The Prosperity “Gospel”

Reading Time: 14 minutes

In our last post, we dealt with the “Poverty Gospel”. This is a term not often used and rarely taught on. By contrast, the “Prosperity Gospel” is a term that likely every Christian has heard and experienced. Even secular media outlets love to point out leaders of Faith who live in the lap of luxury while conservative churches shake their head in dismay at the twisted teachings of the “health and wealth” gospel.

Yet, despite its common discussion, just what exactly the “Prosperity Gospel” is, why people believe it, and what is wrong about it is rarely discussed. Many who are labeled as “Prosperity Teachers” may not be upon on closer examination, as it sometimes appears that any Christian with financial wealth is considered a prosperity proponent. It is a label easily applied but much harder to actually describe.

The purpose of this post is to define what the Prosperity Gospel is, why it’s often believed, and what is wrong about it. We’ll also discuss some signs that you’ve believed the lie and talk about what to do if you have.

What is the Prosperity Gospel?
The Prosperity Gospel, as we’ll define it, is:

The Prosperity Gospel teaches that we should give in order to get more from God, that money shows God’s favor, and that the poor are less Holy than the rich.

Let’s look closer at some common Prosperity Gospel teachings.

Give to get

One of the central themes of a false prosperity gospel is the motivation in giving. Rather than giving out of obedience or in response to need, prosperity teachers hijack a few verses in order to create a formula for “giving” that looks more like “investing”.

Chief among these verses is Matthew 19:29, which reads:

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

The formula is simple! Give now and you’ll get back 100x return! How can you go wrong?

Jesus is saying this in response to Peter’s question in discussing the rich young ruler. In this, Jesus said that while it was almost impossible for a rich man to enter heaven, with God it is possible. Peter lamented the fact that they had given up so much to follow Jesus and He encouraged him that his sacrifice wouldn’t be without reward.

It is not wrong to think that God is one of reward. While it is true that our desire upon seeing Jesus in heaven will be to cast our crowns at His feet in worship (see this post for more), that doesn’t nullify the fact that we are working for reward! God wired us to be rewarded, but a true believer realizes that it is only by His grace that we can do any good thing, so those rewards ultimately are only marks of His blessing and favor and not of our own work and merit.

If the question is not about reward, it is about the timing and nature of these rewards. In the same story related in Mark 10:30, we see the words “in this present age”. That seems to indicate that the 100-fold return isn’t just for the hereafter! Yet, did we see Peter rewarded in this way before his martyr’s death?

Since most of us don’t need 100 houses or really even want 100 mothers or sisters, a common interpretation is that the 100-fold increase refers to the fellowship of believers found in Christ. This was evidenced in Peter’s life when we look at the fellowship of believers he had during the rest of his ministry on earth. Yet, he also faced persecution. The persecution isn’t coming from God, but Jesus is reminding them that Satan will oppose and persecute God’s work and blessing, so we should expect it.

Does the 100-fold increase ever apply to money and possessions? It may very well. The idea of fields increasing could have a literal translation of increase, but we should not expect a promise of financial blessing all the time in return for our giving.

Giving done out of a desire for 100-fold increase is not giving, but “investing”. True giving is done out of a desire to see needs met and through the resulting thanksgiving, God is glorified (2 Corinthians 9:13).

Money is a sign of God’s favor

Another common teaching is that those with money are blessed and favored by God. Kris Vallotton has a great quote about this, which says: “Wealth isn’t a sign of blessing, unless of course, it is!”.

The mistake with the “money = favor” teaching is not mixing up motivation, but assuming an “end” always indicates the same “means”. What I mean is that while God very well may bless someone financially for a number of reasons, being financially blessed is not always an indicator of God’s favor. When we make this mistake, we start to view those who are wealthy as Godlier and those who are poor as less so.

In the Kingdom, God doesn’t always reward like for like. In Luke 16:11, Jesus says “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”. A common teaching of the prosperity crowd is that when we steward financial wealth, we will be given greater financial wealth. Yet, this verse seems to indicate that the ultimate reward of stewarding financial wealth is some other sort of wealth…these ”true riches”.

True riches likely indicate people instead of possessions. In the parable of the minas, found in Luke 19:11-27, we see that the reward for stewarding the money they had been given was not more money, but cities! To me this indicates a trust with power over people, status, decision making, etc. Is this not more important than simply having more money?

In our flesh, we often have difficulty recognizing God’s true riches rewarded in someone’s life. It is easy for us to see wealth or power and assume a person is blessed by God, but perhaps the people that are most blessed are those who have given faithfully and are seeing people come to Christ and be increased in their faith through the small group they lead.

God does want to give those who steward little more. That is 100% true and applies today, but we must be cautious about assuming it is always about money and therefore respecting those with financial blessing as Holier than those without.

Perhaps the most dangerous and damaging extension of this belief is that if someone is sick or poor, they lack faith. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand why people are sick. I firmly believe God doesn’t send illness and suffering, but I know that He uses what Satan intends for evil for His good (Genesis 50:19). We live in a world filled with sin and sinners and we still suffer the results of this. To suggest that those who are suffering are lacking faith is showing our own lack of understanding of God and His perfect plans and timing. Should pray for healing and provision? Absolutely. God affirms that many, many times throughout Scripture. Yet, we must be very careful not to assume that those who don’t show these blessings are lacking in Faith.

God promised it

When God promises something in Scripture, we often can “lay claim” to that promise and ask for it in accordance with His Word. James 4:2 reads “You do not have because you do not ask God.”. Pair this up with Psalms 37:4, which says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”, and it seems we have a pretty clear case for “name it and claim it” theology!

The issue with these verses is that they are usually taken out of context. If we simply read on in James 4, we’ll see verse 3 says “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”. Maybe the formula for “blab it and grab it” comes with some strings attached? This also likely ties back to our “Give to Get” point, where many try to use the “100x formula” with wrong intentions and then don’t get what the expected!

I always read Psalms 37:4 as God giving us the things we desire in our hearts. However, I heard Pastor Robert Morris speak on this about a year ago and gave it a different interpretation. Rather than God granting us the desires already in our carnal hearts, the verse is saying that as we delight ourselves in God, He will place desires in our hearts. Our desires will be His desires as we become more like Him.

Now this is powerful! James 4:2 wasn’t meant for claiming our own selfish desires. This is exactly why the formula wasn’t working in James 4:3. Rather, as we delight ourselves in the Lord and take on the mind of Christ, we begin desiring what God desires. When we ask for those things, we can ask in confidence knowing that we are aligned with His will and purpose.

But what about the verses that promise that God wants to give us life abundantly (John 10:10) and that we are to become rich because of Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9)? Can’t we ask for those things knowing that we are aligned with His will? Won’t our desires for those things be His desires, since they are in His Word?

