Our God is a good God. You know, there is no bad in God, and there is no good in the devil. Jesus said, "The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10).
God's will for your life, for my life, and for all the people in the world is that we may all have an abundant level of life.
The word for 'life' used in this passage is 'zoe', which refers to divine life. God wants you firstly to have an abundance of divine life. That's one reason why He so much desires that you be "full of the Holy Spirit" (1), "praying always" (2), with "the Word of Christ dwelling richly in you" (3). He just wants you to enjoy Him. Not only that, He wants all people everywhere to enjoy Him. That's His will, and He has a plan to accomplish that will and purpose. One of the keys to prosperity is to link up your will, your desires, and your plans with God's! But for now, remember, that the level of God's provision in divine life is abundant.
Its so enjoyable to be full of God's Holy Spirit. Paul the apostle wrote so much about the "joy" of the Lord! Joy is a form of spiritual prosperity, and you can have it directly from God whether you have material abundance or great hardship. God wants us to have this joy, but remember, he wants that joy to go "to the world" through the gospel. Acts chapter 8 records that when Philip preached Christ in Samaria many signs and wonders were done, and there was great joy in the city.
The question at issue in the minds of many is whether God wants us to enjoy material prosperity. I will seek to answer this question in terms of what the Word of God teaches.
God Wants Us to Prosper to the Extent that Our Souls Prosper
The apostle John, known for his closeness to the heart of God, wrote, "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prosper" (3 John 2). He then want on to describe some of the good works Gaius was doing for the Lord's evangelists and fellow workers. Gaius could not have done much here had he been homeless, or poverty stricken.
Now this verse shows that God wants us to prosper in all things. John would not pray for something that was not the will of God. He prayed for Gaius because it was God's will that he prosper. And not Gaius only, for it is a general truth that "the Lord takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servant" (Psalm 35:27).
The key to prosperity is the state of the soul. God wants us to renew our minds (Romans 12:2). If our minds are carnal, our desires wicked then its true that prosperity would not do us much good. "The wages of the wicked are spent on sin", the Book of Proverbs says, but the labor of the righteous leads to life.
If our minds are sufficiently renewed then it is definitely in God's interest to prosper us in all things, including material things. There is a purpose! However, many times we flatter ourselves that we have God's perspective on things when we really lack it. We need to go after God's wisdom if we are to prosper – that includes the gaining of both spiritual and natural knowledge and applying ourselves diligently to our work, whatever God has given us to do. We need to learn to obey the Holy Spirit concerning our money – what to do with it. I don't believe that tithing in itself, for example, is a guarantee that God will pour money on us. It certainly provides a necessary measure of proetction. However, it is to the extent that we seek God for wisdom, and live righteously according to His kingdom principles that God will cause material prosperity to come upon us, and "all these things will be added unto us" (Matthew 6:33). Concerning "wisdom", let us not forget that "he who is wise wins souls" (Proverbs 11:30). May God give us all more of that wisdom. This is the one thing I would urge every Christian to participate in, in as many ways as possible.
We may have to get rid of traditional religious thinking that would say that poverty is a blessing, in order for God to fully renew our minds in the area of divine abundance. God's level of provision is abundance, so that we can be generous on every occasion (see 2 Corinthians 9:8). May God deliver us from hypocritical teachings on the blessing of poverty and such. Poverty in the Old Testament was considered part of the curse of the law (Deuteronomy 28:15ff) and as long as we are generous towards God (VERY IMPORTANT), God is pleased to entrust us with the resources necessary not only for our own lives, but also to be involved in the spread of His Kingdom in the world. The Bible says that in Christ we have been redeemed from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13,14). Its God's will for us to enjoy freedom from the curse. Sometimes we have to fight to be strong in faith in these areas, because establishing the Kingdom involves a spiritual struggle. But let us not give in from the start by accepting unbiblical but pious sounding notions concerning poverty and riches.
In questions about prosperity, it is really important for us in all this to keep in mind who God is, His nature, and his purpose.
The Nature of God
Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father". As Christians, we have a good Father, who loves us. Let's always remember that. In the natural, you may have had a father who was not so good to you, but what counts for you as a believer is that first and foremost God is your father. Thank God for all the good earthly fathers that exist too! But, even if you could imagine the most wonderful earthly father, who was so interested and desirous that their child would be loved, do well, develop and achieve wonderful things – and was also capable of helping that child significantly – that father would not compare to Our Heavenly Father, if only you knew it. God causes all things to work together for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Does that include you? Well it can be you, if you respond to God's love and call. I'm sure most of my readers would want to do that.
God is generous. There's more than enough resources on this planet for everyone. Its the evil systems of men that mean that so many live in poverty. Note the connection between those words – "evil" and "poverty". When God made the world, Adam and Eve had an abundance to enjoy. The new earth similarly, will be an abundant source of blessing for its inhabitants. In the time in between, there is a battle for the rule of God's Kingdom. This is where we live, and if we harmonise with God's purposes and seek first His Kingdom and righteousness, we are going to find that material abundance starts to come after us in ever increasing measure.
