Prosperity and abundance in Christ
2 Corinthians 11:16-33 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little. What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison.
But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—I speak in foolishness—I am just as bold myself. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?
30 If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33 and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.
Many speak and teach a gospel of blessings and prosperity. In yesterday’s meditation we saw that in Philippians 4:11-13 Paul said: I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. In today’s text Paul says: Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. So, did Paul not understand what Jesus really came for? Was he missing the fullness of the promises of God and Christ? Was it too soon after Jesus death and resurrection for Paul to understand and experience the benefits and the blessings of the gospel?
In Matthew 8:19-20 it says: A scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” This statement and all of the accounts we have of Jesus life indicate that when Jesus was here as a man, He did not live a life of prosperity according to the world’s standards. Philippians 2:1-11 says: Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Jesus gave up the glory of heaven to become not only a man, but also a bond-servant. He did not have a high standing among men. Jesus was born in a stable and never rose to a place of great material wealth among men. If we are to be followers of Christ then, should our focus be on what we gain in worldly things from Christ? In Mark 8:34-37 Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” We are to live victoriously, but we must remember that victory in Christ might not look like victory in the world. Jesus won the victory on the cross.
In John 16:33 Jesus says: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Jesus says we will have tribulation. His promise is not that we will have an easy life, free from any problems or difficulties. Our victory in Christ is not so much that we obtain more or achieve more than others in the world, it is that like Jesus and through Him, we overcome the things of the world. First and foremost the blessing of the cross is that we overcome sin and death. Jesus taught us to pray saying: Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In Matthew 19:16-24 we see an account of Jesus interaction with a young man of great wealth: “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” It is not bad or a sin to have great wealth. There were many great people of God in scripture who had wealth and possessions. But, it is clear that Jesus taught and demonstrated that wealth and worldly prosperity should not be our focus. Why would Jesus want most for us to have the very thing that makes it hard to enter the kingdom of heaven? Jesus answers best what our focus and priority should be regarding the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 6:33 when He says: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” In Psalm 37:4 David, a man who rose from least to greatest in the standing among men, says: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. God does not give us our worldly desires. Rather our desires are found in Him. In Him we have all that we need. That is true prosperity; that God gives us all that we need as we seek His kingdom and righteousness. When we delight in Him, we lack nothing regardless of our circumstance or situation in the world.
May the words of the psalmist be our declaration and prayer as we, like David follow the Lord and know His blessings and prosperity: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. ]Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen. Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit; You are my abundance and prosperity. Amen.