Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Gospel of Prosperity

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Psalm 51:18

It is an interesting way to conclude a prayer of humble confession. Yes, this prayer of confession really does end with a prayer for prosperity. David is so bold as to not only ask God for mercy, but also to ask God that he would bless him, and not only him but all of Israel!

What David is requesting is completely different from the modern "health and wealth gospel" prayers for prosperity. Those prayers for prosperity have one fatal flaw in them. They are prayers for prosperity for the purpose of the delight of the person praying the prayer. Not so with David. He has lived a little, self-focused life. He has now been caught up in the call to live large, that is, for a kingdom greater than his own. This prayer is evidence that he's learned the lesson of the danger of living for his own delight. This prayer for prosperity is the result of a radically changed heart.
As I was thinking about this, I thought how close sin and self-focus are. When we are bound up in our sin, it’s all about us. We are not focused on God or other people. It’s all about our kingdom and pleasure.

Why does David pray for prosperity? For one reason, he asks it for the glory and delight of the Lord. Give wisdom to a man who is living for God's kingdom and he'll use that wisdom to advance God's kingdom. Give money to a man who loves God's kingdom and he'll look for ways to invest that money in kingdom causes. Give a house to a person who seeks God's kingdom and his house will be a place of hospitality, love, and ministry. David prays for prosperity, not for his glory but for the glory of the Lord to whom his heart has now turned.
As our heart turns away from sin, a whole new focus is gained. God and other people become more important. Our thoughts are on what can be done to advance God’s kingdom and to help other people.

The truth though is that we are never completely free from sin and we will never be completely other focused. It will be back and forth. You might say we will have our good days and our bad days. Still, we move forward by God’s grace and mercy.

When people are blessed by the Lord they turn to him in humble, sacrificial worship. It's in those moments when I am cogently aware of God's forgiveness and gratefully aware of his undeserved blessing that I willingly offer to him what I would have once held to tightly. When I've quit looking for satisfaction in the created world and begin to find my satisfaction in the Lord, then I'm willing to hold loosely to the things that once held me. It's here that my delight is the Lord's delight.
So in our failure we get the opportunity of experiencing grace and mercy. Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Romans 5:20 In the back and forth between sin and forgiveness, we get a bigger and bigger glimpse of how much better Jesus is than the sins that entice us.

So is it right to pray for prosperity? It is and you should, not for the sake of your kingdom, but for the success of his. Not for the sake of your delight, but for his. You see, when God prospers people who are living for him, they use that blessing to serve him all the more, and for this he gets glory and in this he finds great delight.
Here is a question from the meditation:

What kind of blessing do you crave? What are the "good things" that you wish God would give you? If you had your way, how would God prosper you?
To be honest I have to say that money is my first answer. There never seems to be enough. Yet the truth is that my needs have always been met and there is money in the bank. Maybe what I crave is cushion. I want to see the future taken care of. I don’t want to have to trust up to the last minute.

My better answer is to be prospered with a better vision of God’s kingdom. I want to remember the feeling of being caught up in that; the experience of time passing and not thinking of self and its desires.

Philip
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