As we talk about in other sections here, believing that the Kingdom is just about Financial blessings and wealth is short-sighted. God will 100% provide for our needs as we ask Him. In addition, for some, pursuing the Kingdom will mean stewarding great wealth. However, using these verses to imply that everyone is destined to be wealthy is not correct. The riches that God gives are the riches of His grace (Ephesians 2:7). The life that He promises is eternal life.

When we pray, we should pray that God gives us all we need for us to walk out the good works He has already prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). If we immediately assume that is financial wealth, we may be asking for the wrong thing or at the wrong time. Let God design when to bring financial blessing and focus instead on seeking His Kingdom.

God wants us to give out of excess (rather than obedience)

Another favorite verse of the prosperity teachers is Luke 6:38.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Similar to the 100-fold verse, this indicates that God wants to give us more than we can handle in response to our generosity. A similar teaching regarding the tithe in the Old Testament is Malachi 3:10, where He promises to “open to you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”.

The mistake that people sometimes make with this verse is assuming that God wants us to give out of our abundance, rather than our obedience. This is a recipe for disaster!

The tithe is not just 10%, but the first 10%. The concept of first-fruits pre-dates the Mosaic law and is demonstrated throughout scripture. God wants us to give out of obedience and faith, trusting that although we gave the first 10%, He will provide the rest.

Obedience is always followed by blessing. This is the nature of God! Again, the blessing may not always be what we expect, but God is a good Father and desires good things for us (Matthew 7:11).

We should be obedient and give the first 10% of our increase as a tithe. When we do this, it is true that God will bless our obedience and faith, often with more financial resources. Yet, we must be careful to never shift our focus from giving out of obedience to giving out of excess.

I will say firsthand that it was easier to give 10% when I was making a lot less money! Sometimes I look at the tithe withdrawal when I get paid every two weeks and think “That’s a lot of money! Imagine what else I could do with that…”. There is a reason that wealthy people statistically give less as a percent of their income than less-wealthy people…and this may be it! Rather than focus on the amount and start wanting to give out of excess, focus on how much God has blessed you and continue to give in faith. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Never get your giving and your faith mixed up!

Signs You’ve Believed the Prosperity Gospel

You may have identified with some of the teachings listed above, but let’s look at a few more specific symptoms of an improper belief about Prosperity.

Lack (of rest and giving)

Bet you didn’t think I was going to say this one! After all, aren’t those who believe in the Prosperity Gospel most likely to be generous?

In our last post about the poverty gospel, Lack of resources was our top symptom. Here, it is lack of rest and generosity. Those who believe in the Prosperity gospel often fall in to the pursuit of riches. They fail to honor the Sabbath, trusting that God will provide. They sometimes lack generosity because they are waiting to give after their success, rather than as the Lord leads and instructs.

Placing money instead of the Kingdom as the goal will always result in money never being enough. Wrong motivation does not yield blessing. Perhaps some will give generously for a time, in an effort to get more, but ultimately they will run into lack and become discouraged. They are operating on their own strength and therefore their resources are limited. If they operate on God’s strength, their resources are unlimited.

If you are stressed and stingy, you might be pursuing money!

Love of Money

1 Timothy 6:10 says “For the love of money is the root of all evil”. The prosperity crowd often falls in to seeking the gifts more than the Giver. If you find yourself constantly pre-occupied with talking about wealth, trying new “get rich quick schemes” (risky investments, multi-level marketing, house flipping courses, etc.), and daydreaming about the day you are “Financially Independent” (“if I only won the lotto…”), you may have a love of money.

Jesus taught of a spirit called Mammon. Mammon is a demonic spirit that represents a love of money. He is constantly trying to pull people away from God to serve him instead. Matthew 6:24 says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Those who have solid Kingdom principles around finances and are in charge of much wealth to steward are often those least concerned about money. Yes, they realize their role as stewards and take wise care of what has been entrusted to them, but they are more interested in what money can do than having money itself. A love of money makes money the end, where in the Kingdom it is just the means to a far greater end.

Beware the spirit of Mammon! It often looks like Materialism in your life. If you love stuff and spend your time pursuing it, you cannot fully serve God.

Sorrow

While the Prosperity Gospel promises peace and joy, it ultimately leads to sorrow. The second part of 1 Timothy 6:10 reads “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”. Being pierced with grief doesn’t sound very good to me!

Contrast this with blessings that come from God. Proverbs 10:22 says “The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.”

I once heard of a couple that was doing well financially and then fell in to a house flipping scheme and used borrowed money (“other people’s money”) to try and “leverage” their way to wealth. In a matter of less than a year they went from being debt free with money in the bank to being broke with over $200k in unsecured debt. Rather than waiting on the Lord’s blessings, they pursued money and tried to get there quicker by using debt. Ultimately, this led to sorrow and years of hard labor to repay their mistake.

You may be blessed and not have a spirit of mammon, but if you have sorrow then you should double check that you aren’t pursuing a love of money!

Pride (in Possessions)

A spirit of materialism responds with pride to possessions. Think about how you might respond if someone complements you on something you own. Let’s say it is a nice pair of quality shoes. You might say “yea, I got these on clearance so they weren’t as expensive as they look”. This very well indicates a spirit of poverty.

A Prosperity mindset is likely to respond with “O yea, these are Allen Edmonds. Best dress shoes out there. They cost about $350.”. That pride is indicative of a prosperity spirit!

What is the right response?

“Thank You.”

Part of stewardship in all areas of our lives is ensuring that purchase high quality items that are within our budget. As such, it is not wrong to have nice things. However, we must hold them with an open hand and not view them with pride, but with gratitude. When we own expensive and high quality possessions, it is just a mark of God’s blessings and not our own success.

Jealousy (of wealth)

Similar to the love of money and a preoccupation with it, many with a prosperity spirit are jealous of those with wealth. This is most often found among those that are poor, which indicates that the prosperity gospel isn’t just prevalent among rich people.

Those that desire to be rich are often jealous of those that are rich. They want to be around these people and find favor with them. They look for “mentors” that aren’t Godly, but wealthy. They have an unhealthy jealousy and desire to be like people not as they are like Christ, but for their material possessions.

This obsession with wealth and success has been exacerbated by social media. It amazes me the efforts that people will go to portray a “luxury lifestyle” and follow those who seem to “live the dream”. Do a check of who you follow, watch, like, etc. on social and if it is a bunch of motivational luxury feeds, consider cleaning house!

Fear (of loss)
Those who have pride in their possessions and see them as a sign of God’s favor are usually very fearful of losing them. For them, it isn’t just a loss of stuff, but a loss of their identity.

If you find yourself worrying about lending out your car or tools, inviting those with rambunctious kids to stay in your home, or taking extreme precautions to guard your assets, you may be operating out of fear.

