Here in America, churches today are tending to focus more and more on wealth and prosperity. Many of the largest mega-churches focus on the need for believers to base their lives on a philosophy that teaches that God wants every Christian to be in health and wealth. Each one takes a little different twist on the teaching. While one propagates God’s desire to bless what you give financially and return it to you 100 times more, another teaches that God wants you rich and healthy all of your life. In an article in Time magazine, authors, David Van Biema and Jeff Chu, wrote an the article entitled... “Does God Want you Rich?” Too often we tend to focus on what we want instead of what God wants in our lives. While we need finances, God never intended them to monopolize our lives. God has a higher purpose for us. His goal is not our prosperity here and now in earthly terms, but in spiritual terms.
While finances are an absolute necessity for every church and ministry to carry on their benevolence programs of ministering globally to the needy, many churches suffer from a lack of ‘prosperity.’ One of the key verses that the ‘prosperity’ churches strongly emphasize is found in 3 John 1 "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." Emphasis is often placed on the desire that “you may prosper” rather than properly relating it to the balancing of your prosperity with how you are spiritually enriched. What is meant by the term ‘prosperity?’ Did he mean money? Wealth? Possessions? As John wrote this letter, he was addressing an elder, Gaius who was a faithful believer with a generous heart. It is apparent that Gaius was prospering spiritually. In other words, he valued spiritual riches more than he valued wealth. He had a heart to give to meet the needs of others. Verse 3 tells us his heart…(NLT) Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth….v5. you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. Gaius was not the typical believer. He made the Apostle John very happy with his generosity. John applauded him and offered him a blessing, that he might prosper in all things, just as he was already prospering spiritually in his soul.
It is unfortunate that today we tend to get it backwards. We tell God, “Bless me first, then I’ll give.” Gaius had it right. He gave from what he had, not to get from God or from others, but just to be a blessing. His soul prospered because it was built on a solid foundation of truth. Jesus taught clearly that we are to give to those in need, pay our taxes and that we are to tithe. Jesus told the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 :21 “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, Then come follow me.” The man had no known name, but he got quite an offer...to be a disciple of Jesus. He just had to do something he found very difficult to do….take his wealth and give it to the poor. Doing so would have made him perfect and provide heavenly treasure. God has a different set of values than most of his created beings. We value what we see, what we own, what we make, what we save. There is no greater lesson we can learn than to learn the value of spiritual prosperity.
Many homes in California and in New Orleans have been totally destroyed, by fire and flood. Those who survived the devastation learned to value their lives more than their stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Life can be snuffed out in a moment and never replaced. Yet life is eternal, and it goes on and on forever and ever. Life here is short. We live for just a few short years, some 50, others 60 and a few make it into the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. Yet those years, however long they may be for us, are a mere blink in the light of eternity’s day. God longs for us to see things from eternity’s point of view. All the stuff you have around you today, your home, your car, your collectibles, your land, your money, your stocks and bonds, your wealth by earthly standards means nothing in eternity unless...you give it as the rich young ruler was instructed by Christ to do. When we value His instructions, His values, more than the values of the culture around us, and we learn like Gaius to give from loving generous hearts to others in need, we are doing what Christ instructed. How does your soul prosper?
Some will object to what I am saying because they love and hold their possessions so tightly that they have come to rely on them for their security. I’m not telling you to give it all away as Jesus told the rich young man. My purpose is to help you push a reset button in your spiritual values. We need to bring a balance into the idea of prosperity. And so I ask you this question: “How does your soul prosper ?” You might answer that you are doing OK, that you go to church, that you read your Bible, that you help where you can. But it is unfortunate that far too many believers are suffering today from the same syndrome as the rich young man. They would rather cling to earth’s values than heaven’s values.
What does heaven value?
The greatest asset in heaven is not the streets of gold or the gates of pearl or the diadems in the walls. Heaven’s values are it’s inhabitants. Jesus will be the focus, the source of light and life. As believers come into the heavenly light, they will be overwhelmed with all the marvelous sights, but most of all they will notice Jesus, and people who love Him. Many who have had near death experiences have come back to tell us how their loved ones met them, how they saw Jesus. There are no heavenly ATM’s, no banks, no debit cards, no storage lockers, no vaults and no piles of cash. They just tell of seeing the glorious face of Jesus, the light, the worship, the loved ones, all against a backdrop of heavenly beauty. You cannot take anything you own here to heaven with you. You can only take people. How? By sharing the love of Jesus with your loved ones and friends, and by giving from your resources to help others get the message out. Somehow I think that on the day we reach our eternal goal, many will be thankful we have shared the message of Jesus with them!
You may not have the physical abilities to be a missionary or a pastor or an evangelist. But each of us can still participate by doing something…. By praying, by giving as we are able to give, by encouraging, by keeping our values in check. Jesus taught his disciple to “Love not the world” for if they did, then “the love of the Father is not in them.” 1 John 2:15 We know we are to uphold spiritual values. James 2:5 reminds us all...Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? So even if you are poor, you can be rich in faith! And if you are rich in faith, you are also an heir of the kingdom! We are going to inherit all that Jesus will inherit, as we are heirs and joint heirs with Him! (Romans 8:16,17) If we suffer in this life, it is not to our shame. For Romans goes on to tell us… if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (8:17-18) When you look back through history, you see the hundreds of faithful followers of Jesus who died, often a martyrs death, often in monetary poverty, not because they did not say the right words when they prayed, but because they valued more highly the heavenly treasure that awaited them all. Sometimes Christians who have great faith, who loved God, who gave their all, find themselves suffering physically or financially. Don’t loose heart! If your values are right, if you determine to do what God told you to do in His Word, then no matter what comes your way, you can look forward to that heavenly treasure…eternal life...seeing Jesus face to face!
If God has blessed you with financial wealth and good health, thank Him for it and use what He has given you for His glory and honor. Be a blessing to your church, to the missionary, to the family in need, to the widows, to the evangelists and to those who need to see Jesus in you!
How does your soul prosper? Keep it healthy by keeping its focus in the Word of God, by spending time in prayer, by loving God more than the stuff around you. As you grow in your spiritual prosperity, it will change not only you, but all those around you. Earth’s stuff will begin to loose it’s value in your sight as you learn to value heaven’s values more. When your soul prospers, there is a spiritual contentment, knowing you are doing what pleases God. Walk in that ‘soul prosperity’ on a daily basis.
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