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Posts Tagged ‘Will of God’

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Proponents of the prosperity gospel use selected Bible verses to support their claim that if you follow a series of faith principles, Jesus Christ will bless you with financial wealth, health, and amazing success in all areas of life.

The problem is that these preachers and teachers often use verses such as Psalm 1:1-3 or John 10:10 out of context and twist them to build self-aggrandizing ministries that emphasize financial wealth and success, but neglect a more comprehensive range of Biblical teaching. They become rich through the financial support of gullible followers who blindly fund their ministries in the hope that they, the followers, will experience material and financial success.

Paul calls these people “false teachers” for whom “religion is just a way to get rich” (I Tim. 6:3, 5, NLT), and he warns that:

. . . people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (I Tim. 6:9,10, NLT)

Psalm 1: 1-3 describes the joy of people who delight in God’s Scripture and do his will:

They are like trees planted along the river bank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.” (NLT)

These false teachers interpret “prosper” to mean primarily material and financial prosperity. However, the real meaning of the passage is not that people who delight in God will be blessed with material prosperity—but that they, being deep-rooted in God’s Scripture and in obeying him, will have everything they’ll need to sustain their lives and bear fruit in all circumstances.

And what is this fruit? According to the Apostle Paul:

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

The prosperity preachers and teachers also use John 10:10 in which Jesus says,

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (NKJV).

While they interpret “abundantly” to primarily mean financial and material success, the context of this verse does not imply that. John 10:10 must be seen in the wider context of chapters 8, 9, and 10 in which the Pharisees are seeking to kill Jesus because he has been exposing them for what they are—blind leaders, thieves, and robbers who lead people astray with their false and burdensome teachings and requirements.

In contrast, Jesus describes himself as (a) the “Good Shepherd” (Jn. 10:14) who protects and cares for his true flock (his followers), and (b) the “gate” through which his sheep must enter the sheepfold and find protection and nourishment:

Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. Wherever they go, they will find green pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” (John 10: 9-10, NLT)

Here Jesus asserts that he is the only way to eternal life and salvation and that he alone can infuse in us a fullness and superabundance of life and vitality for our here-and-now.

Other passages provide additional expressions of our fruitfulness, prosperity, and abundance from God as expressed through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit:

• Answered prayers, fruitfulness, love, and overflowing joy—John 15:7, 8, 11, 12

• Godly lives that are rich in faith, moral excellence, knowledge of God, self-control, patient endurance, love for everyone, and productive living—2 Peter 1:3-9

• Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—Galatians 5:22-23

• Overflowing hope, happiness, and peace—Romans 15:13

• Wonderful divine peace beyond human understanding—Philippians 4:7

• Contentment in whatever state we’re in—Philippians 4:11

So, does faith in Jesus Christ lead to health, wealth, and success?

The answer is “Yes” and “No”—no, in the sense that faith in Jesus Christ does not guarantee material wealth, health, or success; but yes, in the far more important sense that all who are rooted in God through faith and love in Jesus Christ are blessed with spiritual fruitfulness and “filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

With such fullness of life and divine fruitfulness, we are indeed wealthy with God’s richest blessings—whether we are sick or healthy, rich or poor, absent in body or present with the Lord.

And yes, it is good for us to make plans about succeeding in our health, education, career, business, and making a profit, but it should always be with the attitude—“If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-16)

And may our journey with Christ reflect the prayer expressed in Proverbs 30:8-9:

. . . give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” (NLT)

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I recently watched with fascination as Nik Wallenda walked across a high wire 1,500 feet above the Grand Canyon floor without a safety harness. And as he inched his way across the empty span of nearly five football fields, he constantly thanked and praised Jesus.

Nik, a Christian, is a seventh generation member of the Wallenda family of high-wire performers, and began walking the wire at age four.

But could you or I accomplish such a feat? After all, have we not believed or quoted Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? (King James Version, KJV)

When the Apostle Paul penned those words to the Philippians, did he mean that Jesus Christ would grant us superhuman abilities to accomplish anything we imagine?

Could we use that verse to affirm our way to earthly riches, as proponents of the “prosperity” gospel try to do?

Many believers quote Philippians 4:13 and try to apply it to their lives without fully understanding the context in which the Apostle Paul wrote it.

He was imprisoned in Rome and was writing to Christians at the church in Philippi to encourage them to be joyful and contented in every circumstance because of their faith in Jesus Christ, even when things went badly for them. He also wrote to thank them for their financial gift to him in prison, and added:

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. But even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” (Phil.4: 11-14, New Living Translation, NLT)

The “everything” or “all things” refers specifically to Paul’s ability to be contented and joyful in all circumstances that life threw at him. Because he relied on Christ to strengthen him and supply his needs, he could be thankful and joyful:

• Whether in times of plenty or times of great need, in feast or famine
• Whether preaching the Good News in prison or on the outside (Phil. 1: 3-7; 12-14)
• Whether living and suffering for Christ or dying for him (Phil. 1: 20-24; 27-30)

His was a joyful acceptance of Christ’s will and provision for him in every aspect of life.