There is a story about the famous preacher John Wesley that goes like this:

A man came running up to Wesley one day and said “Your house has burned down! Your house has burned down!” Wesley replied, “No, it hasn’t, because I don’t own a house. The one I have been living in belongs to the Lord, and if it has burned down, that is one less responsibility for me to worry about.”

There was no fear of loss for Wesley because he knew that God owns it all! Whether we own much or little, this should be our attitude toward our possessions.

As God blesses you, you must be extra careful not to slip in to this issue. Years ago, I had a beat-up truck that I kept around for errands and chores. I had only paid $2500 for it and had no issues lending it out to friends who needed a truck for a day. As I’ve been able to afford nicer cars, I find myself more hesitant to let others borrow them. While it is not wrong to have nice cars, we must be careful that we never have possessions that we value more than people. When your possessions become so much that you are afraid to use them to bless others, you may have more than you can handle!

Joylessness (in giving)
When giving becomes an investment plan rather than a response to God’s goodness, it loses its joy. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Joy in giving is a sign of our connection with God and a genuine response to an understanding of the depth and breadth of His love. If you’ve lost that joy, you are likely too attached to money, not attached enough to God, and only seeing giving as a “give to get” investment.

Debt (Discontentment and lack of trust)
Those that love money are often surrounded by debt. This is because they have not learned to live as Paul did, content in whatever state he was in (Philippians 4:11).

When we aren’t content or lack trust that God has given us enough, we tend to use debt to fill the gap between our current reality and our future expectations. Sometimes this is cloaked in the “other people’s money” teaching for investing. These desires for more than we have or “leveraging” debt to obtain wealth is almost always a sign of discontentment. See the story I spoke of earlier about the couple who took on debt and ended up in sorrow.

Speculation (Greed in “investing”)
Similar to debt, those that aren’t wise in their investing are usually bound to a spirit of prosperity. In my time in stewardship ministry, I’ve heard countless stories of people who wagered, and lost, it all on some investment that was sure to give them tremendous returns.

Greed is incompatible with wisdom. Hearing the voice of the Lord and relying on His provision is never accompanied with hasty speculation. For more on this, check out my article on “Should Christians Buy Bitcoin?”.

What to do if you’ve bought the lie of the Prosperity Gospel

If you read our last post on the poverty spirit, this list may look familiar!

Repent

If you have felt convicted of wrong belief in reading this, don’t feel shame. Simply choose to begin walking differently. As a believer, you are already righteous in Christ. Repentance is as simple as choosing to walk in accordance with understanding.

Be Thankful
Thankfulness for what we have keeps us from falling prey to greed. Begin thanking God for the provision He’s already given you rather than always “claiming” more.

Be Generous
Perhaps you have been giving, but giving with wrong motive. Perhaps you haven’t been giving because you’ve been waiting to give when you had more. Generosity breaks a spirit of greed, so begin giving now. Don’t do it with wrong motives, expecting something in return, but do it out of grateful obedience for what God has already done. If you are tempted to give more in order to get more, I’d actually encourage you to give less (not less than the 10% tithe, though), until you are able to give out of joy and not greed.

Live in His Presence
It is out of God’s presence that power and abundance flows. When you choose to live in His Presence, He will bless you abundantly not because of what you’ve done or asked for, but because He is a God of abundance. This may or may not be financial wealth, but when you are content with His presence, you suddenly won’t care either way.

Conclusion

The Prosperity Gospel is so dangerous because it places our worship on the gift rather than the Giver. Yes, God is a good Father and will give you all you need. He wants to bless you abundantly. However, when your direction shifts to a focus on His blessings and a desire for them more than Him, you are in a very dangerous place. Put your focus 100% on Him and make your goal to remain 100% dependent on Him regardless of what blessings He gives you. With this attitude, you’ll receive blessings above all you could ever ask or imagine!

Blessings,

Ira

This is the 2nd of a 3-part series. See my first post on the “Poverty Gospel” here and third post on the “The Provision Gospel” here!

 

The Poverty “Gospel”

Reading Time: 16 minutes

Intro

Turn on Christian TV today and you’ll likely see well-dressed tele-evangelists begging for money and promising that if you give you’ll be given more in return. This “Prosperity Gospel” is false, but it is largely obvious. The ostentatious display of selfish love of money makes the mature believer able to easily spot the lie and avoid it (we’ll still be discussing “The Prosperity Gospel” in more detail in my next post).

 

By contrast, there is an equally false gospel that has been preached for centuries. It is more dangerous by “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5). It embraces asceticism and extreme giving. It relishes the doctrine of suffering as something to be pursued, not endured, and equates being poor with being holy. This is what I’m calling the “Poverty Gospel”.

 

This post is designed to confront the Spirit of Poverty and Pride behind the Poverty Gospel head on. We’ll define what it is, why people believe it (all good lies have an element of truth), and signs you may have it. We’ll also discuss what the Bible really says about Poverty and what you can do to move forward if you’ve believed the Poverty Gospel.

 

 

What is the Poverty Gospel?

Galatians 5:9 says “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”. The Poverty Gospel is a powerful deception since it is surrounded by truth, but has just a little bit of a lie. This lie (leaven) has created an entire movement that has swung too far on the pendulum, rejecting wealth and embracing a doctrine of hardship, poverty, and suffering. When believers are deceived to believe that wealth is evil and that our reward is only in heaven, the needy here on earth suffer.

 

The Poverty Gospel is the belief that being poor is holy, wealth should be avoided because it is dangerous to our faith, or material belongings are inherently bad.

 

It is usually accompanied by a fear of never having enough, demonstrated through hoarding and guilt over spending.

 

Having read that summary, you’re probably not thinking that you’ve believed this lie, but let’s take a more focused look at some common Poverty Gospel teachings so you can identify if there’s a hint of any at work in your spirit.

 

Being Poor is Holy

There is no doubt that Jesus had a heart for the poor. In Luke 4:18 He enters the synagogue and quotes from Isaiah that He is here “to proclaim good news to the poor”. Many other scriptures address God’s heart for the poor and needy.

 

What people seem to forget is that just because Jesus has a heart for the poor doesn’t mean that He wants them to stay that way! The rest of that passage talks about all the other bad things that He came to free us from, but somehow many have decided that He wants us to stay poor.

 

We must also be careful to note the difference between being poor and having a spirit of poverty. The poor that Jesus referred to were poor because they were sick, widows, outcasts, etc. The fact that they were poor was not indicative of a poverty mentality, but rather the brokenness of sin in our world.

 

The Bible speaks out continually against poverty caused by laziness (Proverbs 6:10-11), greed (Proverbs 11:24), rebellion (Proverbs 13:18), daydreaming (Proverbs 14:23), and speculation (Proverbs 21:5). Choosing to be poor simply because you do not want to be hardworking, generous, submitted, actionable, and wise does not put you in the same spot as the poor that Jesus came to minister to.

