I felt led of the Spirit to clarify this term which is used both by those who accept and those who oppose the doctrine of divine prosperity, often with little precision in what is meant by it by either side.
The pro-prosperity side tends to say that God is not the Author of failure and that God rewards those who obey Him this side of heaven, especially those who are generous with their wealth, no matter how large or small. Nay-sayers proclaim that divine prosperity is a heretical conflation of cherry-picked Scripture verses with the American Dream and that divine blessing does not automatically equate to financial wealth.
Much of the disagreement really depends upon how you define the word “success” which — naturally enough when exploring the Scriptures — is distinctly different from our earthly preconceptions and that of popular culture.
So let’s take a good hard look at how God defines success in His Word and see how/if that translates into financial prosperity. In other words, let’s discover if there is truly an intersection between godly success and its earthly counterpart.
From a secular dictionary, we can discover what the vast majority of English speakers consider their definition of the word “success:”
- success (noun)
(a) the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
(b) the attainment of popularity or profit
(c) a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity
So taking this in order, “success” is the achievement of a goal, “success” is fame and/or fortune, and a “success” is a person or thing that achieves either of them.
Now let’s look at the word “success” as defined in the Scriptures. There are three primary Hebrew words for “success” and — remarkably! — absolutely none are found in the Greek!
The first word refers to Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel, after he was sold into slavery by his brothers:
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. (emphasis mine) Genesis 39:1-3
Both words highlighted in the passage above are the same word in Hebrew:
- successful, prosper (tsalach)
to advance, prosper, make progress, succeed, be profitable
to make prosperous, bring to successful issue, cause to prosper
to show or experience prosperity, prosper
Here we can see that, even while Joseph was a slave to another man, God was willing and able to prosper him. By way of God’s covenant promise to Joseph’s great-grandfather Abraham (“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you…” — Genesis 12:3a), God also blessed and prospered Joseph’s master, despite the fact he was an idolater worshipping Egyptian idols.
The next word is found when God spoke to Joshua as He commissioned/ordained him as Moses’ successor:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (emphasis mine)Joshua 1:8
The word “prosperous” in this verse is the word tsalach we just explored. Let’s take a closer look at “good success:”
- good success (sakal)
to be prudent, be circumspect, wisely understand, prosper
to look at or upon, have insight
to give attention to, consider, ponder, be prudent
to have insight, have comprehension
to act circumspectly, act prudently, act wisely
to prosper, have success
to cause to prosper
The final word we’ll discuss is used twice in the book of Job:
- success (tuwshiyah)
- wisdom, sound knowledge, success, sound or efficient wisdom, abiding success
Here again, as with our earlier analysis of the Books of Proverbs and Psalms, we see that abiding biblical prosperity and success are inextricably linked to the concepts of wisdom, prudence, insight, circumspection, conscientiousness, and diligence. Just as importantly, is what we don’t see here: any reference to a desire to become wealthy, quickly or otherwise.
Since I’ve already dealt in depth with these words and their passages earlier in this series, let’s jump into the issue of what defines success for a Christian believer.
My Perspective on the Matter
I’ve been at this Christianity thing for 45+ years as of this writing and I have been there and seen or done that in a wide variety of denominational and non-denominational settings. I’ve seen those who fell to the wayside quickly and those who have gone — or are currently going — the distance as believers and ministers. In other words, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly!
From those almost 5 decades of observation and experience, here are the 10 hallmarks of those who I believe we could safely term “successful” as believers:
A Successful Believer’s Relationship With God
Successful Believers Have Jesus Christ Pre-eminent in Their Lives
This one is first for a crucial reason: it is the foundation for everything which follows!
When left to our own devices for any length of time, we will inevitably wander away from Him and start “doing whatever is right in our own eyes,” the consequences of which are always painful and usually lead to some degree of personal destruction. Because God is well aware of this tendency, we are commanded to continually “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18b)
Why? Because we leak!
