Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Purpose of Prosperity is Provision, Not Self Indulgence (Part 2)

Ok. So if you are back after the last post, thank you.  That post, if you have not read it deals with several misconceptions surrounding scriptures and thought processes about prosperity.  I encourage you to go back and read it.  In case there is any doubt, I am not opposed to the idea that God prospers us.  Prosperity is absolutely a biblical principal.  It is the manner in which it is taught sometimes and the way that the church body understands this truth that I am striving to address.

Too many in the church want to stand on Kingdom principles and claim all kinds of things in the name of Jesus. This, while the lives of hypocrites in the church and even well meaning Christians are not reflecting a Gospel-centered lifestyle.  I have been guilty of it myself.  Jesus, his brother James, John, Paul, Timothy, Stephen, and many others in first century Christianity lived a Gospel-centered lifestyle.  The early New Testament church was very eternity minded.  Everything about their lives revolved around the Gospel.  Paul built tents for a living, Peter and some of the other disciples were fishermen.  However, they did not fit Jesus into their schedule.  No, their schedule revolved around Jesus and the spread of the Gospel.  Their resources were dedicated to their basic needs and the cause of Christ.  And, they walked by faith in obedience and not by sight. 

Today, in America, we do good to squeeze in fifteen minutes of Bible and prayer time a week, much less a day.  It is as if following Jesus were an obligation vs. the number one desire of our hearts.  We cannot expect God to truly prosper us in every aspect of our lives unless every aspect of our lives revolves around and is completely surrendered to Christ and his purpose.
In Luke 16:10-12, Jesus says to, wrap up a parable, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?"
God rewards faithfulness, obedience, and good stewardship in every area of life.  It is important to remember, as I have said before, the manifestation and timing of that reward is up to God.  He knows your need and he knows the condition of your heart in regard to when you receive the reward or increase.

In 3 John 1:2 the apostle/disciple John states, "I pray that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers."  An indication from a respected man of God, who was trusted by God to pen God-breathed words as scripture, that if our soul prospers, then it is more likely that we will be in health and prosper in other areas of life.
  I want to be careful because that is exactly the kind of thought process that people use to claim divine health and create doubt of faith or relationship with God in those that don't experience divine healing or financial abundance.  As I stated in the first part of this two-part post, even Paul suffered afflictions that never resolved themselves, that God might show himself strong and get the glory.  In this life, which starts now and goes on for eternity, the promises of God may take place here on earth or in Glory but at some point, if we are believers, we will see all of God's promises come to pass.
 With that said,  the fact remains that the best possible path we can walk and story we can live here on earth will be one that is wholly surrendered to God, centered on the gospel, and purposed for His glory.

Here are a few scriptures that speak to prosperity in the word.  The parts about prosperity and wealth are often quoted without the rest of the context that speaks of the cost required to have God's favor resting on you.
Deuteronomy 8:18
"But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today". 
 Now, it is important to realize that this scripture is in the context of a long reminder from the Lord to Israel instructing them not to forget that all of their blessings were because of His provision lest they become conceited.  So if he felt it necessary to warn them about pride regarding blessings and prosperity then perhaps we should heed that warning as well.  In fact, I think it's worth mentioning that if you start at the beginning of ch.8 and continue through ch. 11 of Deuteronomy, you will see time after time that God is tying in the blessings and prosperity of his people with their faithfulness and obedience to his commands.
Joshua 1:6-8
"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.  Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful."
Again, a continuing emphasis on knowledge of God's commands and obedience to them in regards to his blessing and his people's success.
Genesis 13:2-3
"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.  I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you."
Of course, this one is referring to the call of Abraham as the Father of many nations.  A call containing a promise of blessings and prosperity in relation to a man who is known for having great faith and radical obedience more often than not by the grace of God.  A promise that was not completely fulfilled in Abraham's lifetime.  It was not fulfilled completely until Jesus was born through lineage leading back to Abraham.  A promise that, before it was fulfilled, saw many detours containing a lack of blessing and prosperity courtesy of disbelief and disobedience on the part of the Israelites.
Psalm 1:1-3
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.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither.  Whatever he does prospers. 
Delight and meditate in and on the law of the Lord, prosper, bear fruit.  Need I say more?
2 Corinthians 9:7-8
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
What is your motivation for giving.  Are you giving to obey or giving to receive.  Give with a willing, obedient heart. Give out of love for God, not obligation to God and he will bless abundantly so that you will have everything you need to accomplish his purpose in your life.
Matthew 6:33
Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.
This of course is in reference to not worrying over your needs being met.  If you are putting God and the advance of his kingdom first, he will ensure that  you have all your needs met.
Luke 12:16-20
And Jesus told them this parable:  "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.  He thought to himself, What shall I do?  I have no place to store my crops.  Then he said, This is what I'll do.  I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years.  Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said to him, YOU FOOL!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself."
Matthew 6:19-21
Jesus also said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Both of these scriptures call clear question to the topic of exorbitant savings or investments.  You might not live tomorrow. Personally I would rather leave a spiritual legacy for my children that says, "nothing that you have belongs to you, so instead of hording it for a rainy day or retirement that may never come, spend it on eternity now because you may not have tomorrow."  I want them to clearly understand that God will judge their hearts by what kind of stewards they were of what he gave them.  