Lastly, Jesus commends the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) and says that “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. When we see the word poor, we automatically assume wealth. Yet, being of a poverty spirit isn’t supported elsewhere in Scripture. Just as 2 Corinthians 8:9 is not talking just about physical riches when it says “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”, it is unlikely that the “poor in spirit” refers to physical wealth.

 

Being “poor in spirit” is recognizing our own inability to earn salvation. It is a humbleness of heart that allows us to accept salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is not being of a poverty spirit, which has an unhealthy view of money and wealth.

 

Being financially poor does not make one sinful or spiritual. Many are poor for circumstances outside their control and should be viewed with compassion and not judgement. However, choosing poverty as a pursuit of holiness or due to a lack of Biblical character is sin or the product of sin and should be treated as such.

 

God wants us to be poor to be dependent on Him

The Bible often talks about how difficult it is for the rich to remain close to God. Two places this appears is when David prayed that he wouldn’t have so much that he’d forget God (Proverbs 30:9) and in the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19) where God commands the man to sell all he has and then tells the disciples that is “easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than a rich man to enter in to heaven”.

 

However, if we continue on with the story of the rich young ruler, the disciples are very confused as the “eye of a needle” statement. They wonder how anyone could make it in to heaven with that criteria, and Jesus responds in v. 26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”.

 

Given the difficulty of being rich and staying close to God, it seems logical that God would prefer us to be poor. After all, this avoids the issue completely!

 

Embracing poverty as a way of life is the easy way out of spiritual development and may actually be the opposite. As we spoke of in the last section, willful poverty is the output of sin. While “living by faith” may seem to equate more to someone who doesn’t know where their next meal if coming from, a higher and rarer calling is to continue to serve God in our abundance.

 

Living in abundant wealth and remaining close to God is the ultimate test of faith. It is literally impossible without God! If you want to live by faith the answer isn’t to avoid prosperity, but to be wholly dependent on God regardless of what your physical and financial condition is.

 

We are supposed to give away everything, all the time

There are two primary places in Scripture that we see people giving away much or everything. One is the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 that we’ve already referenced. The other is with the early church in Acts 2:45 where we see that “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”.

 

Many have taken these examples and developed a teaching that our responsibility is to live on a minimal wage and give the rest. This is not a new teaching, as John Wesley famously lived on the equivalent of about $30k a year even when his fame brought him income of over $160k a year (both in today’s dollars). This idea is resurging today, with many feeling that they should cap their income and give everything above away.

 

These ideas certainly have an appearance of Godliness and may be exactly what God is directing some to do. However, we must be careful establishing this as a doctrine that should be followed by everyone.

 

With the rich ruler, the key isn’t that God wanted to have everyone sell everything, but just this man. God saw that he had riches above his ability to manage. He needed to remove this barrier in order to be able to trust in Christ. Jesus targeted the one stronghold this man still had in his life just as specifically as He did the woman at the well who’d had 5 husbands. The story here isn’t that everyone should sell everything, but that we need to surrender the areas of our pride and sin to God completely.

 

For the Acts story, we first need to realize that the Word doesn’t say they sold everything they had, but their goods and possessions. This may indicate what they had with them at the time. Most of the people in this story were traveling to Jerusalem and hadn’t planned to stay and start the early church. It was a unique time where for a moment there was a need. This could be more like the story of the loaves and fishes where the boy gave his lunch for that day, which was all he had at the moment, but not necessarily all he had forever.

 

Should we be willing to part with possessions where there is a need? Absolutely! However, thinking that we should never hold anything and always give everything is not a Biblical teaching. Many early believers held their possessions and were able to use them to support the growth of the church. Even the disciples who walked away from their nets and boats don’t appear to have sold or given them away, as they were back to fishing and living in their homes within days of Jesus’ death.

If you are led to give generously or “above your ability” (2 Corinthians 8:3) be sure it isn’t coming out of a spirit of guilt or wrongly developed doctrine, but out of a free relationship with Jesus. Let it not be an expression of burden, but of joy.
We should only have enough for our basic needs
One of the most popular verses in the Bible is Matthew 6:33, which reads “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The “things” that Jesus refers to are the clothing, drink, and food in v. 31. The point is that God doesn’t want us to be anxious about our basic needs but to focus on the Kingdom and His righteousness.

 

Assuming that because God promises to provide for our basic needs means we are not to pursue anything else is misunderstanding what pursuing the Kingdom looks like!

 

The Kingdom of God is where God reigns and provides abundance and good things. Do you imagine that when Jesus prayed for “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” (the Lord’s Prayer), He was imagining a Kingdom of barely enough? No! Jesus was praying for God’s magnificent Kingdom that is currently in Heaven, where there is no sickness, poverty, strife, want, etc. to come to earth!

 

God has given our basic needs as a starting point so that we can set our “minds on things above”. Having our basic needs met doesn’t mean that we should stop pursuing the Kingdom, but that we should be free to go above and beyond our needs to do all that God has called us to. For many that may not be wealth, but for others it may be starting a successful business or becoming a highly paid physician.

 

The thought that we should avoid material things is rooted in a concept called Dualism. Dualism says that that which is spiritual is good but what is material is bad (also known as Asceticism). It doesn’t allow room for material things to be good as well.

 

Of course, when God created everything He called it all good, so we shouldn’t think that anything God has provided is inherently bad.

 

1 Timothy 6:9-10 says “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

 

This verse is all too often misquoted as “money is the root of all evil”. Money isn’t inherently good or bad! It is just a medium of exchange and can be used for good or bad things. God wants us to rule and reign here on Earth (Genesis 1:28), which means we need to have Godly control of our money.

 

What Paul is warning Timothy is that people shouldn’t pursue riches because they love money. If we pursue the Kingdom and God provides wealth so that we can give generously and do Kingdom work, we must not shy away from that.

 

Martin Luther said “If silver and gold are things evil in themselves, then those who keep away from them deserve to be praised.  But if they are good creatures of God, which we can use both for the needs of our neighbor and for the glory of God, is not a person silly, yes, even unthankful to God, if he refrains from them as if they were evil?

 

Be careful not to avoid money because you think it evil!

“But the Apostles were Poor!”

A common support for the Poverty Gospel is that the Apostles were poor. After all, if the very men who walked with Jesus didn’t live in wealth and riches, isn’t that the perfect model for us to follow?

 

While it is true that they were likely not made rich for their ministry, but it doesn’t mean that they lived in poverty or that everyone is to just have enough.

 

Paul wrote to the Philippian church and thanked them for their offerings as he closed the epistle in Chapter 4. In this, he noted that he had a time of need but now had abundance, thanks to their gifts.

