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I just want to go back over what I said yesterday by way of introduction. The theme of what we’re studying together is God’s Abundance. We took certain key words and phrases, positive and negative. The positive ones were rich and riches; wealth and wealthy; prosper, prosperous, prosperity; abound, abundant, abundance. We pointed out that the last two sets of words do not necessarily indicate ownership of large amounts of money or material possession. Rather, the key thought about abundance is we have enough for ourselves and something over to give to others. An example of abundance that I used in my book, I believe, on Faith to Live By—something comes to me while I’m saying that. I really deeply appreciate our Catholic brothers in the Charismatic movement and it’s a great honor to me that the Catholic Charismatic movement published the book simultaneously co-published it with Christian Growth Ministries. I think that’s historic. Really, it’s one of the honors I feel God has conferred upon me because the theme of the book is the just shall live by faith. That was the very text that started the reformation. When Catholics and Protestants can publish a book together on that theme we have come a long way! But what I want to say I want to say tactfully and carefully.
When I submitted the original draft of the book to my Catholic brothers—because they wouldn’t publish something that was out of line with what they believed—the thing they questioned was the teaching of abundance. It’s rather remarkable. I made some adjustments in the material which I feel has improved the book so I’m grateful for the questions that they asked. We need to know that for some sections of the Christian church the concept of abundance is almost offensive. It’s remarkable but true.
I really was able to make it acceptable to them by pointing out that abundance does not necessarily mean great sums of money in the bank or great material possession. It means that we have more than enough for our own needs.
There’s one or two clear reasons why God wants us to have abundance. One is that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. So, if we only have enough to receive, we would only have the lesser blessing. But God wants us to have the greater blessing so he gives us enough not merely for our own needs but over an above that we may have the blessing of giving as well as of receiving. God, I believe, has promised to his people abundance. As I understand it, abundance is the level of God’s provision for his people.
So we’ve spoken about the positive words. Let’s look at the negative words for a moment and continue the review. The negative words were poor and poverty; want, need, lack and failure. I introduced failure because in many ways failure is the opposite of the scriptural concept of prosperity. Prosperity, again, doesn’t necessarily mean the ownership of vast resources, it means you get the job done successfully.
When Jesus sent forth his first disciples he told them, “Don’t take anything spare. Don’t take two coats, don’t take two shoes...” At the end of his ministry he reminded them of this and said, “When I sent you out like that, did you lack anything?” They said what? Nothing. So, they didn’t have a great entourage, they didn’t have a lot of unnecessary equipment but they had everything they needed. I’ve been a missionary in two fields. I’ve seen missionaries with cars and houses and salaries who lacked a lot of things. I just need to make these concepts clear. The key concept really, are abundance and prosperity.
Now I want to give you five basic principles without dwelling on them that we looked through yesterday. Principle number one, God’s provision is in his promises. If we fail to claim God’s promises we cannot expect to receive his provision. Principle number two, the promises are our inheritance. In the Old Testament it was a Promised Land. In the New Testament it’s a land of promises. Principle number three, God’s promises are the expression of his will. When we know God’s will we pray with confidence. Principle number four, all God’s promises are now available to us through Christ. Every promise that fits our situation and meets our need is for us now. Principle number five, the fulfillment of God’s promises does not depend upon our circumstances but upon our meeting God’s conditions. The outstanding example of this, I would say, is Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness when God fed something like three million people without any natural resources whatever.
We looked at two specific promises of God, the first in Psalm 34:9–10:
“O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.”
And Psalm 84:11:
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
We pointed out that there are three conditions implied for receiving those promises. First, we must fear the Lord. Second, we must seek the Lord. Third, we must walk uprightly. On the basis of meeting those conditions then God assures us that nothing that is good will be withheld from us.
