Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďTHE PRIORITIES OF PROSPERITYĒ

Third John 2

 

There once was a little girl named Danielle. And Danielle wanted very badly to learn how to ride a bicycle. She admired the older girls on her dead end street that had bikes to ride and wanted to play with them and have as much fun as they seemed to have riding. At first, however, she was simply too young to ride. However, with the passing of time Danielle grew old enough, became physically mature enough, to learn how to ride a bike without the aid of training wheels. So, at the first opportunity, which was her birthday, her daddy bought her a bike. It wasnít a new bike, because money was tight. But it was new to Danielle and thatís all she cared about. My, how excited she was when daddy brought that bike home. How she wanted to be able to ride it immediately. But Danielle wasnít as coordinated as some kids are at her age, so she wasnít able to just get on the bike and begin riding. She had to learn how to ride. And she really hadnít quite figured out what needed to be done to successfully ride a bike. If you knew Danielle you could just about predict what was going to happen next. She was so cute and lovable that folks were just naturally inclined to try and help her. It had been that way her entire life. But unless Danielle knew you, and unless Danielle knew that you loved her, she wouldnít let you help her do anything. Want to know why? Because she was particular about whom she would share her successes with. She would never let anyone help her learn how to do anything that she would later be reluctant to share her success with. If she couldnít brag on you unreservedly for helping her, which she could only do if she knew you loved her; she didnít want to brag on you at all. So she would refuse your help. Thus, most people who offered to help Danielle learn how to ride her bike were politely refused. It wasnít that way with her dad, however. Danielle and her father had some kind of love affair going on and she would never refuse an offer of help from her dad. Why not? Because her dad was her hero. Because her dad was her protector. Because her dad was her dad. She loved him and she knew beyond doubt that dad loved Danielle with all his heart. She didnít mind sharing with her dad whatever successes he had played a part in. As a matter of fact, the more Danielle could brag on her dad for whatever recognition and success she enjoyed the better she liked it. So, when dad let her try to ride her bike a couple of times, so she would begin to see how difficult it would be to learn to ride without help, she was well prepared to accept his offer to teach her how to ride. And you know what? With dadís help that girl learned how to ride.

My friends, the fairy tale that I told you about that imaginary girl named Danielle is really a parable about the relationship that exists between the child of God and his heavenly Father. And like any parable it falls far short of providing a full picture of the situation. What my parable showed was the reluctance of a little girl to let anyone help her, to let anyone provide guidance for her in the accomplishment of her goal, who she didnít know loved her. You and I are much like that, but with a series of complications. Not the least of which is the fact that, unlike Danielle, we donít even really have a clear idea what a proper goal for living our lives should be. And besides our profound ignorance, we have sin to contend with, which results in refusing to allow even a loving heavenly Father to help us at times.

That understood, let me tell you something. Itís because life is a far more serious venture than simply learning how to ride a bike, itís because our sin-damaged perceptions leave us without even knowing what proper goals and objectives for life are worth striving for, and itís because our God does love us with all His heart, that He works in His childrenís lives the way He does. You see, my friends, if you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior then God is your heavenly Father. And itís precisely because He is a perfect Father that He loves you too much not to establish your lifeís priorities for you. Perhaps you are here this morning and you claim that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior. Some of you who make that claim relish in and glory in the fact that God has established priorities for your life. Others of you who make that claim balk at and rebel at the notion that God has established priorities for your life that He expects you to adhere to. Iím inclined to connect the truthfulness of your claim to be a Christian to how much you like the idea of God taking a personal hand in directing your life. And itís because I think genuine believers in Jesus Christ want their heavenly Fatherís involvement in their lives that my message this morning is directed primarily to you.

