This week I was the recipient of a rather harsh & disturbing comment from a visitor to my website. He was upset by my assertion that our success in life in regards to wealth, business, and prosperity is tied to our action, or “works” as he put it. His contention was that we are all under grace and that all attention should be focused on God and nothing that we do impacts the way God works in our lives. His exact quote is as follows:
“According to you, our tithe brings the blessing. That's called the prosperity gospel. That's called works. ‘If we do this, then God will do that.’ He doesn't work that way.”
I typically don’t take the time to respond to negative e-mails or comments; however I felt as if this topic was far too important to ignore. The attitude of “let go and let God” is pervasive in the church and, not only is it unscriptural, but it’s keeping us poor, sick, and ineffective for the Kingdom of God. “If you do this, then God will do that” is EXACTLY how God works!
The Bible is filled with if/then relationships that apply to God’s people. There are literally hundreds of conditional statements in the Bible, including dozens in the book of Proverbs alone, many of which explain an action that is required of us by God and a reward if we obey. Do any of these sound familiar?
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, emphasis added)
“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” (Prov. 21:13)
“If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will always be secure.” (Prov. 29:14)
Though God is immutable (does not change), I am assuming that these verses would be disregarded by my friend because they are from the Old Testament. I assume from his comment regarding “grace” that he feels as if most everything in the old covenant is not important, even those statements and verses that describe the unchanging nature of Jehovah God. Therefore, here are just a few of the conditional statements from the New Testament. Any of these ring a bell?
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, [then] you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9, emphasis added)
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16, emphasis added)
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14, emphasis added)
Salvation is a gift that none of us can earn, but it still requires action on your part. The prayer of faith requires action on your part. The fulfillment of the Great Commission requires action on your part. And yes, reaping financial blessing in your life requires action on your part.
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
You will again obey the LORD and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands…” (Deuteronomy 30:8, 9, emphasis added)
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:21, emphasis added)
The concept of grace has been misunderstood and misapplied by Christians for generations. Grace is defined as God’s unmerited favor. It is God doing good for us even though we do not deserve it. I can think of countless times early on in my Christian walk when God blessed me, even though I was failing in many areas of my life. I have seen his hand of grace provide for me financially even though I was not responsible in many of my financial decisions. I was a child in the faith, and so God looked past some of my childlike ways and blessed me in spite of myself. That, my friend, is grace.
But do those displays of God’s unmerited favor give me a license to live contrary to his commands, even as I grow in my knowledge of the faith? Of course not! Grace is there to pick us up when we fail, like all imperfect beings have the tendency to do, and I am extremely thankful for it. However, it is not a license to live however you want, whenever you want & it certainly does not eradicate the God-established principle of sowing and reaping. Grace or no grace, when we make bad decisions in our lives more often than not we will reap bad results.
God’s love and acceptance may be unconditional, but according to his infallible Word, his blessings are certainly not. Many of them come with conditions of action or obedience to God and most Christians would like to believe this is not the case. Why tarry in prayer if you can just “name it and claim it”? Why work hard and make wise financial decisions if you can just send in $20 to your favorite ministry and lazily sit back waiting for your check in the mail?
Francis Cardinal Spellman (US Cardinal 1946) once said, “Pray as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything depended upon man.” I understand that this phrase is not scripture and not a foundation for doctrine, but how much more effective would the Church be if we began living by that credo? It is time for the body of Christ to quit waiting for something to fall in their laps, and start taking their God-given gifts and putting them to work for the Kingdom. Whether in regards to healing, business, or ministry, the righteous take it by force, not by passively standing by. Faith without works is dead, fruitless, and accomplishes nothing. So rise up, mighty warrior, and remember…If you, then God!
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