We need to understand that we have to consider what is good in two aspects. The first is is the thing good in itself, is it essentially good? That’s a philosophic term. That’s invariable. The second question is is the thing good for us in our particular situation? That’s variable because a thing may be good essentially and yet, in our particular condition, with our character weaknesses or our special problems, it might not be good for us. God in his wisdom overrules. He doesn’t not always give us that which is essentially good if it is not good for us in our particular situation. That’s one reason why we pray for things that apparently the word of God assures us we will have and we don’t necessarily get them. I’m the only person here today that has that problem, I know! Just be sympathetic with me because I’ve had that problem. You never have but you could have. And when it happens just bear in mind exactly what Eric was saying, “Do not doubt the goodness of God. He always has your good as his ultimate objective no matter what happens.”
Then we began to examine the question what are we to say about riches or wealth or prosperity? Are they essentially good? My answer is absolutely yes. In Revelation 5:12, riches belong by right to Christ and they’re associated with power, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and blessing. Those are seven things that are absolutely good that belong by right to Jesus Christ and to the people of God.
In 1Chronicles 29:12 we saw David told us riches and honor come from God. God is the ultimate source of riches and honor.
Deuteronomy 8:18, Moses reminded Israel don’t forget it’s God who gives you power to get wealth. He does it that he may fulfill his covenant with your fathers.
And then we looked in Deuteronomy 28 and 29. Deuteronomy 28 lists, first of all, all the blessings for obedience to God and then all the curses for disobedience to God. This is a very important chapter that every one of us needs to be acquainted with. We need to know the difference between a curse and a blessing because many of us at times are enduring curses when we should be enjoying blessings. We saw that prosperity and abundance are listed under the blessings, not under the curses. Likewise, we saw that poverty is a curse. I think we could look at that scripture and move on from there. Deuteronomy 28:47–48. This is part of the long list of curses that come for disobedience.
“Because thou servest not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things...”
Note, that’s what God wants us to do. To serve him with joyfulness and gladness for the abundance of all things. We have more than enough of everything. That’s fantastic. But what’s the alternative if we’re unbelieving and disobedient? Remember, the root problem of Israel that kept them out of their inheritance was not fornication or idolatry or murmuring. What was it? Unbelief. Because of unbelief they could not enter in. In the chapter that Eric read we were warned the same thing can keep us out of our inheritance. Unbelief. What’s the alternative to receiving God’s blessing in this connection? Verse 48 says:
“Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things.”
You take those four things and put them together: hunger, thirst, nakedness, want of all things—without food, without drink, without clothing, without anything. I suggest to you the correct description of that is absolute poverty. You could not have more poverty than that. Please not it’s a curse.
I’d like you to say that because it’s kind of liberating. Poverty is a curse. Poverty is a curse. Okay, now you’ve got it. It’s a simple message but it’s profound.
My purpose tonight is to show you that the curse was dealt with by the death of Christ on the cross. Consequently, we are released from the curse. The key scripture there—and it’s a very important one—is Galatians 3:13–14:
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ: that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”
One of the great basic truths of revelation is that on the cross there was divinely ordained exchange. I believe this is central to the entire gospel message. If we do not understand this much about what took place when Jesus died on the cross we really have no anchor for our faith, no stability, no solidity. On the cross by the fore ordained purpose of God there was an exchange, very, very simple in its basic nature. Jesus the sinless, obedient Son of God took upon him all the evil that was due by divine justice to all our rebellion and disobedience that in return through faith we might receive all the good that was due to the perfect obedience of Jesus. More simply, Jesus took all the evil that was due to us that we might receive all the good that was due to him. This was the exchange. You can work this out in every aspect of what took place on the cross. It’s not my purpose to do that tonight but here is one main aspect of the exchange. Jesus was made a curse—what’s the opposite of a curse? Blessing. —that we might receive the blessing. There’s the exchange. The curse was due to our disobedience but Jesus as our representative and our substitute took the curse upon him that we might have what? The blessing. Jesus took the curse that we might receive the blessing. Say that. Jesus took the curse that we might receive the blessing. The evidence that Jesus was made a curse was that he hung upon the cross.