Christian? Real Christian, that is? I want to provide for you two proofs that God loves you too much to not establish your lifeís priorities for you. These proofs are found in one of the smallest books of the Bible, a very short letter really. My text is Third John 2:

 

ďBeloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.Ē

 

Notice what we find in the inspired comment of the Apostle John to that wonderful Christian and friend of the Apostle Paul named Gaius. And what we find written about Gaius, since God is no respecter of persons, is true for each and every one of you who are blood-bought and blood-washed saints of God.

 

First, THE DESCRIPTION OF YOU, IF YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN

 

What was Gaius? And what are you, Christian? ďBeloved.Ē That means you are loved. But who are you loved by if you are a Christian?

First, I can tell you that you are loved by believers. We have so many unsaved people passing themselves off as Christians these days that some portions of the Bible appear at first glance not to be true. However, thatís only because we expect Christian behavior from people who are not really saved that we can become confused. However, let me tell you something about the Bible, friend. The Bible is true. The Bible has no mistakes in it. So, when you see someone who claims to be a Christian behaving in a manner that is contrary to what the Bible says can be expected from a Christian, then guess what? The Bible was right all along. Itís you who were wrong for thinking that liar was really a born again believer in Jesus Christ, forgiven and transformed. I say that to say this: Jesus Christ said, ďBy this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.Ē[1] The description of you that I want you to grab hold of at this point is that you are properly described as beloved. That is, you are loved. You may not be loved by anyone else in this world, but if you genuinely know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you are loved by others who also know Him.

As well, not only are you loved by believers, you are loved by your heavenly Father. There can never be a time when a child of God, in the midst of trial and tribulation, can rightly cry out to God and ask, ďGod, do you love me?Ē As a matter of fact, such a question as that is borderline blasphemy in light of what the Bible teaches us about our Fatherís love for us.[2] Do you wonder whether God really loves you? Do you doubt, at all, the Fatherís love for you? Then let me give you two, and only two of many, verses which should forever put to rest the notion that God may not really love you:

 

John 3.16:  ďFor God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.Ē

 

Romans 5.8: ďBut God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.Ē

 

John 3.16 is, without doubt, the most famous single verse in the entire Word of God. And in that verse we are told, by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, what the motive was for Godís sacrifice of His Own Son. It was love, my friend, because God loves the world He gave His Son. Lost person here today. You who have heard the gospel before and who with haughty arrogance deny your immediate and desperate need of the forgiveness of God, lest you burn in Hellfire for all eternity, hear me well. God loves you. God loves me. He sent Jesus Christ to die for my sins, He loves me so much. That said, donít you for one minute think there are no consequences for scorning Godís love. Donít think God will wink at your refusal to bend your knee and bow your head to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.[3] He wonít wink and you wonít escape if you die without trusting Jesus Christ.[4] In Romans 5.8 we have a verse which more particularly speaks to those who know Jesus Christ as Savior, those who have trusted Him:

 

ďBut God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.Ē

 

Do you see the three pronouns which jump off the page and speak especially to Christians? The words are us, we, and us. There may be times, there certainly are times, when you donít feel like anyone loves you, brothers and sisters in Christ. But understand, our Father loves us with an everlasting love. So much does He love us that He sentenced His Own Son to unimaginable suffering to prove His love for us by saving us. What love must this be. Rightly does John, therefore, describe us as ďbeloved.Ē Amen?

Finally, you are also loved by the Lord Jesus Christ. There are two ways in which we know that Jesus Christ loves us. First, we know He loves us because He said so. In John 15.9 Jesus said, ďAs the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.Ē Imagine being loved by the Lord Jesus Christ in the same measure that He Himself is loved by God the Father. Then, in John 15.12 Jesus said, ďThis is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.Ē Jesus Christ, Who is the Truth, told us the truth when He said ďI love you.Ē There is a second way in which we are assured of Christís love for us. That He took our sins upon Himself and suffered the cross for us. Oh, He did so in obedience to His Father and for His love of the Father, but He also did so because He loves us. How true then is the childrenís rhyme, ďJesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.Ē Christian, you are appropriately described as ďbelovedĒ this morning. But itís not with an ordinary kind of human love that you are loved. Itís love that has as its source none other than God. About this love for you expressed by Christians, by God the Father, and by God the Son. Is it a passive love? Is it a love them but leave them alone kind of love? Or is it a need-meeting kind of love that involves the lover in the life of the beloved? Yes. Itís that kind of love. Notice how this incomprehensible love that comes from the throne room of heaven is, at least in part, expressed in the lives of Godís children.