 

From this we can note two important things. First, the apostles may not have always been poor. Paul had his own business (tent maker) and others owned homes and businesses. More importantly, when they had need, God provided! Paul even says that he had more than enough.

 

Secondly, the people in the Church at Philippi had enough to give as Paul had need. If all had been poor, then who would have supplied the need of those working in full-time ministry?

 

We must always be cautious when we take specific examples in the Bible and assume they apply to everyone. God has many people within the Church to serve multiple functions. Many, if not most, are called to build the Kingdom through working diligently and wisely, building wealth through Godly principles and using it generously as others have need.
God sends Poverty

1 Samuel 2:7 says that “The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.”. Since we love to focus on one half of a single verse, many have taken this to mean that we may be in poverty because God wills it.

 

Of course, when we read Verse 8 we see a focus on Him bringing us out of poverty!

He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.

Is it possible that Verse 7 is just a sequence? That God brings people low in order to prepare them for being exalted? It seems obvious in 8 that His intent is to lift up the poor and give them power and honor. God owns it all and He controls the world. It doesn’t seem that this God of abundance delights in leaving the poor in poverty “just because”.

In the book of Daniel, we see a story where King Nebuchadnezzar is reduced to living as an animal for 7 years. God humbled him by giving him the mind of an animal and stripping him of all he had. However, God didn’t leave him that way. Let’s look at Nebuchadnezzar’s own testimony in Daniel 4:34-37:

At the end of that time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven. My mind became clear again. Then I praised the Most High God. I gave honor and glory to the One who lives forever. His rule will last forever. His kingdom will never end. He considers all of the nations on earth to be nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven. He does what He wants with the nations of the earth. No one can hold His hand back. No one can say to Him, “What have you done?”

My honor and glory were returned to me when my mind became clear again. The glory of my kingdom was given back to me. My advisers and nobles came to me. And I was put back on my throne. I became even greater than I had been before. 

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, give praise and honor and glory to the King of heaven. Everything he does is right. All of his ways are fair. He is able to bring down those who live proudly.

 

God didn’t just restore him, but made him greater than before! God had to humble him so that he could be used for greater works. While God may bring a person to poverty for a period, we have no reason to believe He wants to leave them there. God is always in the business of preparing people to steward more, not less.

 

God’s Promises are just for Heaven

Timing is perhaps the most difficult aspect of God’s reward and blessings to understand. Assuming you have agreed that God is not a sadistic father who wants to leave us in poverty to draw closer to Him, you may still have questions if the reward, honor, and wealth He promises are for this life or the next. It’s a very fair, albeit difficult, question.

 

The story of the rich ruler in Mark 10 ends with Jesus giving the famous 100-fold statement.

“Truly I tell you,” said Jesus, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and to receive eternal life in the age to come. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

 

While this is often maligned by the Prosperity Gospel to encourage a give to get equation, there is no getting around the fact that God replied to Peter’s statement that “We’ve given everything to follow you!” with this statement. It is almost as if He encouraged Him that His sacrifice would not be in vain. That he would receive back whatever he had given up, albeit with persecution.

 

Looking at the rest of the life of Peter, it appears this was true! He was surrounded by new family as the church grew. He had no shortage of resources as He did the work of the ministry. Yet, he was persecuted for this blessing and ultimately martyred for his faith.

 

God’s blessings are for now, but they aren’t always what we expect. Could it sometimes be finances? Absolutely. Is it always? No! Sometimes the reward for financial giving may come in a non-monetary way. Yet, it is clear that the reward is for here and Heaven. A poverty mentality assumes that all rewards are for later, while a prosperity mentality (an unhealthy one) assumes that we can give money now and get more money later, usually for our own benefit.

 

Signs you may have a Spirit of Poverty

If you still haven’t identified yourself with any of the above characteristics of a poverty mentality, let’s do a double check by looking at some of the outcome of a poverty spirit. If you are experiencing some or all of these, the root may be a poverty spirit.

 

Lack (of resources)

Paul said “My God shall supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19) as he encouraged the Philippian church that their giving wouldn’t be met without reward. If you are living with an inability to meet the needs of others or accomplish the work that God has called you to, you may have a poverty spirit.

 

God does not intend that you struggle on a daily basis to meet your needs and are unable to seek His Kingdom. Whether this means working two jobs to make ends meet, not starting a ministry for fear of financial provision, or not giving generously because of fear of lack. God owns it all and His desire is to give us (in accordance with our ability) all we can handle to steward well.

 

Jealousy (of wealth)
I’ve often heard those who are in poverty due to their own sin (see the list of Proverbs from earlier) detest those who are wealthy.

 

Do you tend toward a “socialism gospel”? Did you rail against the 99% with the Occupy Wall Street movement? Did you nod in agreement when Bernie Sanders talked smack about the “millionays and billionays”?

 

If you have found yourself in this situation, you may be in poverty. Note I said “in poverty”, not “poor”! You could have little money but not be jealous of others that do and not be in poverty. However, a poverty spirit assumes that everyone who has money got it through ill-gotten means and doesn’t deserve what they have. It has seen the opposite of a “love of money” as a “hate for money and those who have it”, rather than a love for Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

Fear (of loss)
God does not want us to live in fear (Check out all these verses about fear!). Yet, many are in fear of losing their money. It doesn’t have to do with how much you have, for many who are rich and poor have this fear.

 

A while ago, I purchased a full set of Wusthof kitchen knives. These are very nice, high quality knives and one of my most valued material possessions. Part of this set includes 8 steak knives. When I first got these, my first thought was to get another, cheaper set of steak knives for everyday use. After all, I didn’t want to have these ones dulled, stained, or chipped.

My girlfriend, Emma, (wife as of March 18, 2018!!) confronted this gently by asking “Why wouldn’t you want to enjoy these every day?”. It made me realize that I have this symptom of a poverty spirit that keeps me from enjoying God’s blessings because of a fear of loss. We still take care of them, honing them often and hand washing and drying after each use, but rather than focus on a fear of loss we’re rejoicing in God’s provision every day that we use these.

 

A fear of losing our money, job, house, etc. is rooted in a failure to understand the abundance of the Kingdom. God owns it all and we are His ambassadors! We must walk in the confidence of knowing the full might and resources of the Kingdom are behind us. He has promised to meet our needs and encourages us to pursue His Kingdom. Additionally, “your” money and possessions aren’t yours anyhow, but God’s! He owns it all and even gives you the ability to make money. Why would you be afraid of losing it when He is in control?

 

Guilt (over spending)

While saving is good and Biblical, we shouldn’t be having guilt over any spending on ourselves. Of course, this could be in excess, as the Rich fool who saved for himself and wasn’t generous toward God demonstrates (see my other post on balancing saving and giving for more), but if we feel guilty every time we buy something for ourselves, we are in poverty.