Now, in Hebrew—and it just so happens it’s true also in the Swahili language used in East Africa—the word “tree” is used for a beam or a trunk whether it’s growing or whether it’s cut down. That’s not easy for some English speaking people to understand. It speaks about Jesus hanging on the tree, it was a cut down tree but it was still a tree. And the Old Covenant said cursed is every one who hangs on a tree. So when Jesus hung on the tree, that is the cross, this was God’s visible demonstration to the universe that Jesus had been made a curse. He hung there a curse—rejected by man and forsaken by God, neither on earth nor in heaven. Totally alienated, cut off, rejected, forsaken, all summed up in one evil, ugly word a curse.
Why did Jesus become a curse? That we might receive the alternative, the blessing. One of the themes of Galatians is that through faith we become—no matter what race we may be from—the children of Abraham by faith. So as the children of Abraham we are entitled to the blessing of Abraham because Jesus bore the curse and through faith in him we become children of Abraham we are entitled to the blessing of Abraham. That’s very clear.
I want to read it again because I want you to absorb it.
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law [that’s the curse of the broken law, Deuteronomy 28 which is the whole list of the curses for breaking the law], bring made a curse for us. For it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that he blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles [that’s most of us here tonight] through Jesus Christ: that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
What was the blessing of Abraham? We don’t need to speculate about that because it’s revealed in scripture. I suggest you keep your finger in Galatians 3 and turn to Genesis 24:1.
“Abraham was old and well stricken in age...”
I object to that translation because it gives you the impression he was hobbling around with a cane. All it says is he was well advanced in years. I think it’s pretty obvious he was not hobbling around with a cane because quite a number of years later he made a long journey to Mount Moriah and came back again. It says:
“...the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things.”
What is the blessing of Abraham? What does it cover? All things. Are you sure? What does the blessing of Abraham cover? All things.
Now, in this connection Paul says that we must receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. We’re back in Galatians 3:14. What I believe that means is that it’s only through receiving the Holy Spirit that we can receive the blessing. The Holy Spirit is the administrator of all the inheritance. If you look in that same chapter that we looked at, Genesis 24, you’ll find that there’s a beautiful parable. I didn’t intend to get into this because when I get into it it’s hard to get out of it. But now I’ve got into it, I might as well stay there.
If you read Genesis 24 it’s the story about how Abraham obtained a bride for his son Isaac. It’s a very, very simple but beautiful parable in which there are four main characters. Some of you have heard me teach this before. Abraham the father represents God the Father. Isaac the only begotten son represents Jesus Christ the Son. Rebekah the bride represents the church, the bride of Christ. There’s one other, in a sense, the main character. The servant, the nameless servant who represents who? The Holy Spirit. Read the chapter with that in mind one day and it will open up almost limitless truths to you. Notice that it says at the beginning of the chapter every thing that Abraham owned was under the control of the servant. The servant was the administrator of the entire estate of Abraham the father and Isaac the son.
That’s true of the Holy Spirit. He is the administrator of the entire wealth of the godhead. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. But the administrator of our inheritance is the Holy Spirit. So apart from the Holy Spirit we cannot receive or enjoy our inheritance. When it speaks about our inheritance as the children of Abraham, it speaks specifically about receiving the promise of the Spirit because it’s only the Spirit that brings us into all the blessings which are our inheritance. The blessing of Abraham is in all things. But the administrator of the blessing is the Holy Spirit. That’s why it speaks specifically about receiving the promise of the Spirit.
I don’t usually speak about things like this because I have reservations about very finicky interpretations of names and numbers. But, there is, I think, a very beautiful thought here that before either Abraham or Sarah could receive their inheritance, each of them had to have a name change. There’s no question this is significant. Abraham’s name originally was Abram. It had to be changed to Abraham. Sarah’s name originally was Sarai. It had to be changed to Sarah. I do not question that it’s extremely significant that in each case a particular letter had to be inserted in their name In each case it was the same letter, the Hebrew letter ?hay? which is the breath letter. You cannot say ?hay? without breathing. That’s what makes it somewhat difficult for people who’ve grown up in English immediately to get the correct pronunciation. I believe this is just a very particular way of showing us that neither Abraham nor Sarah could receive their inheritance apart from the Holy Spirit, the breath of the Almighty.