Consider how rich God made some of His servants. The Bible said of Abram that he was "very rich". King David gave tens of millions of dollars worth of gold out of his personal fortune to the construction of the temple. Most people know that Solomon was even more wealthy than David. Joseph, Job, Esther, Hezekiah and many more were all remarkably wealthy people. The Bible says that. How can we reconcile these Bible facts with a view of God which sees Him as stingy and mean. It can't be done.
The Purpose of God
What is the purpose of God? The Bible says that "for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren". God's purpose is to have many sons like Jesus! We all have our unique personalities and differences, and that is a blessing of God. God does not intend to obliterate our personalities or differences. Yet God wants all to have the nature, purpose and character of Jesus. Its even plainly declared that God wants believers to do the works of Jesus, and greater, but that is another subject! (see John 14:12).
God wanted so much to rescue people from the dominion of Satan that He gave the best He had – His only begotten Son. He did not send an angel or just another prophet, but His dear Son – part of Himself really. God gave His best. If we are to imitate God, as Ephesians 5:1 instructs us to do, we also ought to give our best. But what should we give to? We should give to God's purposes. And what is God's purpose? God's purpose is "that none should perish, but all should come to a knowledge of the truth". God's purpose is that His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth, as it is in heaven! God wants people to be saved. Jesus gave His blood for that! God poured out the Holy Spirit for that. The church exists on earth today, for that. If all God wanted was a few chosen ones to talk with all day, He would take all His children to heaven now and damn the world. But He's not like that. Aren't you glad that God waited long enough for you to get saved?
So Where Does Material Prosperity Fit into This?
I don't fully know why, but God has limited His own operations on earth according to the measure of co-operation He willingly receives from people on earth. Nothing good happens without prayer, without asking God to get involved with things on the earth, and nothing good happens without obedience – without people doing what God is telling them to do. God could only establish a plan of redemption because He found a man, Abram, who was willing to hear Him and do what He said – even to the point of offering up his own Son as an offering. And because of the blood covenant God made with Abraham, anything Abraham was willing to do for God, like that, God had to be willing to do for Abraham's descendants too. That is one reason why God did give His Son to die as an offering for us. You see, even in that, God had a man who by his faith and obedience opened the door for God to move.
Can God trust you with money? He can't trust all that many people. The reason is, many Christians, whether they are rich or poor, trust in the money they have now more than in God's ability to provide for them and the ministry they have to do for Him in the future. We are told NOT to trust in riches. Paul told Timothy, "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy." (1 Timothy 6:17). Its easy when you get some money to think, "Right, how can I hold onto this money for the future? This money will protect me and my family in days to come. I can trust that it will. Money will not fail me. I must hold onto it." That is trusting in riches, and you and I don't know if our money will stay with us or leave us. We don't know if it will lose its value or not. The same is true for property, gold, shares or any other assets we may have. They are "uncertain riches". God would like us to invest in something certain, something eternal. Does that sound like a good investment plan or not?
"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose." I'm convinced that when we don't tithe, the devil takes what we failed to pay to God's house. We can't keep the tithe. Not only that, ultimately, we can't keep any material wealth. When we die, it has no power to help us any more. In one sense, we only keep what we give in obedience to God.
A lot of people don't receive prosperity because God cannot trust them with money and resources. He who is faithful in a small thing will be faithful in much. Did God ever give His people "much" over which to rule? You had better believe it. Read your Bible.
Dangers of Prosperity
There is danger for us when "we are full and need nothing", or so we think. The Laodicean church described in Revelation 3 was like that. They were viewed as pitiful, naked, wretched and blind by the Lord. One wise man prayed, "Give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, and say, 'Who is the Lord?' or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:8,9).
The danger of prosperity is that it is very easy to trust in riches, and think you don't need the Lord's guidance as much if you have plenty of money in the bank. A serious mistake, and one that often brings on the discipline of the Lord. The more we have, the more we need God's guidance. There is a huge responsibility in administrating much wealth. Its great when God tells you to give some away to his work, because then it is safe with God. You then have "eternal treasure in heaven" and you don't carry the responsibility for it any more. You also open yourself up for future financial blessings simply because that is a law of the Kingdom.
Plenty of times in the Bible, however, we see how prosperity can lead a person to a place where they are ready to fall. Solomon for example, having become fantastically wealthy, did not continue to seek the Lord with all his heart. Instead he went after foreign women and then their false idols. Hezekiah became proud of his wealth and showed it off to leading men from Babylon – also he failed to give adequate thanks to God for his healing, which eventually brought wrath upon Israel. This is yet another reason why "thankfulness" is such a key to preparing one's heart for material prosperity from the hand of the Lord. And as for unthankfulness, do you think God enjoys further blessing ungrateful people who are focussed on what they don't have, rather than what God has already done for them? God was really angry about the grumbling attitude of the Israelites in the wilderness. So when we go through our wilderness experiences, and we will, it is best to be thankful. The land of milk and honey lies ahead. But we need to stay on track with God, and keep our faith in the midst of trials.