Did you click on the link to the Wusthof knives in the last section and do a double take at the price? When I wrote that section, my first reaction was to explain how I bought them on Craigslist for much less than the $2,000 price they normally go for. Again, this is a symptom of a poverty spirit! When we feel the need to justify our purchases and explain to others how little we actually spent, we are not living in the freedom of God’s provision. When we feel guilt ourselves or silently judge others for spending, we likely have a poverty spirit somewhere inside us.

 

When we understand that God has provided all we have need of, we won’t be concerned about using some of those resources for our own needs and pleasure. If we do, we’re in poverty (regardless of how much money we have). We cover this more in the discipline of joy in our 3rd post of this series.

 

Joylessness (in giving)
Some give, but do so with no joy. Every dollar is done begrudgingly and with a sorrow that we are losing a part of ourselves that we can never reclaim. It is this view that the money is ours and whatever we give is less for us to meet our needs that is rooted in poverty.

 

We should have joy when we give because we know that God is using us and trusting us! He has it all anyhow and we’re just managing, so being able to give is a measure of how much ability we’ve built in the Kingdom! If we’re still struggling with giving, our ability hasn’t been fully developed. Yes, we should stretch it by giving, but more importantly we should root out a spirit of Poverty so that we are able to be cheerful givers.
What to do if you’ve believed the lie of the Poverty Gospel

If you’ve identified with any of the above, you may have a bit of poverty leaven in your heart! I know I have. The Bible says that “narrow is the road that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). It is difficult to stay on a narrow road, as we tend to drift to the wide roads on either side (poverty or prosperity). If you now realize that you are on either one, here’s how to get back on the right road!

 

Repent

Acknowledge that you’ve been wrong in your thinking and simply start thinking differently. Just correct your direction. Don’t wallow in shame, but rejoice that the truth has been revealed!

 

Be Thankful

Thankfulness drives out a spirit of poverty. Be thankful for the blessings you already have and you’ll find yourself rejoicing in the prosperity provided by God’s goodness!

 

Be Generous

Generosity breeds thankfulness and builds character. Don’t start waiting to give, give now! In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul recounts how the Macedonian church gave even while they were in need. He encourages the Corinthian church to give out of their abundance so that everyone’s needs would be met. Don’t use being poor as an excuse to not be generous.

 

Live in His Presence

Psalms 16:11 says “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”. God’s presence is a wonderful thing. A transforming power. Live in His presence and you’ll find fullness of joy and pleasures. It is difficult for poverty to coexist with joy and pleasure, so seek His presence!

 

Conclusion

The poverty spirit is so dangerous because it is so subtle. So much of it appears good. Humble, not of the world, suffering for Christ, etc. Yet, when we look closer we see that God is full of riches and blessing and His Kingdom is one of abundance. While our next post will dig deeper in to the danger of seeking the provision over the Provider, don’t make the equally bad mistake of forsaking the provision from the provider!

 

Blessings,

 

Ira

 

This is the 1st of a 3-part series. Read my second post on the “Prosperity Gospel” here and third post on “The Provision Gospel” here!

Find Your Donkeys

Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you care at all about finding your “call” or “destiny”, you need to read this. Finding your donkeys may be the single most powerful thing you can do right now to achieve your specific, God ordained calling.

At some point, to some extent, you have likely worried that you are going to “miss it”. Somehow you’ll take a wrong step and not end up where you were supposed to. It is a scary thought. You only have one life, and to waste it because of a few wrong turns is an overwhelming thought. Whether you are making decisions about a professional career, education, ministry, or just life in general, all of us have to figure out what God wants us to do.

I’ve often been faced with this fear. One of my top five strengths is being “Futuristic”. I can rarely go for more than a few minutes without thinking about the future. It is difficult to live in the moment when I am so focused on what’s ahead. This is a blessing and a curse. Strong vision is an asset when it comes to strategy and planning, but a liability when it comes to focusing on what is given today. Combine this futuristic mentality with a dream and drive to achieve great things and the worry of somehow missing “it” can become near debilitating at times.

Thankfully, God showed me this truth that helped put my anxious heart at ease.

In 1 Samuel chapters 9 and 10 we see the first story of Saul. In chapter 8 we see where Israel wanted a king so they could be like other nations and after trying to convince them otherwise, Samuel took their requests to God and He told them He’d give them a king.

While all of this was happening, Saul was not on the top of anyone’s list for greatness. Yes, he was tall and handsome, but he was from the least of the tribes, a Benjamite.

Saul was also not looking to be king. All he was seeking to do was take care of what he was given day by day. One day, that task was finding the donkeys.

Saul’s father lost some donkeys and he asked Saul to take a servant and find them. They searched for a few days and were about to give up when the servant suggested they go ask Samuel for guidance. Initially Saul didn’t want to as he didn’t have any gifts for Samuel, but the servant had some money on hand. He finally agreed to go.

Saul and Samuel had never met and yet God had told Samuel to expect Saul that very day. He even had dinner prepared for him. Samuel revealed that God wanted him to be king, anointed him with oil and laid out exactly what would happen in the coming days.

Saul did as Samuel asked, but on the day he was to be crowned before the people he chickened out. He hid but God revealed where he hid (among the supplies) and the coronation went on as planned.

There is much we can learn from this story about your destiny and I want to highlight a few of those lessons here.

  1. God Calls You to Steward Today
    When we try to achieve our destiny, whether it is God ordained or our own, we usually fail to steward what we’ve been given today. Saul was not trying to become a king. If he were, he’d be out making political connections or fighting grand battles. All he was doing was what his dad had asked him to do.Jesus says in Matthew 6:34 to “not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”. We often think of this a way to just plod along and get by, eking the best we can out of each day till we die. In reality, this is the recipe for greatness in the Kingdom! God is looking for those that are faithful in little so He can give them much (Luke 16:10). All we should “worry” about is what we’ve been given today.Also, notice that it was Saul’s father that had asked him to go look for the donkeys. At that time in his life, his father was his authority. Sometimes we can even worry about what the right thing to do each day is. An easy answer is to look for the things the authority in your life (your boss, parents, etc.) have asked you to do and start with those. If you get outside of what they’ve asked, be very cautious!Be like Saul and don’t try to find your destiny. Just find your donkeys.
  2. God Is in Control of Your Destiny
    Saul made a couple missteps that could have easily cost him the meeting with Samuel and changed the course of his entire life. First he didn’t want to keep looking for the donkeys and wanted to head home. When his servant tried to convince him to go ask Samuel, he still didn’t want to. Lastly, he tried to hide even after God had confirmed what Samuel promised.It is pretty hard to mess up a plan that God puts in place. He will put the resources and people around you to make it happen. The servant was persistent and provisioned. God gave him exactly what he needed to make the meeting with Samuel happen. Saul couldn’t mess it up although he tried!If we read on in the story of Saul we see that eventually he allowed rebellion in to his life. He spoiled the destiny that God had placed on him not because he missed it, but because he stopped doing our first point (stewarding today). You don’t wander in to rebellion. It’s a choice.If you are focused on stewarding today, God will bring you exactly to the point He wants you. You’ll know if you mess it up.
  3. Your Destiny Doesn’t Need to be Achieved, but Received
    Proverbs 20:21 reads “An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end”. When we go try to achieve our destiny on our own, we usually make it happen too quickly with disastrous results. This is exactly what happened when Abraham had Ishmael. Rather than waiting on God, trusting His promise, and receiving the blessing in time, Ishmael became a burden forever.Notice that God often honors the promise even when we rush ahead. If He has put skills and abilities within in you for a certain task they will manifest themselves in some form. If you do it in our own time, it is usually for bad. Perhaps you get anxious in your current job and go look for another rather than waiting for a promotion. While you may be “successful”, that rushing often leads to sorrow and difficulty along the way, rather than peace.Proverbs 10:22 reads “The blessing of the Lord brings Wealth, without painful toil for it”. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have wealth without painful toil! Work is great, and encouraged by God, but painful toil is something I want as little of as possible!What is another way to know that our destiny is of God and not our own doing? Destiny is almost always given by authority.

