These two quotes epitomize what is so wrong right now in American Christianity. You cannot speak these as absolutes. It is absurd to do so. We can stay in the faith and God may not rain down His favor and blessing. Do we realize that? Or maybe His favor and blessing are not what we think they should be. The Bible says God gave Joseph success in the house of Potiphar for example but he still remained a slave! I would wager that very few of us would deem that being personally prospered! Then Joseph got thrown in prison for taking a righteous stand against Potiphar's wife! He stayed there for ten years! How does that sound Pastor Prince for a crown of blessings? The Bible again says that God gave Joseph success and favor while in prison but in prison he remained. For over a decade for something he did not do. When he finally came out he sought no retribution towards so many who had wronged him temporally because he understood things from an eternal perspective:
But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. - Genesis 50: 19-20 (ESV)
God would eventually prosper Joseph materially as well. So the lesson is not that it can't happen. Just that it does not have to happen. That everyone has their own walk and sometimes the very thing we wish so hard for is the very thing that keeps us from Jesus. The rich young ruler's problem was not that he was rich. It was that he loved money more than he loved God. We are raising a generation of churchgoers who will never say that out loud but whose actions admit it every week. Who follow men that promise them that God is just a blessing machine, there to throw open the windows of heaven over them!
But what about our Christian brothers and sisters around the world? What about the starving and impoverished in third world countries? Have they not "stayed in the faith"; Pastor Osteen? Is not the same crown of righteousness upon their head? What about the persecuted Christians in China and the martyred Christians in Iraq? Where are their bountiful provisions? Why is their healing not raining down? Beloved, do not fall for the quid pro quo Christianity that says everything is about the next blessing. The reason why these brothers and sisters stay in even stronger faith in even more dire circumstances is that they place their trust in what God has already done! Not what He might do tomorrow. What does Jesus teach?
Then Peter said in reply, "See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfoldand will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. - Matthew 19: 27-30 (ESV)
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? - Matthew 16: 24-26 (ESV)
When Peter points out what they have lost temporally Jesus does not promise him a new car. What our inheritance really is resides in our eternal life. Our eternal position in Christ. We think so small when we pine away for the trinkets of this world. But you will not hear these verses preached on Sundays anymore. That we are actually supposed to deny ourselves? Pick up our cross to follow Christ? The way most pastors today preach it is Christ that follows us.
Beloved. I am not saying that God wants us all poor. I am not saying that blessings cannot contain material wealth to them. I am just saying God is not obligated to bless as such and that sometimes, our path may not be so temporally blessed. Consider the Apostle Paul and our key verses today. This is right after God had saved him on that Damascus road. He is now blind and waiting for Ananias to come and restore his sight. But Ananias objects and the response from God is staggering in its brutal honesty for what lie ahead in the life of Paul. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name! God was not just grandstanding either:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? - 2Corinthians 11: 24-29 (ESV)
So my question for us today is what if this was the offer to us from God? No windows of heaven pouring out so much blessing that we cannot contain it, pressed down, running over into our laps. No, instead it was - I will show you how much you must suffer for my name! Shipwrecked. Left adrift at sea. Robbers, false brothers, toil, hardship, sleepless nights, beaten with rods, nearly stoned to death. Without food. Out in the cold. Exposed to the elements. I will show you how much you must suffer for my name! Would Calvary be enough? Would His shed blood be enough? Would the nail pierced hands and feet be enough? Would the spear in His side be enough? Would the scourging be enough? Would Calvary be enough?
I am not going to pretend to be some plaster saint. I pray for material blessing just as much as the next person. I try however to remember that if He gives me nothing else from this moment until the moment He takes me home, He has already given me everything. I have already been immeasurably blessed. His salvation is what was poured down upon me from the open windows of heaven. It is His salvation that is pressed down and running over into my lap. Keep your blessing leaven ruining the whole batch. I am blessed. I have been blessed. I am eternally blessed. Calvary is enough.
Reverend Anthony Wade - February 25, 2015