2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth [that is] in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
Spiritual And Material Prosperity (2-4) INTRODUCTION 1. We saw in our previous study that Third John is an epistle addressed to Gaius, a man whom John would have prosper: "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" - 3Jn 2 2. In this verse, John alludes to two kinds of prosperity: a. There is spiritual prosperity ("just as your soul prospers") b. And there is material prosperity ("that you may prosper in all things and be in health") 3. The manner in which John mentions and compares these two kinds of prosperity is interesting, and raises several questions worth considering: a. What are the signs of spiritual prosperity? b. What is the propriety of praying for material prosperity? c. Would we want John to pray such a prayer for us? [These questions we shall attempt to answer in this lesson. Beginning with the first question, we need go no further than the context of Third John...] I. THE SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY A. THE TRUTH IS ABIDING IN YOU... 1. John rejoiced greatly when he heard from others of how the "truth" was in Gaius - 3Jn 3a 2. That the "truth" was in Gaius was one indication that his soul was prosperous 3. What does it mean to have the "truth" in you? Two possibilities: a. It could refer to the abiding of Jesus in one's soul, as He is the truth - cf. Jn 14:6 b. It could refer to the incorporation into our very heart and soul the teachings and principles of the gospel of Jesus -- It pretty much means the same thing, for the latter brings about the former - cf. Jn 14:21-23; 1Jn 3:24 4. A prosperous soul, then, is one in which... a. One's heart and mind has opened itself up to receive all that Jesus taught b. One is feeding daily upon the Word of God, whereby spiritual growth is possible - 1Pe 2:2 B. YOU ARE WALKING IN THE TRUTH... 1. John could also joyfully write of Gaius "walking in the truth" - 3Jn 3b-4 2. In a sense, there is a mixing of metaphors here a. The truth abides in Gaius b. Gaius walks in the truth -- Perhaps that simply illustrates the limitation of human language to describe spiritual realities 3. The point to be made, however, is this: for there to be prosperity, there must be progress a. It is not enough to simply sit and say "I have the truth in my soul" b. One must be acting upon it, living according to it, as illustrated by Jesus in His sermon on the mount - cf. Mt 7: 24-27 c. True blessedness comes in being a "doer" and not just a "hearer" - Jm 1:22-25; Jn 13:17 [Spiritual prosperity occurs as one feeds upon the truth of God found only in His Son Jesus Christ, and lives his or her life in harmony with that truth. So Gaius prospered in his soul, and so can we! Gaius' need was not spiritual prosperity, it evidently was material prosperity. This brings up the question of...] II. THE PROPRIETY OF PRAYING FOR MATERIAL PROSPERITY A. JOHN'S PRAYER FOR GAIUS... 1. John thought it proper to pray for things other than spiritual needs - 3Jn 2 a. "that you may prosper in all good things" b. "and be in good health" 2. Whether it be family, business, or personal health, it is proper to pray that God might bless us in these areas B. JOHN WAS FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE SET BY OTHERS... 1. The example of the Psalmist - cf. Ps 144:12-15 2. The example of our Lord - Mt 6:11 ("Give us this day our daily bread") C. THE CHALLENGE IS KEEPING IT IN PROPER PERSPECTIVE... 1. If our desire for material prosperity is for personal gain, then we should not expect God to answer favorably - cf. Jm 4: 2-4 2. But there can be altruistic reasons for praying for material prosperity: a. We can pray for health, that one might live longer to serve the Lord in this life b. We can pray for success in business, that we might have the means to help others c. We can pray for peace, that we might further the spread of the gospel 3. Of course, it is much easier to pray with prosper perspective when it is others we are praying for, and not ourselves (as is the case in our text!) [That brings us to a few final observations I would like to make concerning...] III. MATERIAL PROSPERITY IN RELATION TO SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY A. "...JUST AS YOUR SOUL PROSPERS" 1. John prays that Gaius prosper materially just as he does spiritually 2. In view of Gaius' spiritual prosperity (the truth abides in him, he walks in the truth), this prayer if answered would be a blessing to Gaius 3. Would we want God to answer such a prayer in our behalf? To the degree that our souls prosper... a. Would we want Him to bless our physical bodies? b. Would we want Him to bless our families, our homes, our jobs, our nation? 4. I dare say that in light of the spiritual condition of some Christians, such a prayer answered in their behalf would be a curse, not a blessing! B. MATERIAL PROSPERITY IS GOOD, BUT SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY IS ETERNAL 1. As Paul writes, godliness has "promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" - 1Ti 4:7-8; 6:6-7 2. We can't take material prosperity with us, and it takes spiritual prosperity on our part (i.e., wisdom from God) to properly use the material blessings we have - 1Ti 6:8-10, 17-19 CONCLUSION 1. So while we may certainly pray for our material prosperity, may we never lose sight of the fact that our greatest need is spiritual prosperity which lasts forever 2. Concentrate your efforts on prospering spiritually, and may the Lord in His Divine wisdom and grace bless you in all other ways accordingly! Are you walking in the truth? Is the truth abiding in you? Heed the call of the gospel today if you have not already... - cf. Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:36-38