 

FOLLOWING THE DESCRIPTION OF YOU, THERE IS GODíS DESIRE FOR YOU

 

Third John 2: ďBeloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.Ē

 

From the book of Acts, from Paulís letter to the Romans, and from Paulís letter known as First Corinthians, we learn that Gaius was an extremely active Christian man who hosted Paul, who traveled with Paul, and who obviously became an acquaintance and friend of the Apostle John, probably after Paulís death.[5] So, we know that Gaius was a man of great spiritual vitality. Johnís desire, then, was for Gaius to be as well off in other areas of his life as he was in the purely spiritual realm of life. Thus, we see that it is Godís great love for His Own that gives rise to His desire for our prosperity in the three identifiable areas of human existence and life. Letís deal with them in order of importance:

Beginning with that which is least important, there is material prosperity. Understand that God has no problem with material prosperity. As a matter of fact, a great many of Godís choice servants experienced vast material wealth and prosperity. When you examine the details of Abrahamís life, Isaacís life, Jacobís later life, Job, David, Solomon, and a host of others, it is quite obvious that at least their initial wealth was given to them by God. However, anyone would be foolish to equate salvation with material wealth, or to say that God unequivocally wants every one of His children to have lots of money. Such a statement betrays an ignorance of Godís Word that is profound, as well as an ignorance of the history of Christianity. Many, many Christians down through the ages have been less than rich, have been downright poor. Thus, although God has nothing against personal wealth, and although God is generally inclined to prosper His children materially as an outgrowth of the fruit of the Spirit, all other things being equal there are two significant factors that are related to the material prosperity that you and I enjoy: First, there is Godís overarching plan for that region, for that time period, and for those people, of whom each believer is a part. Do you understand that it is not Godís will for Christians in Ethiopia or Somalia to enjoy the same level of material prosperity as we do in the United States? That may change. But that is His will for at least this present time. Then, there is the impact of material possessions on your spiritual life. First Corinthians proves what we already know by experience. Some people are so well off that they donít think they need God.[6] So, God simply withholds material blessings from some people because itís really bad for them. They simply do not walk as close to God when they are rich as when they are poor. So understand something: Your material well-being is important to God. But it isnít nearly as important to Him as are two other areas of your life. And until you comply with Godís wishes regarding the ordering of your priorities regarding the importance of money and finances and property, more important things simply wonít go well for you.

More important than material prosperity is, of course, your physical prosperity. John wrote,

 

ďThat thou mayest prosper (thatís money and property), and be in health (thatís physical prosperity).Ē

 

Do you wonder whether physical health is more important than money? Ask a dying man what percentage of his great wealth he will give up in order to live just a little bit longer. Or ask wealthy Job how much of his money he would have given up to get rid of his boils. An evangelist I know is frequently heard to say, ďHealth is wealth.Ē And do you doubt what he says? If so, calculate how much your last stay in the hospital actually cost. Only the fool, or only the healthy person who has never been really sick, will deny that physical prosperity is far more important than material prosperity, or that on a list of priorities health ranks higher than wealth. How tragic it is, then, that people will spend their health in order to gain wealth, spending that of greater value to purchase that which is of less value. But is that not what people do all the time who do not order their lives according to Godís will, who do not live their lives according to Godís priorities? Sure it is.