    Saul did not achieve his kingdom by force. It was given to him by Samuel. Prior to Saul, Israel was a theocracy, ruled by God and administered through prophets and judges. As such, it was God’s prophet, Samuel, that anointed Saul. It was clear that he was chosen by God and (almost) all the people saw that. He came to his destiny in peace.

    Wait on the Lord and receive your destiny rather than trying to achieve it.

  4. Your Promotion Often Comes When You Least Expect It
    The Bible is replete with stories of ordinary people that were propelled to greatness in mere moments. Gideon was hiding in a wine press threshing wheat when an Angel appears to him and told him he was going to deliver his people from the Midianites (Judges 6). Abraham was 75 years old when God told him to leave everything he knew and go start a nation (Genesis 12). Joseph was in prison one day and 2nd in command of Egypt the next (Genesis 41).God has a tendency to prepare for a long period and then promote in a short time. The difficult period is the waiting prior to the promotion.Sometimes He reveals the destiny in advance. This can be encouraging as it gives something to hold on to in the waiting, but also can make us tend to become anxious and attempt to achieve the destiny in our own time. Abraham gave up on God’s promise of a nation and had Ishmael.  Joseph almost gave up on the dream of ruling and asked the cupbearer to put in a good word for him and get him out of prison early. It is even more difficult to bear the years of waiting when you have such a clear vision of your destiny.If you are in the place of waiting, be encouraged to know that the promise of your destiny may be closer than you think. Saul went from looking for donkeys to being king in just over a week. Just because you aren’t seeing the gradual build-up that you’d expect toward success doesn’t mean that you won’t end in the same place. Hold on to hope and don’t rush. Rapid promotion often comes when you least expect it!

If you have ever been like me and felt overwhelmed with trying to achieve the call you know God has placed on your life, I hope you find rest and peace in this truth. Stop asking what next 10 steps you need to do to achieve greatness and start asking what your lost donkeys are. They are likely right in front of you and someone in authority has already ask you to go find them.

 

Go find your donkeys.

Pursuing Less, Stewarding More

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Growing up in rural Western NY where the average income was less than $40k a year was a great place to start my life. In this beautiful country of backroads and family farms, a BMW 3-series turns head. Here, a 7-series won’t get a second glance. Going to college isn’t a given back there, and those that do often end up leaving to pursue opportunities elsewhere. If you’ve wondered at all why Trump won, I can give you some good perspective….but that’s a post for another day.

By contrast, Texas is a veritable sea of comparison! Looks seem to be everything and the parade of big homes and expensive cars never end. You can be an up and coming manager with a 6-figure salary, slightly used car, and decent home and still feel like a failure as soon as you step out the door. The bar is set so high that it can feel like a constant struggle just trying to keep up.

Given this backdrop of two worlds, I often find myself torn between being a simple country boy and an up and coming Fortune 500 executive. I am concerned about how I will ever reach the level of success I see all around me. While I am doing extremely well by almost any measure, I see the end of my 20’s fast approaching and wonder if I could have made “Millionaire by 30” status if I had done some things differently over the last 10 years. Many will point to my mild successes and encourage me by comparison, saying that very few are the true wunderkinds and all in all things are going well.

I am grateful for what I have, but I feel a constant self-imposed pressure to do more, achieve more, and find a way come hell or high water to achieve the grand destiny I have pictured in my mind….

…but what if the only way to get true success is to pursue “less”? [tweetthis]what if the only way to get true success is to pursue “less”?[/tweetthis]

Matthew 6:33 says “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”. What are the things Jesus is talking about here? Backing up to verses 31 & 32 shows that He is talking about our needs. Now, what is referenced is the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. However, don’t you think that God has more than that in mind for us and that He will provide everything we need to accomplish that as well?

God designed us to be partners with Him on earth. John 14:12 says “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”. He left us here on earth with the work just beginning. He came down and patiently waited 30 years before starting a 3 year ministry. That time was enough for Him to accomplish everything needed to put the Church in motion. After His ascension, there were only 120 believers gathered in the Upper Room, waiting to receive the Power promised to expand the Church. It was this power that grew the Church by 3,000 in a single day, and continued to take it to literally every part of the known world.

Imagine if the disciples and the rest of those gathered that day had decided to pursue “more”? What if in their zeal they headed out to far away cities to spread the news of Jesus’ glorious resurrection, rather than waiting as He had commanded (Luke 24:49)? I have to admit that I’d have been tempted to do just that. I’d have dusted off my MBA, put together a team, and built a strategy for reaching the world with a 5-year plan. I’d have been so focused on the future, I’d have missed the present. I’d be so busy seeking the promise, that I’d have missed the Presence.

The work that God called us to is far greater than anything we could do on our own. On our own we may accomplish some good things, but we will not accomplish Good things. Satan loves to use this trick, lulling people in to a false sense of success by having them do just enough good that they miss the big picture. He allows them to go unharmed as they seek everything but the One who gives it all.

Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” We often ask God to give us wisdom, and it is right that we do (James 1:5), but how many who lack wisdom have gone back to its beginning; the fear of the LORD? What if we chose to pursue the fear of the Lord alone? How do we come to fear Him? Simply by knowing Him! Paul writes in Ephesians 3 that his heart’s desire is simply that the Church would come to understand the “breadth and height and length and depth” (v.18) of God’s love. It is remarkable that he didn’t pray that they would bring more to Christ, baptize more, or pray more. Paul knew that all of those things would follow if people would just begin to understand who God is.