Don't allow fear of temptation to control you on the issue of prosperity, but neither be unaware of the need to draw closer to God when you are prospered. The Lord is able to keep you from falling. Do you really want to be a person that God cannot trust?
Does God want you to prosper?
If you are God's servant, God takes delight in the prosperity of His servant. (Psalm 35:27). We should choose this day whom we will serve. Will it be God, or will it be mammon? Are we interested in Kingdom purposes, or in our own purposes?
Some Christians say, "I am content to just have little, as long as I have enough to get by. I don't believe in prosperity". That, my friend, can be an incredibly selfish point of view. You see, Jesus did not teach us to pray, "Give me this day my daily bread", but rather "Give us this day our daily bread". And while ever there are church planters anywhere in the world who lack daily bread, God wants you to pray that they might get it (maybe you can be part of the answer, too). They, the third world church planters, are included in the "us". Not only that, what shall we say of the billions who get no spiritual daily bread, because we who have the capacity to do something about it do so little. Is it right if we neither pray nor care enough to act in going or sending so that the living bread of God gets to these people? How can we even to pretend that we are serious about "loving our neighbour as ourself" when we refuse to give ourselves and our resources to enable "our neighbours" in this global village to have access to the gospel? I submit to you that it is impossible, once we are informed on the matter.
So don't be content to have just a little, and be unable to bless God's big Kingdom work. That could be laziness, or selfishness. Listen, you and I may be called upon to deny ourselves many comforts and luxuries to give more to what is truly important, but only do it if you can stay grateful. I say it is better to give generously and abundantly, even if one "enjoys all things which God richly gives us to enjoy" than it is to be poverty-stricken or even mediocre in both our personal quality of life and our level of Kingdom involvement.
There is such a thing as "false economy" in life. For example, you can refuse to catch a cab, taking public transport instead, and lose time in your day which could have generated far more income than the difference between the cab and the bus fare. Also, what is the use of having a car which is always breaking down? I have a very cheap car, worth about US$1500, but it is blessed by God. It cost me about $70 in repairs in the last year. If my car started playing up, I would spend to get one that did not waste my time. I would not buy some cheap hunk of junk that I would constantly be needing to repair. So let's spend money wisely according to the measure that God has already blessed us with.
God is not against us having some reserves, or living in a better place or whatever. It all depends on what God has called you to do. Personally, those material things don't excite me, but if God calls me to live in a wealthy neighbourhood for a while, I'll do it with joy. He would have to send me, because I don't want to go to a place where only few are going to turn to God. On the issue of false economies again, I don't want to wear out my body eating bad quality food because God has enabled me to enjoy healthy and good food when it is time to eat. I thank God for His good gifts to me. I don't want to draw attention to myself either by wearing poor clothes or excessively fancy clothes. However, if I had to choose, I think God would want me to dress better, because that reflects better on Him. Heaven is not cheap, nor is it "poor".
All that aside, what I really want is to get the gospel out to people in the power of the Holy Spirit. And if you are led to help me to do that, by investing in God's work through me, I'll be very happy to receive that blessing as from the Lord. Gifts of finance enable me not only give my time to getting God's anointed words, but also to broadcast them to as many people as possible through the internet, radio, TV, print media or whatever. I'm also able to invest time in teaching God's word to people, and making disciples, so that God can use the Christians so touched more for His Kingdom purposes. So far the Lord has enabled me to touch hundreds of thousands of lives through the internet, and probably millions through cable television in Asia. Glory be to His name.
I used to think the internet gives the best value for money right now in reaching people, and I will continue to use it. But actually, even better is cable TV. US$20,000 or less can estabish a 24 hour Christian channel in a city of a million people. So if you want to sow a seed into the work I am doing for the Lord, I encourage you to do so generously. Expect that God will "supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness" (2 Corinthians 9:10). "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account." It is to those who invested in missions, the Philippians, that Paul wrote, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Read it in context, and you'll see it. Jesus said in Luke 6:38, "Give and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."
Most of us in the west are living better than kings did 100 years ago. We may enjoy air conditioning in summer and we have heaters in the winter. We can communicate instantly with anyone around the world, and we can enjoy hot showers. God has given us many good things to enjoy. This is biblical. But what we need to do is remember "WHY" God prospers us. The reason is clear to me. "And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is to this day." (Deuteronomy 8:18). I'm so glad I can be a part of bringing the gospel to Asia through cable TV, to other nations and to America through the internet. People are getting committed to God every day through my sites. God so longs that people be saved, and He wants you to be a part of it. Along the way you can be sure that he will richly give you so many things to enjoy. He's like that!
For more information on how you could help me to reach significantly more people with the good news at no cost to the receiver, please send me an e-mail, expressing your interest. If you would like to send funds over the internet, you could send to [email protected] via the PayPal service.