As I prepare to watch my second-oldest child graduate from high school, I am quickly reminded of all the things he has learned over the last eighteen years. Nearly two decades of lessons, beginning with manners and progressing to integrity, all come flooding in at once. Like most parents, my hope is that each message has resonated and settled deep in his heart as he goes out on his own now.
That jump into adulthood is coming fast, and so I listen to him contemplate careers. He interjects concerns about where his future prosperity will come from, and he wonders how he will find success in life.
We’ve always encouraged our children to go after what they want, to work hard and gain respect. Prosperity is good, and anyone who works hard to receive affluence and good fortune probably deserves it, right?
My heart began to hurt a little as I visualized worldly influences and all the entitlements that are given today. How could my son possibly see the value in God’s direction and purpose in his life if all he sees is that prosperity begins and ends with himself? As we began discussing his future, it was imperative to me that he knows the truth about prosperity – what it really means and how to attain it.
Die to Self
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:25, ESV).
Before we move into a new way of thinking, we have to lose the old way. We so often focus on our abilities or desires to achieve a certain level of success. However, this is the opposite of what Jesus tells us. We are to die to ourselves. To die to self involves taking the focus off ourselves and focus instead on loving God with everything we are and possess. But we can only do that when we set aside our wants and begin to value God and others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). If we are only consumed by our wants and needs, we will never recognize what God desires for our life.
And what God wants for us may not involve worldly riches. It’s important for my son to know that the Bible doesn’t promise wealth and riches for everyone who follows Christ. As Rick Warren once wrote, “[It is] a fatal mistake to assume that God’s goal for your life is material prosperity or popular success as the world defines it.”
Instead, God’s Word gives us a different way of seeking prosperity. Joshua urged the people of Israel to pursue prosperity in this way:
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8, ESV).
And David admonished his son Solomon from a similar perspective:
“Keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and keeping His statutes, His commandments, His rules, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” (1 Kings 2:3, ESV)
In both these examples, we are encouraged to see prosperity not simply as an accumulation of material possessions, but as storing God’s Word in our lives. In other words, true prosperity is not found in our wallets, but rather our hearts. It is in knowing Christ, developing a personal relationship with Him, and obeying His voice over and above our own. This requires diligence and hard work, as well as constant reflection and reference to His words as our how-to guide for our lives.
We might think we can have it both ways: pursuing both the world’s wealth (in the way that the world tells us to) and the success described in the Scriptures. But Jesus does not allow us to deceive ourselves:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:19-24 ESV).
We are to have only one Master – Christ Jesus – and only then can we truly prosper and succeed! Success comes when we humble ourselves enough to look to Him for guidance in all we do, and when we are content with what He provides. Success comes from the gratitude for His work through us, not because He owes us. Success comes from emulating His compassion, humility, and love toward both our friends and enemies. Success comes when we not only know, but believe that His plans for our future are for His good purposes.
Removing Temporary Crowns
A nice salary, money to travel, and beautiful homes are all wonderful things. I will never discourage my kids from setting goals and dreaming big. I still want my children to have a strong work ethic and be grateful for how God has made them and what they can accomplish. However, those things are only temporary crowns. Achievements should be seen as bonuses to a Christ-filled life, a life already full of contentment and gratitude. Contentment in this life is found through His love first. His love offers a sense of peace and security in a world filled with just the opposite.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
When we seek Christ first and develop our relationship with Him, we begin to appreciate all that He is and all that He brings into our lives. We become grateful for every opportunity and experience that He allows. That spiritual growth fuels a natural desire to live life well by continually being fed by His Word.
I pray that my children feel this richness in the depths of their souls. Remembering those temporary crowns aren’t their main source of prosperity will give them a newfound freedom. They will no longer be bound to worldly treasures. Instead, being rich in God’s Word will produce a life of prosperity. They will find true, guaranteed success when they receive their eternal, permanent reward in heaven someday.
Friends, if you are looking for true prosperity, recognize that it may look different than you might expect. Embrace the truth that a person’s wealth is not measured by how much money they might have. Prosperity is achieved when we live richly with contentment and gratitude in our hearts, knowing that we serve a God who blesses us more abundantly than we could imagine.