70. When someone has wronged you, are you able to forgive them or do you enjoy carrying around resentment and hurt? Jesus said, “let it go…let it go and be whole!”

Once you allow God’s time tested truths to dominate your thoughts you will have the strength to live in a world filled with wickedness. Friends, what 3 principles do you live by everyday? Write them down and tape them to your refrigerator to remind you and then live by them.

John Wooden, the greatest college basketball coach of all time here at UCLA was a man who lived by his word. When Wooden was interviewing for the UCLA job, he didn’t want to come here.

He wanted to coach at the University of Minnesota. But he told the University of Minnesota that they needed to call him by 5 p.m. the next day or he was taking the UCLA job.

Guess what? They didn’t call. Why, because a huge snowstorm had knocked all the power and telephone lines. When they finally reached Wooden, he said, “I’m sorry, but my word is my word.” He then took the UCLA job and the rest is history.

The successful person will be like a tree planted by the rivers of the water that can weather any storm life throws our way.  As we journey through life we can expect trials or test to our faith.

True success has nothing to do with achievements/possessions/big titles. True success is simply being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Once you do, you will be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters where no spin cycle, no hurricane, no trial and no illness will ever separate u from the love of God found in Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.



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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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2610 Flagler Ave.
Key West, FL 33040
(305) 294-1223

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