“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV).
“Observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go” (I Kings 2:3 NIV).
“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2 NASB).
The Holiness Project – The 5 Spiritual Laws of Success
One of the things that I truly dislike (to not use a stronger word) is the whole prosperity theology thing. As if God is somehow here to give me wealth, health and happiness and help me to achieve my dreams. People who preach this kind of nonsense use verses like I quoted above, especially 3 John 1:2 which, they claim, proves that God wants us to be successful and prosper.
Actually, I do believe that.
What I take exception to is their, obviously, unbiblical definitions of success and prosperity. They claim that John just meant normal financial success in life and that we shouldn’t try to spiritualize it. Well, actually, I agree with that as well. Yes, John is talking about normal financial success (with all of the practical results that entails). No doubt. The question is WHY?
Without the ability to ask John directly to contextualize his words for us, we have to turn to the larger teaching of Scripture to find out what John is referring to here by “prosperity” and “success.” From a practical point of view, I doubt that it looks much different between a Christian and a non-Christian in terms of the amount of money being made but it does (and should) look very different on the side of Stewardship.
Therefore we need to look at the context of stewardship to find the major difference between prosperity theology and the prosperity meant here by John.
I always appreciated the teaching of John Wesley on the topic of Stewardship. He said, “Make as much money as you can. Save as much money as you can. Give as much money as you can.” No doubt we need to understand the point about making as much money as we can in the context of integrity, legality and social norms. Adding value instead of taking advantage. No doubt.
So on the first point we can agree. Making money isn’t a bad thing. The love of money is the root of all kinds of sin but the making of money itself is a necessary part of living on this earth behind enemy lines, supporting ourselves while we go about our mission for the King.
But that second point puts the lie to Prosperity Theology in a big way. They teach that it is justified to live in big, expensive houses, fly around the world for pleasure and spend money to their hearts content on whatever pleases them. After all, they would say, God has blessed me so I am free to live my life any way I choose.
Not so. At least not for Christians. We have a purpose. Our resources have a purpose. Certainly taking care of our needs (and the ones we are responsibile for) is part of that purpose and therefore money can be (and must be) spent on houses, cars, education and the like. How much and in what ways is up to each individual. That is what the Bible calls Stewardship.
It starts with a recognition that all of the resources of the earth belong to our Father. If He makes some available to us, it is for our use as His agents in a troubled world and for the purpose of the furthering of His Kingdom.
That is where the third rule of John Wesley comes in. We live a simple life, saving as much as we can in terms of our own needs, in order to free up the resources for the work of the Kingdom, what he called “giving as much as we can.”
No one is going to judge your stewardship, or mine, until the Master returns but we can still judge our attitude towards money whether we love it or whether we are wise enough to use it as a tool for the building of the Kingdom. We must judge, at least in ourselves, what our intentions are, what are purpose is, what our approach, posture and language is around money in order to evaluate the maturity of our Stewardship.
Ok, so I think I’ve made my point that I am not in favor of the whole prosperity theology movement that has plagued the Western church for the past 30 years or so. But one more thing needs to be said about the overall approach to money and resources from a Biblical point of view.
There is a fundamental difference between the Old Testament ethos and the New Testament ethos and culture when it comes to how God uses us for the furtherance of His Kingdom.
Some things are obvious, such as the fact that God established a nation in a specific place which was to be a light to the nations. At it’s height, during the reigns of David and Solomon, we can see what God had in mind, but mostly it was an unmitigated disaster. Still, God needed a specific ethnic, religious and culture context for the coming of the Messiah so that we could understand the spiritual dynamics of what happened that day on a cross over 2000 years ago outside of Jerusalem.
But, after the resurrection, everything changed.
Now it wasn’t only about the Jews and their fight for freedom and independence from Rome. It was about the world. We, who follow the King, are now strangers and wanderers in this land, hoping for a new Jerusalem and a new Israel for all people in the coming Kingdom of God both here on earth and, ultimately, in the new heavens and the new earth.
