Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Success and Prosperity

Handout for Sermon delivered Sunday, 07/20/2008 – K. Bentch

God's idea of prosperity may differ from ours. Then if you think of the pattern of earthly prosperity versus spiritual prosperity, the difference is even greater. Further, there are times when we must “wait on the Lord” to renew our strength or to inherit the land for example (Ps 27:14, Ps 37:9, Isaiah 40:31). Our waiting may be working a mighty work, even though to us things look like they are holding still or worse, moving backwards. Do you know what the Bible says about the comparison between prosperity and obedience? Just think of all the things that people do to become prosperous – investments, education, fame, new jobs – to name a few. What would it be like to place yourself on a trajectory to gain spiritual prosperity with the same energy and vigor?

Instead, let's learn together some scriptures about prosperity and success, from God's perspective. And when things don't measure up to our idea of success or prosperity, please keep in mind that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). God's viewpoint is bigger and better than our human viewpoint could ever be. "And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:24.

Give From Your Own Blessings (Ge 33:11). How people feel about their own level of blessings seems to depend on who they compare themselves to. Instead of comparing yourself with others, consider having an attitude of giving. Have an attitude of thankfulness toward God for what he has provided you. “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” Eph 4:28.

Keep Your Covenant with God – and Prosper (Deuteronomy 29:9). How can God bless us, if we are living in sin? Sometimes, we get in the way of our own blessing because of the way we are living, thinking, talking and planning. Trusting God, even when we do not understand, can keep us striving to live a pure life. “Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4. As Christians, we can trust in God to help us stand.

Imagine with me if you will that you have left your children at home for an hour with specific instructions on what to clean, not having company and keeping the TV off and most of all staying out of the cookie jar. They all beamingly agree to these rules. While you are gone, you buy them some cool gifts - their favorite things. You put some on one pocket, some in another and the final awesome gift in the car so you can reveal everything in stages. You grin all the way home.

But when you arrive, you instinctively know something is wrong. The cookie jar is empty and laying on its side on the front porch, and the door is open. As you go up the steps, you can hear the TV blaring, though apparently no one watching it. None of the cleaning has been done, as everyone agreed to do. Worse, everyone is in the back yard, playing with several of the neighborhood friends. How would you feel about that? Likely, this scenario or something similar has played out for you, if you have children.

How is it with God though? He has blessings to deliver, and is ready - eager - to do so - to give us His kingdom. But if he looks into our life and we have wrong friends, won't clean up our act and won't even do the simplest things we have already agreed to do - do you think that he will take his wonderful gifts and give them to you? Wouldn't that be encouraging you do to more wrong? I'd think that way in the scenario above - I would not want to encourage their behavior at all. Could it be the same with God?

Confidence Through Obedience (Joshua 1:7-8). Disobedience leads to a wounded conscience before God, and man. Woundedness and disobedience also bring on lack of confidence in terms of moving forward, and “standing tall” in your spiritual momentum. Instead, choose to obey, to repent and to strive to do what is right.

When we get home and greet our two dogs - the old dog and the new puppy - it is obvious how they are feeling about things. If they are happy, you know it. If they have been 'doggy bad' say by getting into the trash or chewing up a shoe - they meet you with tail tucked, maybe rolling over on the floor to show their obesieance. Hmmmm..... is that what keeps us from standing before God confidently? What do you need to repent of? How about getting busy and changing that one big thing in your life that keeps you from being able to greet God in all happiness and joy? Let me know how that works for you!

Fulfill God's Law – So He May Prosper You (1 Chron 22:13). Carelessness leads to loss and sadness. Being careful of God's law, on the other hand, according to this passage, may lead to prosperity. Through obedience, those who are Christians may stand with courage. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.

With All Your Heart (2 Chron 31:21). We know what it is like to be enthusiastic for things and pastimes of this world – watching your favorite game, seeing fireworks, fishing or 4-wheeling for example. Take time and effort to become enthusiastic about giving of yourself to God and His Kingdom. What would it look like in your life if you were to give your whole heart to the work of God?

Like a Well Planted Tree (Ps 1:1-3). Trees without water don't do so well. If they grow at all, they may appear stunted, twisted and weak. The contrast is amazing when compared to a tree planted by living, flowing, fresh, clean, clear water. The branches are large and well filled out and the root structure is strong and well developed. Leaves are abundant as are blooms and fruit – depending on the type of tree – when that thing most necessary for growth is present. Be spiritually planted near to God. Spiritual growth only occurs in the presence of your Holy Father. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:8a.

Riches and Honor Through Wisdom (Pv 3:16). Wisdom is something that grows and increases with use. Hindsight can create an opportunity to learn from past mistakes. Try to apply past learning to future decisions. Acting in a wise manner brings confidence, increases courage, saves you from getting into trouble and helps yourself and others in many other ways. Taking time to read God's word and act on it helps you to act wisely. "You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies." Psalms 119:98a

Pray for One Another (3 John 1:2). As you pray for your brothers and sisters, pray that they may prosper. Praying that others will do well, and succeed, can take your thoughts off yourself – and make you thankful. "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" Romans 12:10.

Spiritual Profitability (1 Tim 4:8). Regardless of how good someone's physical shape may be, this earthly body is destined to fade away, except for those present and alive at the final trumpet call. Either way, the spiritual person will go on forever. Which one should get the greater attention? The return on your investment in the physical will eventually perish, as will all physical things. Eternal profitability lies with spiritual commitment and investment. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Mt. 6:21.

Soul Exchange Rate (Mt 16:26). It is possible to focus on physical attainments, gaining material possessions to the exclusion of improving one's spiritual lot in life. We know what it is like to trade money for things or barter time for money or barter items for other items. What would you barter for your soul? What is the value of your soul? You can get an idea of the value by considering the price that Jesus willingly paid so you have a hope of your soul's salvation. "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men." 1 Cor 7:23.

(Next Week: When Good things Happen to Bad People and When Bad Things Happen to Good People. How to resolve this? Are we really qualified to judge God - and his decisions?).

(Say- - check out "Kevin's Pulpit" in iTunes. A few of the sermon's preached by Kevin Bentch at the Worland church of Christ are there. Please let me know what you think. Here's the link: (http://www.apple.com/search/ipoditunes/?q=Kevin%27s+Pulpit)