This is likewise true of us. It’s only through the Holy Spirit that we can understand and receive and enter into our inheritance. In a certain sense, every one of us has to receive the breath of the Almighty before we qualify for the inheritance.
Now, viewing again the fact that Jesus was made the curse that we might receive the blessing, and seeing that the blessing of Abraham comprehended all things. I want to focus tonight upon one specific aspect of curse and blessing. I want to tell you tonight that Jesus on the cross exhausted the poverty curse. When I saw that exactly 10 years ago by revelation while I was preaching in a meeting I would have to say it had a profound influence on my subsequent Christian experience. That’s why I was so quickened when Eric read the words “I will reveal to them the abundance,” because I do not believe we can really perceive this abundance unless God reveals it to us. It’s clearly stated in scripture but it takes a revelation.
We remember that the curse was “you will serve your enemies in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things.” That’s the poverty curse: hunger, thirst, nakedness, and want of all things.
I was in the city of Auckland in New Zealand in l968 or ‘69, I forget which. I was preaching in a series of meetings and I’d announced that my theme would be “God’s Financial Provision.” We’d also arranged to take up a special offering for the expenses of the speaker, et cetera, at the end of that meeting. I was preaching what I believed about God’s will for abundance and prosperity and as I was preaching I saw in my mind’s eye the figure of Jesus on the cross. I saw him hanging there as he undoubtedly did hang there stripped of all his clothing. Though I was preaching all the time, my mind was viewing Jesus on the cross. As I saw him there mentally I saw by revelation that he totally exhausted the poverty curse. The Holy Spirit went over the four aspects of the curse for me. He was hungry, he hadn’t eaten for nearly 24 hours. He was thirsty, one of his last utterances was “I thirst.” He was naked, the soldiers had stripped him of all his clothing and shared it amongst them. They cast lots for the extra garment, the seamless robe. And he was in want of all things. He didn’t have a burial robe, he didn’t have a tomb, he had nothing. He was buried in a borrowed robe and in a borrowed tomb. He was totally in want of all things. Why? Because in the divine purpose of God he exhausted on our behalf the poverty curse. Hungry, thirsty, naked, and in want of all things.
Though that didn’t register with me exactly as a life changing truth at that time, I would have to say that revelation has changed the course of my life. It’s given me a kind of basis for my faith for prosperity. I’ve seen the absolute finality of the exchange that Jesus took the poverty curse that we might receive the blessing of Abraham, that we might receive our inheritance administered by the Holy Spirit.
I do not say this without a solid basis in scripture. I’d like you to turn, if you will for a moment to 2Corinthians 8 and 9. There are two verses in these two chapters that go beautifully together. First of all, let me point out that 2Corinthians 8 and 9 together contain 39 verses. They deal exclusively with one subject which is what? Money, that’s right. Some people would say, “Brother Prince, why are you talking so much about money? Love is what really matters.” It always amuses me because in 1Corinthians Paul has one chapter on love and it takes 13 verses. In 2Corinthians he has two chapters on money and it takes 39 verses. Exactly three times as many verses! Does that mean that money is three times more important than love? No. But it means that without rightly acting in matters of money we’re talking empty talk about love. Look then at these two verses that balance one another in 2Corinthians 8:9 and 9:8. Start with 8:9:
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ...”
I want to say two things about grace. It’s most important. Few people really understand the nature of grace. First of all, grace can never be earned. Anything that can be earned is not grace. That excludes most religious people from the grace of God because they think they can earn it. Consequently, they never receive it. Now, there are things we can earn but grace is not one of them. Bear that in mind. If there’s anything you can earn, it is not grace, it’s works.
Secondly, there’s only one channel of grace. John 1:17:
“The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
Any form of grace that ever comes to us comes to us through Jesus Christ. All right?
Going back the to 2Corinthians 8:9.