No matter how dedicated we are to Christ, no matter how godly we may become and how righteously we may walk with Him, our “holes” will never be totally plugged this side of eternity, so God’s solution is for us to be so continuously filled with the Spirit that it overwhelms our fleshly outflow. This is not referring, as many charismatics erroneously proclaim, to the baptism in the Holy Spirit or speaking in tongues — but those definitely help build ourselves up in our faith according to the NT — but to a consistent day-to-day fellowship with the Most High.
Such a constant filling neither happens casually nor by accident, but by means of a consistent quality personal choice.
Am I advocating being hyper-religious and weird? Not in the slightest! Religious weirdness and the wackos who exhibit it are the banes of our existence as mature believers, compromising our witness to a lost and dying world which already views Jesus and His Cross as a myth believed only by the irrational.
What I do advocate is that we begin each and every one of our days by re-centering our minds and hearts on the Source of Life Himself, reaffirming in our minds the nature of our relationship with Him as Master and us as His children/servants.
It means humbling ourselves before Him because whenever we operate in pride and self-sufficiency, He will always temporarily stop the flow of whatever blessings and destiny He had in progress for us so He can deal with our arrogance until we repent of it. And I speak from hard, cold experience here! We have only two choices: be humble and led by His Spirit, or be proud and corrected by pain.
Why are humility and submission so incredibly important?
Whenever we are tested by the inevitable trials or temptations we will encounter on a given day, we’ve already refreshed our thought processes with the facts that:
- Jesus is Lord. Therefore, He is in control and we are not. Selah!
- No matter how our day goes, we are deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing, totally accepted, and complete in Christ. Again, selah!
- Nothing we will face today is beyond His wisdom and ability to strengthen/support us through His grace.
- Nothing we will face today will render us powerless victims unless/until we give in to fear rather than leaning into Him, standing in faith.
- Nothing we will face today has escaped His perfect fore-knowledge and He already has had a plan in place — designed from before the foundations of the world! — for us to overcome it by His wisdom and grace.
- Our authority over the powers of darkness and the circumstances of life flow from our humble submission to His lordship.
- Our ability to love others as Jesus commanded as well as our righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit also flow from that selfsame humble submission.
Successful Believers Have Ever-Increasing Faith in God’s Word.
One of the essential doctrines of Christianity is the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures. “Verbal inspiration” and “inerrancy” are theological terms loosely defined as “every word found in the Bible in the original languages is there because God specifically wanted it there, expressed precisely as written, and there are no errors to be found anywhere within it.” While translations to other languages — English included! — from the original Hebrew and Greek may have minor inaccuracies or loss of nuance due to differences between the original and target languages, the originals are perfect and complete.
The apologetics supporting this core Christian doctrine is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say the Word of God is to be our sole authority on faith and practice as believers and no human being, regardless of his earthly title, is permitted to contradict through re-interpretation or outright contradiction what the Bible clearly teaches and commands. For His own reasons, God has covered certain topics with great specificity, others with some vagueness, while other topics He has ignored completely. However, we can rest assured that every bit of divine revelation we require for life and godliness is to be found there (2 Peter 1:3-4). I have already dealt with the issue of proper biblical interpretation elsewhere here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, so feel free to explore that topic at your convenience.
Our role as believers is to accept and believe all of that, with neither mental reservation nor filtration through our flawed human reasoning, trusting that whatever He has said is both authoritative and crucial to our success as believers.
Why are the Scriptures so incredibly important?
Our psychopathic spiritual adversary is constantly trying to deceive our corrupt human reason and sinful flesh away from our faithfully following the One True God. Because our human reasoning and perceptions are hopelessly flawed due to our personal strongholds (aka “emotional baggage”), and limited (by comparison to God) intellect, we must have a spiritual “yardstick,” if you will, by which we may compare our choices and experiences with what has been expressed by the Most High.
His Word is our Owner’s Manual, written to reveal Who He is, who we are both without and with Him, as well as instruct/command us on how both our relationship with Him and our relationships with other human beings are supposed to operate successfully. If we are to have any hope of overcoming this world, our flesh, and the devil, it will be by our ongoing conformity and obedience to God’s Word as revealed by His Holy Spirit and empowered by His grace.