Lately I have been trying to focus on simply knowing God more. Worshiping Him, hearing His voice, obeying His commands. These are simple things that anyone can do, but they are so much harder than the “great” things. In this, God gave me a picture recently that I believe applies to my own life.

Hiram was king of Tyre and a friend and ally of David prior to Solomon’s reign. In 1 Kings 5 we see that he congratulated Solomon on his kingship and Solomon replied by asking for timber to build the Temple. Hiram was able to gladly supply the cedars of Lebanon to allow Solomon to complete the Lord’s work.

What struck me about this story is that Hiram did not plant the cedars. These massive trees had likely lived hundreds of years before he entered the picture. God had taken care of the planting, watering, and growth of the forests, but Hiram was the one who was stewarding them and able to deliver them for this project at that time. In the same way, I realized that the work God has called me to is much greater than what could be accomplished with things that I could plant and grow in my own lifetime. He has been preparing and growing something for me to steward long before I came on the scene. My role now is simply to hear and obey, rather than seek to build and grow.

He has the same things for you. If you have felt overwhelmed by a desire to do good works, I encourage you in this: God has not called you to accomplish Good things alone. [tweetthis]God has not called you to accomplish Good things alone [/tweetthis] He has called you to seek the Kingdom. Knowing Him is the wellspring from which every Good thing flows. I implore you to stop seeking the promise and to start seeking the Presence. You don’t want the promise anyhow if you don’t have Him

As I’ve though about what is most important in life, I’ve realized that the only thing I really want is to know Christ and be known by Christ. If at the end of my life I put all of myself in to this one task and fail at everything else, I will have been a success. If I succeed in the world’s eyes, I will know it is because of Him, not me. I am not perfect in my pursuit, but I am pursuing. I encourage you to do the same. Take your eyes off of the good things around you, and seek His presence. He’s worth it.

Is a lack of Faith limiting your Ability?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I stood on the edge of a 300′ canyon, palms clammy and heart racing as I looked down through the narrow walls and in to the raging river below. Hesitant, I visualized the steps needed to make a successful jump, thinking through each piece to make sure I wouldn’t mess it up. After a few long seconds, there could be no more delay. I stepped off the edge in to free fall…..

My younger brother, Benjamin, and I took a trip of a lifetime through Europe this Summer (2016). We began in Italy, spending time in the Tuscan mountains and Ligurian coast, before a short weekend in the French Alps, followed by several days in Switzerland. It was here in a land of surreal alpine views, countless waterfalls, and pristine lakes that the above adventure played out.

Benjamin has always been more of a risk taker and adrenaline junkie than I. The one thing he wanted to do more than anything while in Switzerland was a canyon swing. This is certainly the place to do it, with one of the highest and most daring swings in the world. Canyon swings differ from bungee jumping in that they allow for true free fall for a long distance before catching the arc of the swing and rushing along the ground and back up, before eventually coming to a stop. The proximity of walls on either side, combined with the unrestricted free fall leave most people saying it is more of a thrill than a bungee jump.

After thankfully surviving the canyon swing, the next day led us to an even more challenging adventure of canyoning one of the most intense and difficult commercial canyons available. Canyoning sounds simple in that it is essentially working your way down a canyon through a series of jumps, slides (think a natural water slide carved in to the rock), and rappels. Sounds easy until you’re standing on the edge of a 40′ waterfall being told to jump in to a tiny pool of water below, this time with no rope attached. O, by the way, make sure you swim out of the pool as soon as you land or you may get swept over an even bigger drop….

Opposed to the canyon swing, which was a big thrill that lasted mere minutes, canyoning was 2 1/2 hours of frigid water, rushing slides, and those big jumps over waterfalls and rock ledges. Physically it was a challenge, but mustering the courage to face each feature left me pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone again and again.

Swiss Waterfall

I am naturally very risk adverse. I tend to only take very calculated risks after weighing the options and risk/reward for a long time. When I do embark, I tend to proceed cautiously, feeling for a secure foothold before I release my last one. I saw this on the edge of the canyon as I carefully visualized each step, holding on to the rope and taking the least risky position for the plunge. By comparison, some of my fellow adventures took flying leaps, headfirst and spread eagle, with seemingly no concern for the consequences. One canyon swing participant ended up with a close call as he did a full 360 rotation on the way down, narrowly missing the rope entangling him and leading to a nasty end. The canyoning was similar, although more controlled, as I saw my careful visualization before each challenging jump, compared to the other’s carefree jumps.

Taking a risk that requires you to get outside of your comfort zone shows you a lot about yourself. The same way you approach the edge of a cliff is likely the way you approach a business deal, or new relationship. When you come through one of these experiences unscathed, it also teaches you that getting out of your comfort zone likely isn’t going to kill you, and instead you’ll have a great story and memory! After the trip I found myself thinking a lot about these concepts. In hindsight, these were some of the best memories we made, and I wouldn’t have done them if not for my brother’s prompting.

God spoke to me clearly in the days following our time in Switzerland that my fear of risk is holding me back from achieving the potential He has placed inside of me. He has given me gifts and talents that are currently being invested for a meager return due to my hesitancy and fear (lack of faith) to step out in to the unknown. For example, I know I have abilities in business, speaking, and leadership that are best in class, but currently they are used in exchange for a comfortable salary rather than launching out with my own business and potentially limitless returns in finances and influence.

It isn’t pride to acknowledge that through God’s grace He has placed certain talents within you that must be carefully stewarded. God expects us to fully use our ability. Even demands it! The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 talks about how the Master (God) gave each servant in accordance with his ability (v.15). Upon His return, He was not upset that they had varying levels of ability, but that they did not all invest in accordance with the ability they had. The servant who had buried his talent was severely punished for not at least taking a level of risk in giving it to the bank to earn some interest! Note that the Master didn’t expect that servant to go out and start a business, invest in futures, or undertake some other type of daring, high risk investment. He just asked him to do something in accordance with his faith. At the end of the story we see that the servant who had the most received the talent that the other servant didn’t invest wisely. I imagine that the other two servants weren’t born with a level of ability where they could be trusted with their two and five talents, but rather it came through a series of tests that challenged and built their own faith.

In the Kingdom, faith is the currency of ability. God isn’t just looking for those with the most natural talent, but those who trust Him enough to let Him use them fully. God can do more with someone with seemingly small talent but tremendous faith than someone with the reverse. Faith is the ability we need to do great things for God, not natural talent. Yes, God gives us that too, but it is through faith that we can exercise those muscles of talent. Talent without faith is not ability.

How often do you get outside of your comfort zone? Is your return being limited by your lack of risk? I encourage you to embrace things that challenge your fear and build your faith. It is only by pushing those boundaries that our faith is grown to the point that we can do all that God has planned for us.