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
You know, I used to quote that verse “might become rich.” The Holy Spirit said take another look. It says “be rich.” You can become rich and become poor again. But when you’re being rich you’re being rich. It’s permanent.
What’s the exchange? What are the two simple words that are set against one another? Jesus took the bad which was poverty that we might have the good which was riches. Jesus took our poverty that we might have his wealth.
Now, when did Jesus become poor? It’s important, I think, that we see this. Some people believe that he was poor all through his earthly ministry. I would say he wasn’t wealthy, he didn’t have riches but he sure had abundance. Any man that can feed a crowd of 12,000 is not exactly broke! There never was a single situation in the whole earthly ministry of Jesus where he lacked anything. Not one, I challenge you to find it. Even when he sent his disciples out they didn’t lack anything. He had unorthodox ways of doing things! I mean, when he wanted the tax money instead of going to the bank and cashing a check he sent Peter to the sea and got a fish. But the result was the same.
I want you to review that because it’s important. He was not wealthy but he had abundance. He was never worried, he was never perplexed, he was never under pressure, he never panicked; he was calmly and completely in control of every situation and he never doubted, as Eric said, that this Father’s goodness would come up with everything he needed. The Father never failed him once. That’s not poverty. What’s poverty? We’ve defined it. Hungry, thirsty, naked, and in want.
When did Jesus become poor? He began to become poor the moment he was identified with our sins. From that moment onwards he went deeper and deeper into poverty until on the cross he represented absolute poverty. Why did he become poor? That we might be rich.
Let’s face the fact his poverty was not spiritual. Is that agreed? He was really poor. Therefore, by all the laws of logic, our wealth cannot be spiritual either. It’s not talking about spiritual blessings. Thank God they’re there but this is talking about the nitty-gritty, practical, material world. All right? He became poor very really poor, absolutely poor in the physical, material sense that we might be rich not in the spiritual sense. That’s provided for by other provisions of God. But that we might be rich in the sense of having every need met and having something over for other people.
Thank God I don’t need to argue that because it’s stated in scripture. Look on to 2Corinthians 9;8.
“And God is able...”
Let’s pause there. Do you believe God is able? It’s important that you do. I do. I mean, to me it would be illogical to speak of God the way we speak of him and to say he’s unable to do this.
“God is able to make all grace abound toward you...”
What is it? It’s grace. Don’t imagine you can earn it. This is one of the big problems of Christian people. I believe in being industrious, I believe in working hard and faithfully, I believe in proper stewardship and management. But all that doesn’t earn what we’re talking about. How is grace received, through what? Through Jesus Christ by faith. That’s right. That’s why some Christians lead good, honest, moral, hard-working lives but they know nothing of God’s abundance, because they’re trying to get it by earning it. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe it’s altogether wrong for a Christian to be lazy or dishonest or irresponsible. I can give you scriptures for all that but I won’t do it. But when you’re not lazy and not irresponsible and not dishonest, you’re still not earning God’s grace. We are talking exclusively tonight about grace.
Interestingly enough, in these two chapters that deal with money the key word is grace. It occurs seven times in chapter 8 and twice in chapter 9. We’re talking about grace that operates in the realm of money. Some people couldn’t believe that grace and money could ever get related.
“God is able to make all grace abound toward you...”
God is not stingy with his grace. He doesn’t give you just enough, he gives you enough and more. It’s abundant, it’s overflowing.
“...that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to all good works.”
I’ve changed it at the end because in the Greek language every word is from the same root. You’ll find that in that verse there are two “abounds” and five “alls” in one short verse. I’d like to read it that way and I’ll use my right hand for the alls and my left hand for the abounds. Are you with me?
“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to all good works.”
I don’t know how language can say more than that. It’s almost incredible you can get so much into such a short sentence. What does it describe? It describes God’s grace. His grace in the financial and material area. The exchange: Jesus became poor with our poverty that we might be rich with his wealth or enjoy his abundance.
Now, I believe we’ve established that clearly on scripture. For my part, when I can establish something on the basis of the cross, for me it’s settled. As far as I’m concerned, whatever was done at the cross, it’s final. It can never be undone. Satan cannot change it, unbelief cannot change it; it’s settled. We may not appreciate it or appropriate it but it cannot be undone.