One of the implications of all this is that we need to study His Word to determine what He has stated concerning any given matter and, in many cases, the “why” behind them. Too many believers these days are scriptural illiterates, simply accepting whatever is being proclaimed from some pulpit or by their various religious traditions as if they came down from Mt. Sinai engraved on tablets of stone by the finger of God, rather than digging into their Bibles for themselves and finding out what it actually has to say concerning the subject at hand. As a result, instead of presenting a united voice concerning what we are to be standing for and against in the marketplace of ideas, the modern-day Church — especially in the US — is all over the map, bickering amongst ourselves over whatever unscriptural sacred cow each of us clings to as “right.”
While there is no requirement for all believers to become professional theologians, there is a requirement for us to be practical theologians, meaning that we have handled God’s Word sufficiently to be able to discern Truth from falsehood, true doctrines from false ones, and therefore detect and avoid the wiles and schemes of the devil.
If we get this one wrong, everything which follows is doomed to eventual failure because the other half of our foundation for Christian living is inherently and tragically flawed.
As a consequence of our involvement with the Word of Life, our faith in God and His promises should constantly be growing as we mature by overcoming greater and greater attacks of the enemy as well as the negative circumstances we face in this life. I’ve discussed this at great length elsewhere here at Miscellaneous Ramblings in my two series on trials and tribulations and prayer, so I will again let you peruse them in your own time.
What I do want to re-emphasize here, however, is that, whatever the trial or temptation we face, spiritual or earthly, God’s promises are always true, always available to any believer who will step out in faith upon them, always applicable to our daily lives, and — most importantly of all — always effective! In other words, if God has promised something in His Word, THAT IS HIS WILL, period, full stop, end of story, and that completely settles the matter regardless of what our circumstances may be, what our bodies feel, what medical, legal, or other earthly professionals may state, what our emotions may be screaming at us, what Aunt Bucketmouth believed, what your denominational tradition preached, or what our puny intellects can wrap themselves around.
Grace + Truth + Time = Spiritual Growth Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend
We Americans are generally intolerant of the passage of time in our daily lives. We want everything to be quick — if not instantaneous — ranging from microwave ovens to drive-through fast food. Simply add water and stir — voilá! Our unfortunate tendency to carry such attitudes into our spiritual lives serves us badly. Many times, the answers to our prayers are shot down in flames because we simply give up and begin to compromise, explain away, and make excuses for it “not working,” rather than standing firmly on His promises, “letting patience have its perfect work, that we may be mature and complete” (James 1:4) while resisting all attempts of the devil to deceive us into thinking otherwise.
While many have celebrated the “Hall of Fame of Faith” in Hebrews 11, it should be noted that many of those listed stood in faith endured to the end of their lives, whether they personally witnessed the manifestation of God’s promise or not. Selah!
Successful Believers Have a Vivid & Continuous Prayer Life.
I’m not only talking about fixed times dedicated to prayer (a good thing) or your morning quiet time (that, too, a good thing) but living out God’s command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How obedience to that command plays out in our lives is a constant “in-touchness” with the Holy Spirit as walk out each day.
Many believers have bought into the satanic lie that there are secular occupations and sacred ones and never the two shall meet. In other words, if we work in a ministry or church, that’s sacred, while employment doing anything else is something God doesn’t need to be involved in.
Eu contrere, mon freres! God wants to be involved in every believer’s daily employment! Whenever we compartmentalize Him into only what we do on Sunday, we cripple ourselves spiritually and professionally. He is the fountain of all wisdom and always has perfect insight into any and every aspect of how we conduct ourselves in the workplace and home and we exclude Him to our detriment!
Why is prayer so incredibly important?
For one personal example, I consistently punch way above my weight in my professional calling as a software engineer — there are legions of better developers out there who leave me choking in the dust regarding programming skills. I succeed despite this huge disparity because I have actively involved the Programmer of the Universe into my daily work. I am utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide me in answer to my simple, but consistent, prayer, “How do You want this to look and work?” I’ve often joked that, if the Apostle Paul wrote computer code, he would understand my development process, because I cannot count the many, many of times the Holy Spirit has answered that prayer in spades! I design by the Spirit, I code by the Spirit, I debug by the Spirit, and God gets all the glory!