And that should be our attitude in our journey with Christ—finding in his will equal contentment and joy whether in wealth or poverty, sickness or health, fame or obscurity, failure or success, marriage or singleness.

Can we do all things? Only those things that are within Christ’s will and plan for us, in which case he will give us the strength and resources to do them. He does not give us superhuman abilities to accomplish anything we want if they do not serve his purpose or are not in his best interest for us.

The Apostle James warns about self-confidence and rushing ahead with our own plans and desires without regard for God’s will:

“Look here, you people who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16, NLT)

Solomon expressed this succinctly when he wrote in Proverbs 17:9, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” (NLT)

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 8.01.04 PMOn Sunday, June 23, 2013 I saw Philippians 4:13 and Proverbs 17:9 lived out over the Grand Canyon as Nik’s years of training and planning proved successful when the Lord guided his steps safely across that high-wire.

Nik became the first human to tightrope across the Grand Canyon, and a worldwide television audience of millions saw and heard him thank and praise Jesus Christ.

Can I accomplish that same feat? As of now, no, because so far it doesn’t seem to be in God’s plan, training, or mission for me. And I am certainly okay with that.

 

 

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“God, please kill my parents!”

I was sixteen when I uttered that prayer in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was in the midst of my teenage rebellion and I hated my mother and stepfather, so when they drove off across town to visit friends, I asked God to kill them in a car accident!

Hours later when they returned, I was disappointed that God had not answered my prayer.

I was not a Christian then, but even Christians are sometimes disappointed in the ways in which God responds to prayers.

Our pastor recently shared a true story of a group of Christian women who, while on a retreat in the mountains, decided to hike to the top of a nearby peak during the afternoon. However, a fierce rain and lightning storm blew in suddenly while they were on the peak. Fearing that they would be struck by lightning, they prayed repeatedly that God would stop the lightning, but the lightning continued as they made their way back to the retreat center. They were greatly disappointed that God did not answer their prayers when their lives were in danger.

But another group of women was rejoicing at the center. They, too, had been caught in the storm and had been trapped in a river ravine where the rising waters of a flash flood threatened to sweep them away to their death. It was so dark that they prayed that God would show them a way to safety out of the ravine, and God answered their prayer by providing lightning that illuminated a path to safety!

To the women in the ravine, the series of lightning was an unexpected miraculous answer to prayer.

But God also answered the prayers of the women on the mountain peak, for although they prayed specifically for the lightning to stop, their real, unexpressed prayer was, “God, please don’t kill us on this mountain!” And God didn’t.

It’s been said that God always answers prayers—sometimes with a “yes,” sometimes with a “no,” and sometimes with a “not yet.” Obviously, God’s answer to me that day in Belfast was a definite “No!”

It was a “no,” because it was a prayer asking that harm be done to someone.

It was a “no” because it was being asked out of hate.

It was a “no” because it was being asked by a boy who did not understand who God is.

And it was a “no” because God wanted to give my parents and me time to one day discover how much he loved us and wanted to bless us with eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Less than a year later, I found forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ, and I soon began to pray for the salvation of my parents.

My prayers were answered fifty years later in August 2010, when I had the privilege of praying with my mother as she committed her life to Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, my prayers for my stepfather were not answered in the way I hoped, for he died seemingly rejecting Christ.

And the prayers of many others for the healing of loved ones, even for babies and children, have sometimes gone unanswered, leaving families and friends disappointed, bewildered, and angry at God.

Such disappointment is often intensified when those who prayed did so in faith (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24), in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14), and with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7).

So how do we pray in a way that does not leave us disappointed?

Several passages have guided me over the years on how to pray, and the one thing that they have in common is the emphasis to pray for something if it is in line with God’s will, in harmony with God’s will, or if it is the will or purpose of God.

The first is Matthew 6:10 in which Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, “May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.”

The second is a pair of passages (Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42) that describe the scene in which Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and he knew that he would be crucified the following day. He told his heavenly father that he did not want to go through with the crucifixion, but then added, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (New Living Translation, 2007, NLT)

The third is Romans 8:26-27 (NLT) where the apostle Paul, knowing how confused we can become about praying, tells us:

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s will.

And recognizing that even when the answer is not to our liking (think of Jesus accepting his crucifixion), Paul assures us that “ . . . we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Verse 28)

The fourth passage is 1 John 5:13-14 (NLT), where the apostle John states:

I write this to you who believe in the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. And we can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for.

Only when we are committed to truly seeking to live in line with God’s will and purpose—and not our own—will we not be disappointed in how God answers our prayers, for we know that whatever happens, God causes everything to work together for our good.

It’s then that we’ll be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will.

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