Do you see the basic difference (among many others)? Most of the prosperity talk of the Old Testament is based on that particular purpose of God to provide a physical nation as the context for redemption. In the New Testament, the focus is not on the blessings of God in the land as we follow the Mosaic law, but on the blessings of God as wanderers and strangers as we follow the law of love that freed us from the law of death.
In fact, the New Testament is far more difficult than the Old Testament and, don’t forget, that the Old Testament plan didn’t work out very well. The people were faithless, rebellious, adulterous and God had to accomplish his plans despite them instead of with them. There were exceptions of course, but, by and large, that was the case. The people of Israel had hard hearts.
But God determined to change our hearts by giving us the Holy Spirit as a consequence of a new relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. We, who follow Him now in this New Testament age, have hearts made of flesh. We want what He wants. We are willing to suffer for the gospel as He suffered for the gospel. The church is the new Israel and she is the invisible bride of Christ who wants to follow, who wants to be faithful, who wants to sacrifice everything to please her beloved. The New Testament church, the true bride of Christ, is made up of the Davids, the Solomons, the saints of old, the heroes of faith all brought into a new, glorious relationship with God through faith in Christ Jesus.
That is who we are. It isn’t about prosperity in exchange for blessing but, rather, a blessing that brings prosperity so that we can be a blessing. The intent of the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New.
And it makes a world of difference. Too many Christians today are living their lives as Old Testament citizens instead of New Testament saints. We should expect to suffer. We should expect difficulty, and persecution, and trials and temptations. We still need resources. We still need to function within the world’s financial systems. No doubt. We are behind enemy lines and need to learn the language, use the wisdom of the world, take advantage in the right way, of the resources that are available to us. Wise as serpents (i.e. wise as the people of the world) but innocent as doves (i.e. innocent of any wrongdoing as children of the King).
The difference in purpose, in perspective, in attitude, in expectation, in intention, in execution of our plans is all possible because there is a difference in our heart. Because we are new creatures in Christ, we have a different perspective on prosperity and success. Period.
So, why have I called this post The 5 Spiritual Laws of Success (for Christians)? Good question….
Let’s start by talking about the 4 Spiritual Laws that Bill Bright from Campus Crusade for Christ wrote about in his book. Everyone is familiar with them, right?
- God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life (John 3:16, John 10:10)
- Humanity is tainted by sin and is therefore separated from God. As a result, we cannot know God’s wonderful plan for our lives (Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23).
- Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin. Through Jesus Christ, we can have our sins forgiven and restore a right relationship with God (Rom. 5:18, I Corinthians 15:3-4, John 14:6).
- We must place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour in order to receive the gift of salvation and know God’s wonderful plan for our lives (John 1:12, Acts 16:31, Eph. 2:8-9).
Good stuff. There has been a lot of discussion about the 4 Spiritual Laws and whether or not they are accurate and helpful but they have stood the test of time and we can accept them for the gems that they are.
But that doesn’t mean that they cover everything and that there are no other spiritual laws to talk about. There are two aspects of these 4 Spiritual Laws that I would like to point out here. The first is that the statement “God has a wonderful plan for your life” is a recurring theme throughout these 4 Laws. I actually agree wholeheartedly with this perspective on the Christian life. But Mr. Bright has shown us the door to this new life and how to enter in, but he hasn’t really explained how we find out and live out this wonderful life that God has in store for us.
The focus, obviously, is on Salvation and not on Christian living specifically (and that’s okay). In the fourth law he also mentions accepting Jesus as our Saviour but doesn’t talk about accepting him as our Lord. Not really an oversight, just a limitation of purpose because of his focus on evangelism rather than anything else.
So, building on these four spiritual laws is a whole life of discipleship that comes after. A life of accepting and following Jesus as our Lord (as well as our Saviour). A life with a new identity in Christ, a new purpose in Christ, a new significance in Christ as we participate in God’s great rescue operation of mankind. This new identity, purpose and significance gives us a new responsibility and meaning to our lives. This is what makes our lives “wonderful.”
Yes, yes, I know. There will be suffering, and scarcity at times. There will be difficulties, persecution and trials but we will consider them all a small price to pay to obtain the pearl of great price – His pleasure.
What? Are you crazy? What are you talking about? Pain and persecution? I didn’t sign up for that. No way, man. I’m out of here…..