So let’s extend this concept into some other occupations:
- If you are a salesperson, are you standing in faith, believing for leads and closes? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to adjust your sales presentations on the fly as needed to reach specific individuals or companies?
- If you are a mechanic, are you involving God in your repair work, asking Him to ensure you find the problem? Are you asking Him to help you be thorough and not overlook either diagnosing or tightening something?
- If you are an accountant looking for an error in the books, are you depending upon His revelation of where the error lies? Whenever there is an ethical question, are you following the leading of the Holy Spirit?
- If you are an attorney, are you abiding in moral, ethical, and/or legal gray areas, or does the God of the Universe have the final say in how you operate, what clients you accept, and what you will and won’t do for them?
- If you are a minister facing down a spiritually toxic elder who is poisoning your church, are you depending upon your own political acumen and skills to mend the fractures and/or heeding the council of armchair quarterbacks or are you on your face seeking His wisdom to discern the thoughts and motivations of the hearts involved and obeying what He commands?
- If you are a homemaker, are you listening to the Holy Spirit concerning your relationship with your husband and kid(s), seeking His wisdom on what to say and when/how to say it when you comfort, encourage, listen, teach, discipline, as well as the endless list of other often thankless tasks you perform for your husband and children?
- How about you fathers? Same question concerning your wife and children?
- Married couples, when disagreements arise, are you handling them in your own ability and strength and wisdom while being tempted with divorce and/or adultery, or are you prostrating yourself before the Most High, seeking His face, His wisdom on how to love them better, proclaiming His healing of damaged emotions, standing in faith for His miracles of restoration, and sticking your finger in the devil’s face, commanding him to loose your family and depart?
- And the list is as endless as there are callings, occupations and relationships, so you can prayerfully fill in your own blanks — if you dare!
The burning question demanding an answer is this: where is prayer in the midst of your daily existence? If it is not pervading every area, you definitely need to re-examine your priorities!
A Successful Believer Walks in Holiness by God’s Grace Alone
No matter how holy we may become, how Christlike we may appear to others, we are still hopeless screw-ups by comparison to our perfect Master and will remain so this side of heaven. That is a given!
However, as I have stated multiple times in multiple places here at Miscellaneous Ramblings (too many to link), focussing on ourselves and our manifold failures only produces self-centeredness — the very definition of Original Sin. Such a shame-based, performance-oriented mindset is often preached from traditional pulpits and our corrupt flesh eats it up with a spoon because we know deep down in our hearts what failures we truly are, regardless of how we may look to outsiders. Such a mindset also produces a rigid, religious pseudo-piety intolerant of the flaws within ourselves and others. Therefore, our natural human tendency to indulge in self-flagellation — both physical or mental — for our constantly falling short is totally counter-productive and only dooms us to further failure.
However, by accepting God’s free gift of grace, we acknowledge that yes, we have indeed failed, but continue to turn away from our failures and recognize we are totally loved, absolutely forgiven, and empowered to do better by the Holy Spirit who indwells our physical bodies, remaining focussed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). Such a focus makes us inherently God-centered, which produces — over time — victory over sin, the very definition of righteousness and holiness.
Why is grace so incredibly important?
You can create all the religious rules you want about what you can and cannot do, what you must cut off and grow out, but absolutely none of that will produce a single iota of righteousness in God’s eyes. Point of fact, you are doomed before you even start! According to Romans 1:17, “the righteous shall live by faith,” not by adherence to any set of rules. You will never find a successful believer who is caught up in their own failings or in legalism.
Don’t believe me? Read Romans 7 and Galatians!
Since our only hope of overcoming our sin-loving flesh is by the grace of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, so none of us has a moral high-ground (aka self-righteousness) from which to judge anyone else, saved or unsaved. If we are truly grounded in the essential truth that we have done precisely nothing to deserve God’s love and mercy — both before and after our day of salvation — and recognize the ground is always level at the foot of the Cross, we will run away from anything which exalts ourselves to any form of judgment seat or allow ourselves to touch God’s glory, taking credit for what He has done.
