Yet we both had to acknowledge that we have what we need when we need it.
“Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:31-33 NKJV).
There could be many reasons for a Christian not prospering, such as sin in one’s life. The Proverbs say,
He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy
(Prov. 28:13 NKJV).
I don’t believe I have any more sin in my life than most of the Christians I know, who are prospering way beyond what they need. I have concluded that for me, it is because the Lord wants me to keep seeking Him and be totally dependent upon Him in all situations. It is living by faith. I don’t have an abundance, but I do have what I need when I need it by faith.
Jesus also said,
“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15 NKJV).
It is comforting to me that Paul, who seems to be the most saintly person in the Bible–excluding Jesus–seemed to have the same “just what you need” prosperity my friend and I have. Actually, he was many times in worst need than I have ever been–and that while constantly risking his life to preach the Gospel. We cannot blame his lack of prosperity on sin in his life. Paul said,
“. . . men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 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” (1 Tim. 6:5-10 NKJV).
I have heard many preachers who were doing just what Paul warned against: teaching godliness was a means of material prosperity. It seemed like their goal in life was to become rich using biblical principles and milking their flock for all they could get. Like the scriptures say,
Thus says the Lord my God, "Feed the flock for slaughter, whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, 'Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich'; and their shepherds do not pity them” (Zech. 11:4-5 NKJV).
They never seem to be content with what they have; they always want more. They build great empires and name ministries after their own names.
Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, their dwelling places to all generations;
They call their lands after their own names (Ps. 49:11 NKJV).
But if I am honest, I too want more prosperity than what I have so far experienced. In the U.S. according to my income, I would be considered poor. However, I know I have more than about 80% of the population of the world, and they would consider me rich. I have not totally learned Paul’s secret yet.
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13 NASB).
The Greek word for “secret” here is interesting. It is mueo and means “to initiate into mysteries.” It is from the root word musterion, which is where we get the word “mystery.” Strong’s and other dictionaries say it means:
“a hidden thing, secret, mystery, religious secrets only to the initiated and not to ordinary mortals”
Obviously many prosperity teachers have not been initiated into this secret that Paul learned about being content. What was this “secret” Paul learned? I don’t know for sure, but I have some ideas based on Paul’s writings.
1. Paul kept his eyes on the prize.
“. . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:10-14 NKJV).
2. Paul found joy in sacrificing himself for others.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy (Phil. 1:3-4 NKJV).
3. Paul found comfort in the Lord’s presence.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4 NKJV).
What is somewhat troubling is that Paul exhorted Christians to imitate him. Paul told the Corinthians,
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1 NKJV).
Who would want to imitate Paul, who was imitating Christ? Would we not much rather imitate the prosperity teachers who get rich off the Gospel? The prosperity teachers point to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who all got rich following God. However, I have talked with some of these teachers and tried to use Old Testament examples for other doctrines; but if they don’t like the doctrine, they simply say the Old Testament examples don’t apply for New Testament people. But if they like the doctrine, the Old Testament examples are to be imitated even over Paul’s example.
The Old Testament priests did not get an inheritance of land.
Then the Lord said to Aaron: "You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel” (Num. 18:20 NKJV).
What a wonderful inheritance–God Himself! Is not this the inheritance of the New Testament priests?
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11 NKJV).
If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.
(2 Tim. 2:12 NKJV).
One thing Paul made clear was that we are not to seek after getting rich.
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 (1 Tim. 6:9 NKJV).
The Proverbs say something similar,
Weary not thyself to be rich; Cease from thine own wisdom (Prov. 23:4 ASV).
Neither do the Scriptures teach us to reject riches if God decides to allow us to have them. We would all do well to strive to learn Paul’s secret of being content in all situations. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”