THERE IS A difference between the Prosperity Gospel and Biblical Prosperity. In short, the Prosperity Gospel is self-centered, materialism dressed up in Christian clothing. Personally, I have no problem with the Prosperity Gospel message of living a healthy and prosperous lifestyle.
I do know, however, that prosperity is not limited to material possessions. And that is one of the issues I have with the Prosperity Gospel is that it overemphasizes material wealth.
Another issue I have with the Prosperity Gospel is its approach to obtaining prosperity.
The Prosperity Gospel, in essence, teaches believers that speaking words of faith and pay so-called tithes will make you rich or get you out of debt. There are several problems with this.
One is that it mixes the Mosaic Law (tithes) with New Testament Grace. In doing so it binds Christians to a Law that does not apply to them. If you are bound by the Law then you can not experience the fullness of New Testament Grace.
Secondly, the Prosperity Gospel’s “formula” for getting rich is simplistic. I have stated before that if wealth creation was as simple as having faith and paying so-called tithes then every Christian following the Prosperity Gospel doctrine would be rich. But it seems to me that many of the people following the doctrine are still J.O.B. – just over broke. Yet, the preachers of this doctrine are reaping the financial benefits.
How do you experience Biblical Prosperity?
2 Chronicles 31:21 sums up biblical prosperity quite well.
And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered (KJV).
The “he” refers to King Hezekiah, the King of Judah. This verse identifies the 3 principles that resulted in King Hezekiah’s prosperity.
These principles are:
- Seeking God
- Obeying God
- Serving God
Let’s call these the S.O.S. Prosperity Principles. These principles represent the biblical path to prosperity as opposed to the get-rich-quick, pie-in-the-sky approach of the Prosperity Gospel.
The Most High is the source everything. There is no lack in God. The opposite of lack is prosperity. Prosperity and God go hand-in-hand. If we’re seeking prosperity then we must go to the source. Thus, seeking God is the first prosperity principle.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:31-33, NIV).
Notice Jesus didn’t say, “Send me a seed offering or 10 percent of your income and God will hook you up.” He said, “Seek God and his righteousness.”
The reference to righteousness let’s us know that there is a right way of doing things. There is God’s way then there is our way. How many times have you sought God’s guidance and then turned right around and did things your way?
So we can not overlook the importance of righteousness (i.e., following the ways of God).
Righteousness requires submission. In other words, submitting our will to the will of The Most High. That means putting aside our ego, our flesh or our carnal approach to conducting our life.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 16:25, NIV).
So it’s important that we balance our natural instincts with spiritual discipline. By doing so, we remain in alignment with the righteousness of God.
Obviously when seeking God we must know where to look. Where is God?
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20-21, KJV).
Jesus is addressing the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a very religious people. They were strict followers of the Mosaic Law. They viewed the world through a religious lens and did not perceive things on a spiritual level. They took the teachings of Jesus quite literally.
Therefore, when Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God the Pharisees think he is speaking of a physical kingdom; a kingdom like those established by men.
When Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation” he’s implying that the Kingdom of God can not be seen in the natural. In other words, it is spiritual reality not a physical place.
For example, if someone asked for directions on how to get to the Kingdom of God it’s not like you can say: “Take highway 107. Get off on exit 10. Turn right at the first stop sign. Go down two blocks, and the Kingdom of God is on your left.”
Jesus explains that “the kingdom of God is within you.” This is an important insight Jesus shares.
How do we do seek the Kingdom of God within us?
One definition of pray is to request or ask. Prayer is one of the spiritual practices that keep us in alignment with God’s righteousness. Each time we pray we’re working a spiritual muscle.
By incorporating prayer into your daily routine you’re developing your spiritual sensitivity. You are in effect training yourself to see, hear and feel God’s presence in your life as the answers to your prayers are revealed. You are also learning how God operates in your life. Furthermore, you are developing your trust and faith in God.
Long, drawn out or wordy prayers are not necessary. God is no more impressed by a 1 minute prayer than by an hour-long prayer. Longer prayers don’t bring you faster or better results. Keep it simple.
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6: 7-8, NIV).
Like prayer, meditation does not have to be complicated. “Be still, and I know that I am God.” Be still. Be quite. Take some time each day to do this. During meditation ask God a question and listen for an answer.
God speaks to us in that “still small voice.” It is this voice that gives us ideas, instructions, guidance, assistance, desires, etc. God provides us with what we need for living a prosperous life.
Fasting is a form of abstinence. Typically, when we think of fasting we think in terms of abstaining from food. But consider another type of fast – fasting from daily distractions. We exist in a society that relishes in multitasking, indulges in information overload and confuses busy-ness with productivity.
We are inundated with outside influences, voices and information that clutter our mental space. I suggest fasting from this madness. Turn off the TV, radio, cell phone for awhile. Don’t hang out with friends and family for a period of time.
Fasting from some daily activities helps de-clutter our mental space and develops our ability to hear God’s voice.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27, NIV).
So these are a few tips on how to apply the 1st Prosperity Principle of seeking God. Next week we’ll explore the 2nd Prosperity Principle – Obeying God.