Successful Believers are True Worshippers.
Part and parcel with strong faith and prayer life is our worship of the Most High. In the over-a-century-old controversy over the cult of Seventh Day Adventism, the oft-debated question of whether it is correct to worship on Saturday or Sunday is front-and-center. The correct answer is: yes! Truthfully, we should be worshipping every hour of every day rather than merely for a particular interval commencing at a particular hour occurring on a particular day of the week!
As I have explored the topic of worship in great depth elsewhere here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, so I won’t re-invent that wheel here either.
However, for the purposes of this discussion, worship is far less of an event and much more of an attitude and lifestyle. Because of the God-given power of music, worship is integral to my daily life. While I appreciate and listen to a wide variety of secular music, ranging from blues to country to classical to various flavors of rock-and-roll, it isn’t very long before I return to my worship playlist, with me singing along as I work. There is always a song running in my head and, 9 times out of 10, it’s a worship tune, usually one that has touched my heart in some specific way at that point in my life.
There is a recurrent Internet meme I see on Facebook so perfectly stated that I will quote it, rather than trying to say it in my own words. It says, “When we enter His courts with praise, He enters our circumstances with power.” And I cannot recount all the times in the last 45 years of my serving Him where that has not proven true!
A Successful Believer’s Relationship With Others
Successful Believers Forgive Those Who Have Wronged Them.
Again, I have covered the topic of forgiveness in great depth elsewhere here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, so I will not repeat myself here. But let it suffice to say that I have never once in almost 45 years encountered a successful Christian who was harboring bitterness in his or her heart. Without exception, everyone I’ve encountered who was living in bitterness was also living in defeat, battered by constant attacks from the enemy.
And the reason is brutally simple: whoever is in charge is responsible for the results! Whenever we operate in submission to God, He is responsible for the results. Correspondingly, whenever we are in charge, refusing to obey His clearly stated commands to forgive others, we are in rebellion and therefore subject to the devil and his results. If we look at the “Suck-O-Meter” of our lives and the needle is pegged on the bad end of that scale, there is an strong probability the wrong person is at the helm.
Successful Believers Walk in Love Towards Others.
Of all the commands issued from the mouth of our precious Lord, His command to agape love stands far and away as the first and foremost, both by His own preaching emphasis and by the volume of verses wherein He and His apostles have addressed this topic.
Self-sacrificing love is supposed to be the hallmark of all Christian believers. It is our dinner bell to the lost, the winsome characteristic which causes unbelievers who are convinced Jesus was a hoax and Christianity a fantasy to sit up and take notice that perhaps there is possibly substance to our claims. No other world religion is founded upon this concept, this otherwise inexplicable selfless behavior which we are to personify in our marital, business, political, and social relationships.
Please note the kind of love under discussion here is not only selfless, but righteous, as opposed to the fuzzy, feel-good, “can’t we all just play nice with one another,” satanic counterfeit called “tolerance” offered by the world system and its tame mouthpieces, the religious and political left.
Tragically, most of us who call ourselves Christians suck at loving other human beings the way our Master commands! Truth be told, due to the emotional baggage I carried from my childhood and adolescence, I was an utter failure at this for years, even decades. To this day — like all believers — I’m still very much a work in progress in this regard as Jesus continues His miraculous work of transforming me into Christlikeness.
Why is love so incredibly important?
Because this world is already filled with religious fanatics who hate (Moslems immediately come to mind) and are perfectly willing to maim or kill anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I can hear some of you thinking, “But what about the Crusades? Weren’t we, too, proselytizing at sword-point?” The answer to that is, “Absolutely not!” I have covered the Crusades and Islam in another article here at Miscellaneous Ramblings so you can correct such misconceptions on those topics there.
Jesus Himself stated that the world would know who His followers were by their love for one another. If that verse stood along, that would be sufficient for us, but there are a host of others, because we needed the emphasis to get the concept through our thick skulls.
So, in the marketplace of ideas, we are to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world’s philosophies and religions by living that one simple word: love.
Successful Believers Are Vitally Connected to the Body of Christ as Expressed in the Local Church.
