Thursday, January 19, 2012

If God is For Us ...


Today I am going to begin with a couple of amazing promises from God's word.
What then shall we say to these things? If God [is] for us, who [can be] against us?  Romans 8:31 NKJV

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue [which] rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This [is] the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness [is] from Me," Says the LORD.  Isaiah 54:17 NKJV
With Scripture like this, it would seem that nothing should ever go wrong for us.  In fact, that is what some people teach.  Some teachers are of the mindset that God will prosper us in all that we do.  Unfortunately, that idea is not Scriptural.  The way to understand these Scriptures is to understand just what it means for God to be with us.  Please understand, Scripture is clear that God is not just automatically for us in all that we do.  We can not just decide what we want to do and do it and expect whatever we touch to turn to gold.  Its a nice idea, but its a wrong idea and will only serve to lead us into trouble and discouragement.  The first part of understanding this Scripture is to check it against other Scripture and the one I will share is one we all know well. 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
The truth is not that God is for us in whatever we do, but God is for us when we are with Him and acting according to His will.  Taking the argument that God will prosper all that we do to its logical end means that God will prosper us in our sin.  If we purpose to commit adultery, God will find us the most beautiful woman imaginable and make sure we never get caught.  If we purpose ourselves to be a thief, we will become one of the top burglars in the world.  If we purpose ourselves to be a murderer, then we will be a walking massacre yet never get caught.  Of course all of those are ridiculous ideas, but that is the logical end of the idea that God will prosper us in all that we do. 

So what if we change the argument to say that God will prosper all that we do, so long as it is not a sinful thing.  That argument works great for the black and white areas that I just mentioned, but what about the areas that are no so black and white.  Will God prosper you over another financially when whatever job or bonus you wanted was needed more by someone else?  Will God prosper you if you purpose to take that job over someone who needs it more?  Maybe that is not a black and white sin, but it is not in consistent with a Christian who follows the Lord and denies himself.  This is a more specific example, but there are many times in life when we are faced with a situation that may not be outright sin, but to act on it means to act outside of the example of Jesus.  Will God prosper us those times as well?  To say that God will prosper our actions when not in the example of Jesus means that God will reward us for our lack of growth.  How can God complete the work in us to make us more like Jesus when He acts to reinforce the attitude that we do not need to be more like Jesus?  For the answer, think about your child and how that child would act if you rewarded bad, selfish, or immature behavior. 

What if we change the rules to where God will bless anything we do that is "good?"  I am talking about things like going to some far off land to preach the Gospel or to give money to a preacher or para-church organization.  I am talking about things that are generally right to do.  Are these things that God will automatically prosper?  Is God going to give you an awesome fruitful time on your missionary trip?  Is God going to open all the doors through customs to make everything run as smoothly as can be?  Even in cases like this, God is not always with us.  I think it is now time to look at some Scripture to show my point and the reasons why God may not be with you even when you are doing His work. 
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.  Acts 16:6-7 NKJV
The "they" in this passage are Paul and his fellow workers.  They came through Phrygia, surely to preach the Gospel yet they were forbidden.  They they tried to go into Bithynia to preach and were not allowed by the Holy Spirit.  In other words, they were fully intending on going to certain places to do right things. They had it in mind to preach the Gospel.  Did God prosper them in what they did?  No, He forbade them to even work.  Do you think God would have prospered their work if they ignored God's injunction and preached anyway?  Would God reward their disobedience, even if the motivation was right?  But would their motivation even have been right?  If God forbids us to do something, even something that would seem to be right, we have to trust that God has a reason.  You can not ever say your motivation is correct if you are acting against the will of God.  If anything, you are putting yourself above God in that you know better.  Paul had the right reaction in obeying God's injunction despite what he intended to do and ultimately followed God to where God wanted him. 

For another example, I need to take us back to the Old Testament. God had given the entire Promised Land to the children of Israel with the command to conquer and kill all who lived in that land.  God promised them the victory and things were going very well after the destruction of Jericho.  Joshua then dispatched a group of soldiers to do the same to the city of Ai only to be routed by the army of Ai.  Did not God promise them victory? Were they not conquering the land just as God has said they should?  Here is God's answer.
So the LORD said to Joshua: "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put [it] among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, [but] turned [their] backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. " Joshua 7:10-12 NKJV
The problem was sin.  Israel had unconfessed and unrepented sin in its midst and while it remained, God was no longer with them in their battles.  Please do not think that God left Israel, it was Israel that left God.  They left God and His protection when they sinned.  They resided outside of the will of God even though what they tried to do seemed to be in God's will.  We can have the same problem in our own lives.  If you wonder why a ministry you are involved in is not growing despite you being as sure as you can be that God has called you to it, you have to examine if there is unconfessed sin that you have not dealt with.  Sin never exists in the will of God and so if we are living in sin, we are not living in God's will.  God will not be with us because we are not with Him.  God will not bless us because God first wants us to deal with our sin. 

One other point I need to bring up is that we can not judge whether or not something is in the will of God by how prosperous it seems to be.  If that were the case, much evil would be in the will of God.  That is never the case.  The prosperity of evil is only a measure of the mercy of God giving that evil time to repent or it is allowed by God to punish other evil (for example, the Babylonians conquering Judah).  Everything needs to be measured against Scripture with the understanding that God will never act outside His word. 

In the end, there is no promise from God to turn everything we touch into gold.  Perhaps you may have heard a message to that effect, but unfortunately you have been misled.  They key to God prospering what you do is for you to do what God wants you to do and to do so with a clean heart.  In other words, for God to be with you, you have to be with God.  To be with God, you have to be in His will in your life and in what you are trying to do.  If you are outside of God, it is not that God is not with you, it is that you are choosing not to be with God.  God will not reward rebellion, but will act to bring you back into His will.  It is a wonderful thought to know that God is with us and that nothing could ever be against us.  It is even more wonderful when we submit our lives and our actions to Him making that thought the reality of our lives. 
Now thanks [be] to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  2 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV

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