"Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored: If you remove wickedness far from your tent and assign your nuggets to the dust, your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines, then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you. - Job 22: 21-25 (NIV)
Turn on what passes for Christian television these days and the hot buzz word is still prosperity. Snake oil salesmen posing as men of God will sell you on how much God wants to materially bless you if you would only give them money first. Sow your seed and reap your harvest! They will tell you wonderful stories of anonymous people who have shared their alleged testimonies about how God has given them a new house or car simply be being "obedient." Of course the only obedience they ever speak about is financial. Misusing the Book of Malachi they guilt people into giving money with promises of the untold riches of avarice awaiting those who "partner" with them. It is as sad as it is disgusting and the lessons of greed and callousness are not lost on the world either. They watch with seemingly better discernment then those who claim the mantle of Christ. Even when these hucksters want to present false moves of the Spirit what we usually see are displays of earthly wealth such as mysterious gemstones or gold dust appearing from no where. While the crowd whispers their oohs and ahhs, the offering plate is hurriedly passed around. While I have written about this before, one challenging thing that often gets asked of me is - can't the prosperity of God be both? Can't we speak about the riches of Christ and the riches of this world? I usually would concede the point but the more I read about true prosperity in the Word of God, the more I think the answer is actually no.
Wait a minute preacher! Are you saying God wants us to be poor? If it means that you obediently follow Him and do not stray in your walk - yes. You see, in general, the answer to that is no. God does not "want" us to be poor. What God wants is for us to be obedient:
"If you love me, keep my commands. - John 14: 15 (NIV)
That should deflate the hyper-grace heresies that insist that we do not have to worry about the commands God has given us. But how does money play in? How do the riches of this world play into this equation? They truly do not. God would prefer I think to not have to address earthly prosperity at all, except to warn us about them. That our obedience to God should be out of a grateful heart for everything He has already done for us. For sending His only Son to die a criminal's death on a cross so that we might be reconciled unto Him. Realize that this is how God views the riches we refuse to let go of:
"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. - Matthew 6: 19-21 (NIV)
When it comes to God - He is concerned about the state of our heart - not our wallet. He wants us focusing on the eternal things in life not the temporal. The reason the rich young ruler went away sad was because he valued his money over God. That is what God seeks to avoid.
The key verses today come from the Book of Job. Within this section from Eliphaz the Temanite, the key verses outline for us what God considers prosperity to truly be and there are many nuggets for us to mine. The first point is the way to see prosperity in our lives is to be at peace with God and the way to achieve that peace is to submit to Him. Can we wrap our mind around this beloved? We have been valuing the wrong things! That is the point and the point of the Matthew verses. God does not view money and earthly possessions as prosperity at all!
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." - Mark 10: 25 (NIV)
These are the words of Jesus! He is teaching us that earthly prosperity turns people away from God! Yet if you walk into most churches in America today you will hear more and more of this nonsense that God wants to double bless your blessings and those blessings are always portrayed as monetary or material in nature - hallelujah - pass the offering plate! I can hear the prosperity wolves crying foul and citing 3John 1: 2, which says that God wants us to prosper in all things! While this is true, you will never see the prosperity huckster quote this verse in context:
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. - 3John 1: 2-4 (NKJV)
He has no greater joy that his children are walking in the truth! It is walking in the truth that is prosperity! True Godly prosperity begins with submission to God. I know that is not a seeker friendly message. But God wants submitted sheep - not purpose driven sheep. Unfortunately, the bless me theologies and the friend of God mentality does not deal with submission all that much. We want so desperately to be able to maintain our own sovereignty that we buy into this cheap knock off of Christ where He is our buddy instead of our Lord. I can hear the well intended chorus of - can't He be both? Yes but the question is not what God can be but rather which we pursue. When we choose to pursue God solely as our friend then we maintain lordship over our lives. We remain as the god of our own lives. The key verses are clear - there is no peace in that. I remember when I was the God of my life and the mess I made of it. If you asked the majority of people what they lack yet need to most, peace would be at the top of the list. We live in a world that brings no peace. The events this week in Washington DC should remind us of that. At least twelve people left their homes and did nothing "wrong" yet they would not be coming home. Shot dead by a "crazed" gunman. That is the peace the world offers. Now for those twelve the only question that matters is if they had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is where the true peace resides. In a submitted life to Christ. That is true prosperity.
Continuing in the key verses we see God spell out specifically what this submission means. There are two parts. Accepting instruction from His mouth and laying up His words in your heart. Instruction from the mouth of God is found in His Bible. I am amazed at how quickly well intended Christians abandon the Bible to keep their preferred leaven intact in their lives or their church. Beloved, we do not serve a church - we are the church. We serve God and God alone. The Bible has to be the final arbiter of everything. Even if it reveals what I am doing is wrong!
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (NIV)
Reproof and correction! God is not in the advisement business! His Word is not a collection of suggestions for us to consider. The more we find ourselves accepting instruction from His mouth, the more we submit to Him. The more we submit to Him, the more we will be at peace with Him. The more we are at peace with Him, the more we will see prosperity come our way.