We now come to that which is most important, your spiritual prosperity. What good does it do a man to make a great deal of money, then to die and burn in Hell forever? What good does it do for a man to enjoy great physical health for 120 years, only to die and suffer Godís wrath forever for dying unsaved? As the Lord Jesus said, ďFor what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?Ē[7] That is why the Lord Jesus Christ told us to ďseek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness,Ē Matthew 6.33. Of all that is important, nothing is as important as your spiritual well-being. Nothing is as important as being saved from your sin. Nothing is as important, after that, as staying close to the Lord and serving Him. Nothing, nothing, nothing, is as important as your spiritual well-being. The prosperity of your soul is preeminent. That is why your salvation is more important than anything. And that is why your familyís salvation is more important than anything. And thatís why bringing other folks to Christ is more important than anything. Can you imagine, then, the absolute folly of staying home and watching a football game instead of going to church on Sunday night? A football game contributes nothing to your spiritual well-being, your physical well-being, or makes you any richer. Yet there are people everywhere who call themselves Christians who demonstrate such bad priorities in their lives all the time. There are other people who actually give thought to priorities, but whose priorities are wrong. They want to order their lives according to things most important, but they donít end up accomplishing same because they fail to line of up with Godís priorities. Take, for example, the man who wants to be a good dad. Heíll come home after work and think to himself, ďWeíll stay home and not go to the midweek Bible study and prayer time at church so I can spend some time with the kids and be a good dad.Ē Thatís a terrible mistake, dad. Youíre a good dad, a great dad, not when you convince your kids what a great and wonderful dad you are, but when you devote yourself to convincing your kids what a great God and Savior you have. Therefore, when passing up an opportunity to set an example for your kids to follow of putting Christ first, youíre missing a golden opportunity. Another example: When the offering plate is passed around in typical fashion here at church, what do you do? Do you give God back what is His and then add an offering to it? Or do you keep most of Godís money and all of your own? What does that show? When a person passes on an opportunity to worship God through giving shows wrong priorities, behaving as though the material, the financial, the monetary, is more important than the spiritual. But itís not! The spiritual part, worshiping God, is far more important than the material part, hanging on to your soon to be worthless dollars. Every time you give what God wants, when God wants, you show proper priorities in life.

 

Some people would rather be left alone to live their lives without the help of anyone. Some people are like that old television commercial that showed the young woman in her kitchen as frustrated as she can be saying in response to an offer of help, ďMother, Iíd rather do it myself.Ē Granted, there may be times when both you and I feel that way. And we want to go our own way and do our own thing. However, God is not going to let you completely go your own way if you are His child.

You see, He knows that His way is best for His child. He knows that His priorities of life are the right ones. And He knows what things are more important than other things. Therefore, because He loves you, and because He loves me, He has established priorities for living. Health is more important than money and possessions. And the condition of your soul is more important, even, than your physical health. Question is, are the priorities that God has established for living the priorities that you live by, Christian? And the answer to that question is fairly easy to ascertain. Where does your time go? To spiritual things, to church, to prayer meeting, to evangelism, to sitting under Bible preaching? Or does more of your week go to things that are really less important in the eyes of God?

I conclude with this question to you Christians: Is it any wonder that your life is going the way it is when youíre not living according to Godís priorities? Jesus Christ said He came so that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly . . . but the life He provides has to be a life lived His way.[8]

Unsaved friend? You donít have life at all.[9] What youíre living is death until you die and go to Hell. Isnít it time now to consider the claims of Christ? Sure it is. Turn your back on all this foolishness and the sin thatís dragging you to Hell and come to Jesus Christ.



[1] John 13.35

[2] Ephesians 1.4, 15; 2.4; 5.2, 25; Titus 3.4; 1 John 3.1, 16; 4.9-11, 16, 19

[3] Isaiah 45.23; Romans 14.11; Philippians 2.10-11

[4] Revelation 21.8

[5] Acts 19.29; 20.4; Romans 16.23; 1 Corinthians 1.14

[6] 1 Corinthians 1.26-29

[7] Matthew 16.26

[8] John 10.10

[9] Ephesians 2.1


Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org