It never ceases to amaze me how many so-called Christians are not committed to a local church. As with those who refuse to forgive, I have yet to see a so-called Christian living in victory who was not connected to the life of the Church.
Why is such fellowship so incredibly important?
As the NT clearly teaches, Jesus is the Head of the Church and we are His Body. To abide in Him as commanded and promised in John 15, we cannot escape the fact that such abiding requires our connection with His Body. Any of our physical body parts separated from the rest of our bodies immediately begin to die and quickly. So it is with the parts of Christ’s Body who choose to separate themselves from it. Like blood must flow to all our body parts in order for them to live and thrive, so, too, must love and grace flow through Jesus’ Body in order for its members to live and thrive.
The reasons for disobedience in this area are manifold, but they can usually be boiled down to two: laziness and offense. Laziness is self-explanatory and needs no further discussion; Proverbs has addressed that topic far better than I ever could!
While the Head of the Church is perfect, the Body not so much! The Church is filled with hypocrites alright because none of us perfectly lives up to what we profess nor shall we this side of eternity. But those who shun engagement with other believers because they have been offended are just as hypocritical as those who stayed!
Offense usually comes because someone in the leadership or congregation of a given church has either behaved badly in general or in specific towards those offended. Other cases of offense occur because the offendee has been called out for a pet sin they refuse to repent of. Sometimes the person delivering the correction doesn’t do it lovingly, but judgmentally and hurtfully. And so on and so on… The possible permutations are endless!
The offended most often walk away from the Church at large, as well, in a huff, bad-mouthing those who offended them, refusing to forgive the offenders (see point #6 above), and thereby entering into a life of defeat. Were the offenders in the wrong? In many cases, absolutely! But bitterness and resentment on the part of those offended — thus leading to spiritual isolation from the Body of Christ — is a clearcut victory for Satan.
Does this mean we have to return to the same local church which behaved so badly? Not at all! What we are required to do is immediately begin seeking God in faith concerning how and where to reconnect with the Body of Christ — searching as long as we need to — by visiting other local churches until the Holy Spirit tells us, “This is your new home.”
Successful Believers Have Compassion For the Lost, Oppressed & Hurting.
The story of how Alcoholics Anonymous was founded is a startling and tragic indictment against the Church back in that day and, sadly, things have improved only somewhat since then. Rather than reaching out in compassion to those held in bondage by their addiction to alcohol, Christendom’s response to such folks back then can be summarized thusly: “You’re just a drunk! Stop drinking!” While the Body of Christ has come a long way in responding more lovingly towards those addicted to alcohol and drugs, tragically there is still quite a bit of such self-righteous sentiment going around, especially towards those caught in addictions to things sexual, such as pornography and homosexuality.
Elsewhere throughout the world, tens of thousands of Christians are being imprisoned, tortured, and slaughtered simply for following Christ. In every Moslem and Communist country, believers are being imprisoned, tortured, dispossessed, kidnapped, physically and sexually assaulted, and murdered in the most horrific ways. Point of fact: we Christians are the #1 most persecuted minority on the planet!
And leaving all of that in the dust by comparison of numbers is a world full of lost souls, living in religious bondage, oppression, and poverty.
Why is compassionate outreach so incredibly important?
In another article here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, I reviewed and extolled a book, written by a sociologist, which described how the loving and compassionate behavior of believers brought about the conversion of the entire Roman Empire to Christianity within 300 years of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. A goodly part of that conversion rate was due to how believers behaved towards one another and their unsaved neighbors during two great plagues which struck the Empire during that period, both of which combined to completely depopulate entire provinces. While non-believers were abandoning their homes and families in a desperate yet futile attempt to distance themselves from those infected, believers — at great risk to themselves — stayed put and provided basic hospice care (food, water, sanitation, human interaction) to the sick — fellow believers and pagan neighbors alike — thus dramatically increasing the survival rate of those who received such attention.