You can imagine what someone might say when they are just a new-born Christian. You have to grow into it, no doubt. I remember telling my wife when she first got pregnant that there was a reason that God fills our hearts with hope and wonder at this new life that is His gift to us. If we focus too much on the sleepless nights, the wailing of the baby (and sometimes the mother), the dirty diapers, the worry, the pain that love can bring, I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would undertake such a project.
But it is still true….that the best things in life are free (marriage, babies, a relationship with God) but they cost you everything. That’s the way relationships are. That’s the nature of love in a world in rebellion against it’s Creator.
These are dangerous times but He is faithful and there is still joy and hope and pleasure even though they are often accompanied by pain, and difficulty and temptation. Love will always win the day but the battle is still very real. This is no path for weak faith….
The point is that there is still more to say. Before we can get to the Biblical understanding of prosperity and success, we need to pass through the gateway of Christ and enter into a new relationship with God through the blood of the lamb. There is no other way. That is why this post is for Christians.
Some people may want to take these 5 Spiritual Laws of Success and apply them indiscriminantely to everyone no matter who they are or what their spirituality consists of. And there are aspects of universal laws involved since we are all created by God in a certain way, and we work and function in a certain way. No doubt.
Just like a couple who comes to me for counseling but aren’t Christians….can I help them? Of course. Communication skills, relationship attitudes, dealing with the mindset of both couples to bring them into alignment with God’s universal, creational laws, will definitely help. But they will lack the power of the Holy Spirit and a purpose that goes beyond their marriage and they will be lost for all eternity. Not a small thing.
But these 5 Spiritual Laws for Success are for Christians. They are exclusive, relational and optional. Yes, you heard that right. Optional. There is no condemnation. There is no requirement. Love accepts but it also expects. It expects the best for us and from us because love wants us to fulfill our God-given potential. Just like any parent for their child. It is optional but it is still expected that we will make every effort out of love to please the One who has given us new life.
Yes, these laws are exclusive. Of course. It is the difference between a single guy learning how to pick up girls in the bar and a married man learning how to love his wife. One is inclusive. Which girl is up to him and it might change from Friday night to Friday night. But your wife is your wife. The relationship is exclusive. As it should be. These 5 Spiritual Laws of Success are for Christians who are the bride of Christ and seek, as their ultimate ambtion, to please Him.
And yes, these laws are relational. You can’t excape it. In fact, the whole Bible is based on the truth that life is relational. Our relationship with God is fundamental to everything else in life. Without our soul prospering, we cannot prosper in any meaningful way on a creational level. Our relationship with ourselves is also fundamental, even though secondary, and until we understand our new identity and purpose in Christ and what that means for who we are, we cannot prosper in any meaningful way as a Christian. And our relationships with others is also crucial to our success in any endeavor we might undertake.
The third of these, in terms of our relationships with others, the normal success books will talk about extensively. They will also talk, to a certain extent, about your relationship with yourself, but not give you the solutions that come from the Word of God. They might even talk about spirituality, or God, or something similiar but, here the waters get muddy, either because the spirituality has no basis in the Word of God or it is a spirituality that serves the purpose of success rather than being the foundation for success and prospertity in our lives.
So, yes, these 5 Spiritual Laws of Success for Christians are exclusive, relational and optional and that’s what makes them both difficult and glorious. We will explore all of them in the posts to come but I will mention them here.
The 5 Spiritual Laws of Success
- Everything is Spiritual
- Ambition is Expected
- Discipline is Essential
- Stewardship is Simplicity
- Leadership is Influence
Some of these themes you have heard me speak about before in my other posts but now I will go into more depth and integrate them all into a path to follow as we seek out that wonderful plan that God has for our lives. Enjoy the journey.
The Desert Warrior
Lord, I know that you have a wonderful plan for my life. I also know that your goal is for me to become like Jesus Christ and dedicate my life to the furtherance of your Kingdom using my skills, talents and dreams you have put within me. These are exciting times. Give me the faith, freedom and focus to work out my salvation in fear and trembling. I look forward to the journey, knowing you are with me every step of the way. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.