I may not know you, but I’m pretty sure I know some things about you. I’m confident, for example, that you want to be successful in life, and not a failure; that you want to be happy, and not miserable; you desire to have your needs met, so that you are not struggling just to survive. In other words, you want to enjoy life.
If all that is as true of you as it is of me, the Bible has some good news for us. As much as we want those things for ourselves, God wants them (and more) for us!
Psalm 35:27 Let them shout for joy and be glad, Who favor my righteous cause; And let them say continually, “Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”
The Hebrew word translated “prosperity” in this verse is shalom. It signifies a person’s overall welfare in life: peace, health, safety, wellness, happiness. (Note that biblical prosperity is not about gaining great wealth! See 1 Timothy 6:6-11).
Scripture is very clear that it is not God’s design that His people should live struggling, miserable, barely-making-it kinds of lives. Rather, He purposes that every legitimate need in our lives be met.
Psalm 34:9-10 Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. 10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
All this is the birthright of the people of God. But it’s not automatic! There are several conditions we as individuals must meet before we will see God’s desire that we prosper work out in our lives.
The first condition is very clear in the passages cited above. Notice to whom God’s promises are made:
- His servant
- His saints
- Those who fear Him
- Those who seek the LORD
Only those who have become part of God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord qualify! (If you’re not sure about this, please see How Can I Be Saved?).
However, just becoming a Christian will not automatically insure that a person prospers in life. As a pastor I deal with many people who have professed Christ, yet still have lives that are in a mess. Many times the problem is not that they are insincere in their faith. But they often literally become their own worst enemy by the decisions they make, and their lives end up in shambles. Here’s why:
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
If you are anything like me, you’ve probably learned the truth of this verse the hard way. We’ve made decisions in life the best we knew how, doing whatever we thought we had to do to make things work out the way we wanted – and they didn’t. What seemed to make so much sense at the time turned out to be a disaster, leaving us deeper in a hole than when we started.
The problem is, I believe, that many of us were never taught the biblical key to unlocking God’s promise of prosperity for our lives. What is that key?
Joshua 1:7-8 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 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.
How can we make our way prosperous and prosper wherever we go? It’s only as we commit ourselves to “observe to do according to all that is written in” God’s Word. The promise of prospering in life comes to fruition as we allow the Word of God to not only guide us in specific decisions, but to reshape the way we think (Romans 12:2 calls this “the renewing of the mind”).
The conclusion I’ve reached for my life is that I must make it my practice to subject every decision I make to the commands and precepts of Scripture. Before doing anything, I need to specifically ask, what is God’s stated will or counsel about this sort of thing?
- If in the normal course of my job I would find myself spending a lot of private time with a married coworker or client of the opposite sex, does God have anything to say about that kind of situation? (He does!).
- If I really, really want to have a big screen TV like everybody else in my neighborhood has, but would have to go deeper into debt to get it, have I considered God’s take on such a course of action?
- If my relationship with my spouse has reached a level of dysfunction and pain where I just can’t take it any more, is getting a divorce as quickly and quietly as possible really God’s way out?
As a pastor, I’ve seen far too many Christians make decisions like these first, and then only after finding themselves in misery because things went badly do they seek God’s counsel about their situation. And let me be honest – that “far too many” definitely includes me!
But I’m learning. I’ve made the commitment to do nothing without first understanding the counsel the Bible provides about my decision. And if I don’t know, I’m committed to taking the initiative and making the effort to find out. Exclaiming that I didn’t understand about the law of gravity won’t help me when I lean too far over the railing at the Grand Canyon!
I certainly don’t claim to be perfect at this. But I’ve had it impressed on me by hard experience, on several occasions, that I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and misery if I had refused to act until I was sure I understood and was abiding by the counsel of God’s Word.
How can I have the prospering life God takes pleasure in providing for His people? By taking care that in all areas of my life I “observe to do” according to God’s Word.