We Christians are to be on the forefront of whatever is being done to reach out to such folks! As I have covered in significant depth in prior articles in this series and elsewhere, the cries of the widow, the orphan, and the poor are supposed to move us to action in donating both our time and wealth. It is our clearcut responsibility to listen to and obey whatever the Holy Spirit is commanding each of us to do concerning this.
Which directly segues into my final point:
Successful Believers Are Generous With Their Substance.
One of the hallmark behaviors symptomatic of those who have heard just enough of the prosperity message to be dangerous is that they take this one item by itself and run with it, while generally giving lip-service, at best — or totally ignoring, at worst — some or all of the rest of this list. Then they are totally gobsmacked why God isn’t blessing them financially.
Those offended by the prosperity message engage in “attacking the straw man,” a common propaganda technique. They take these folks who have their priorities completely out of whack and extrapolate those flawed characteristics to the entire movement (thus creating their straw man) and then condemn it in the court of public opinion. Some who have ostensibly “tried” to “achieve” divine prosperity and were bitterly disappointed by their lack of “results,” desperately seek to shift blame for their “failures” off of themselves, so they publicly turn on the prosperity movement and proclaim their victim status, thus reinforcing the case of the nay-sayers, who return the favor by comforting and reinforcing them in their victimhood.
You see a lot of this kind of nonsense on websites centered around Calvinist doctrine, such as The Gospel Coalition. It never ceases to amaze me how folks regarded as world-famous serious theologians who can accurately follow the rules of exegeting Scripture concerning every other doctrine in the theological universe simply throw those rules out the window whenever they approach doctrines which stand opposed to their religious traditions, such as charismata, healing, and prosperity. On these three — and several related topics — they couldn’t exegete their way out of a paper bag!
The sad fact of the matter is that many of those who “amen” such critics in their online comments also sit on their blessed assurances in their respective churches (if they are even bothering to attend one), refusing to give more than a pittance in any given offering because “all the pastor wants is money,” as well as a host of other sorry excuses. Those in the prosperity movement see such folks and justly condemn such behavior because those critics, too, have their priorities completely out of whack.
As for those who “give to get,” of course they are operating selfishly and, of course, God will not establish them in wrongdoing by rewarding them with more money. Duh! God’s not stupid! He knows the hearts and minds of every human being on this planet, and He has smelled out every schemer and con artist on the planet from before the foundations of the world so He cannot be manipulated. Neither can His grace be presumed upon.
Why is generosity so incredibly important?
God isn’t at all interested in us becoming financial reservoirs, but He is vitally interested in our becoming channels of financial blessing in the earth.
- To propagate the Gospel, through supporting those who professionally are called to preach and teach, etc.,and;
- Giving to the poor and oppressed, the widow, and the orphan.
Anyone who believes fulfilling the Great Commission through preaching the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth doesn’t require massive funding has an extremely tenuous grasp on reality. To properly evangelize every human being on this planet would cost billions of dollars, yet only a minuscule fraction of that actually goes out.
I believe a lot of this is because of those aforementioned religious folks who sit in their pews and, believing the Catholic lie that God wants us all to be poor, stingily refusing to put anything of significant value into their offering receptacles. And the rest of the nay-sayers are busy negating the core message of the prosperity movement — giving to the Gospel and the poor, thus allowing God to prosper you so you can do more of the same — so their followers essentially follow suit and also refuse to give generously.
The NT is quite clear that those who preach the Gospel as professional ministers are to be supported in their callings by the generosity of other believers who are pursuing their own non-ministerial professions (and proclaiming the Gospel by both word and lifestyle to their immediate families and communities along the way). Time and space preclude the hundreds of horror stories I’ve heard over the last 40+ years of churches abusing pastors and traveling ministers by refusing to adequately compensate them.
God expects our generosity to become an integral part of our character and giving to be a lifestyle, not some flashy doctrine people “try” and then abandon when it doesn’t yield what their flesh desires.
And those who are stingy have completely missed the heart of God!
Here’s the bottom line: inseparable from the concept of loving others is a spirit of generosity. Truth be told, God’s reward for our being financially generous is a direct and logical consequence of properly prioritizing all 10 of the items in this list.
Divine prosperity cannot and does not work any other way, period.
Thanks for reading!