All of these along with any other scriptures on this topic are stated in light of two ideas.  1.) that the prosperity and blessing of God is contingent upon obedience and a heart that desires God's glory.  2.) that the reason for God's blessing and prosperity is to accomplish his purpose.  
That purpose is the spread of the Gospel and the glorifying of His Name.  If we do not obey him we will either miss out on the blessing all together or experience trouble because we were poor stewards over that blessing. 

 Now, on to the next part and really, the primary thought of this two-part post.  What is the purpose for God's prosperity?  Why does God bless us?  Is it so we can have the house we always wanted?  Is it so we can have the newest car on lease, or the latest piece of technology?  Is it so we can eat out a whole bunch in the name of fellowship?  The answer is a resounding NO!  This begs the question: Are these things bad in and of themselves?  Also, NO!  What is bad is that we allow these things to take priority over the purpose for which God put us here.  That purpose is to glorify His name through fellowship with Him, by spreading the Gospel to the world, and by taking care of those that are desperately in need of being helped all over the world.

So how do we do that?  Well first we have to realize that this purpose is the command from Jesus to every believer/disciple that walks this earth today.  There are no exceptions.  Then we have to realize that the prosperity talked about all through the bible is not for our own personal gain.  It is PROVISION!  It is provision for the things that God is calling us to do.

The way that the Great Commission Matthew 28:18-20 plays out in each of our lives is going to look different.  Some individual journeys will require more resources than others in order to accomplish the commands that God has set before you.
Provision will come in different forms and quantities depending on the need.  If you find yourself with more than you need your first thought should not be, hey now I can buy that thing I've always wanted.  It should be God, all my needs are met and I have an abundance.  How would you like me to use it to benefit your Kingdom?  If your not sure yet and don't have peace about what to do then don't do anything.  Wait.  You may spend God's provision on something other than what he provided it for.

I have heard many stories of individual disciples and pastors alike who took this approach to managing God's provision.  Many of them had desires that were unnecessary to the furthering of the Kingdom.  But, they put God first and sometimes found themselves blessed with the very material thing that their hearts desired.  This without having to spend an ounce of the resources provided to them by God.  Now, I will grant you that this requires radical trust and obedience in your Heavenly Father but isn't that the point? 

Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will supply all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  This verse is often quoted by itself as an encouragement to others in need.  However, unfortunately, I have not often heard it taught in the entire context of which it applies.  You see, Paul is saying this to the church at Philippi because they had been faithful in supporting Paul's needs while he was in prison.  And God had been meeting his needs through this church why?   Because as he makes clear all through Philippians, he considers nothing of value except furthering the cause of Christ and knowing him more.  He has learned to be content in every circumstance trusting that God will provide.  So God was faithful to supply Paul's needs through the Church and Paul tells them that because of this all their needs will be met.  

So often I have heard people talk about obedience to God, referencing the benefits almost as if they were bait.  If you do this, God's gonna bless you.  Then they often tell a bunch of stories about all the material blessings they received as motivation for obedience and that is exactly how people receive it.  It misses the whole point.  I know the bible includes mention of the blessings as well, but the blessings should not be the focal point.  Obedience is the focus.

   How about this?  Obey God because he commanded you to.  Obey God because in his infinite goodness he sent his Son to take the punishment for your sins.  So you would not have to experience the wrath that God has toward your sins.  Obey God out of a heartfelt gratitude for drawing you unto himself and saving you for all eternity.  Because of these things, YOU GET TO KNOW GOD!  And, YOU GET TO BE KNOWN BY GOD!  How about that?!  Compared to that, any other benefits, blessings, prosperity are icing on the cake and they pale in comparison.

 What's more is that when you come to this realization then your heart longs for His presence.  Your heart longs to obey Him.  You don't do it because you feel as though you have to.  You don't do it because your gonna get some material blessing out of it.  You do it out of an overwhelming gratitude to your Savior King.  You do because you finally understand what it means to LOVE HIM!  You finally desire the Giver over any gift, material or otherwise.  You will be willing to die for the cause of making sure that you are doing all you can to share the Gospel with those who have never heard it.  You will be eager to set aside personal desires in order to help make sure someone overseas or maybe even in your own town has clothes and food and medical provisions.
James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

These are the purposes for provision/prosperity that are nearest and dearest to God's heart.  These are the reason that God wants to prosper his people. He loves us enough not to give us everything we want, but everything we need.  Let us trust him enough not to pursue God's riches but his presence.  Believing that he has our best in mind and will withhold no good thing from us if it is in our soul's best interest to receive it.  Let us purpose in our hearts to fully understand God's heart.  His heart is that we as his church would long to glorify his name by using their resources to live lives worthy of the Gospel, striving to meet urgent spiritual and physical need around the world.

I pray this will come to pass in your life in increasing measure in the future.

In Jesus name,

No comments:

Post a Comment