I’ve said we cannot earn God’s abundance but I want to add we need to meet the conditions for receiving it. Do you see the difference? We’re not talking about earning it but we are talking about the conditions upon which God makes his abundance available to us. I want to go through these now rather quickly because time is running out. I want to outline five conditions. First of all, our motives and our attitudes must be right. When we come to this realm of money there’s a long of wrong motives. That’s why, I think, some people are afraid of it because they’re afraid of their own motives. We all do well to examine our motives very carefully when we come to the question of money because it’s a big source of temptation for wrong motives.
Then I want to say certain things that are specifically wrong and I have a whole list of scriptures for every one of these things. I’m not going to give you the full list. A, it is wrong to make wealth our God. In Colossians 3 Paul says that covetousness is idolatry. In other words, when we become greedy and grasping for money we are making money our god and that is idolatry. I think it’s very clear that the United States of America is full of that kind of idolatry where people are greedy for money and money, in effect, becomes their god.
Also, in 1Timothy 6:10 Paul says:
“The love of money is a root of all evil.”
The King James says “the root of all evil” but that’s somewhat overdone. What the Greek actually says is the love of money is a root of all evil. So when we love money, out of that evil love of money, that covetousness, all evils can spring forth in our life. So qualification number one, it is wrong to make wealth our god.
Number two, it is wrong to seek wealth by wrong means. There are many scriptures, I’ll read Proverbs 28:8. I don’t even remember what it says but I’ve got it underlined. Incidentally, the book of Proverbs is full of all these principles. It says this and it’s very interesting.
“He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance [or his wealth], he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.”
That’s really significant, isn’t it? A man may go out to get a lot of money for himself by crooked means, but ultimately it will come to the man who will pity the poor. You see, I want you to understand this. There are laws that govern the behavior of money just as certain as the laws that govern the crops we plant in the earth. In Jeremiah 17:11 it says:
“As the partridge sitteth on eggs and hatches them not, so he that getteth money and not by right, shall leave it in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.”
We’re not talking about crooked ways to get rich.
See, it is wrong to trust in wealth. Proverbs 11:28:
“He that trusteth in his riches shall fall.”
I’ve seen that happen to many people in my lifetime who trusted in riches and fell. Jeremiah 9:23–24:
“Let not the mighty man trust glory in his might, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but he that glorieth, let him glory in this, that he knoweth me that I am the Lord who loves justice and mercy.”
We’re not to boast or glory in wisdom, strength or riches. They’re all good things but none of them should be the thing in which we glory. Paul said, “God forbid that I should glory in anything but the cross.” Because, that’s where all my problems were forever resolved. Let’s never forget it.
And, it is wrong to use wealth selfishly. Proverbs 11:24. I hope I stir up some of you a desire to spend more time in the book of Proverbs because this is the book that promises wisdom to a young man. Any of you young men who want to become wise, you should spend time in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 11:24 is a beautiful scripture.
“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; there is that withholdeth more than his meet [or right], but it tendeth to poverty.”
There are some generous people who are always giving and always getting riches. And there are some stingy people who never give and yet get poorer. So it’s always wrong to use wealth selfishly.
In Luke 12 Jesus told the parable about the man who built the bigger barns and filled them with his produce. The Lord said, “Thou fool, this night shall thy soul shall be required of thee.” And then he said, “So is he that is not rich towards God.” The first direction in which we need to be rich is toward God.
Those are wrong attitudes or motives. Also we have to be very careful in our attitude toward the poor. The whole Bible consistently warns us against oppressing or exploiting the poor. There are multitudinous scriptures, I’ll just take a series of scriptures in Proverbs. Proverbs 21:13:
“Who stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
That’s a very, very solemn warning, isn’t it? If we don’t listen to the cry of the poor, one day we’ll cry and we won’t be heard.
Then Proverbs 22:16:
“He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.”
One final scripture on that in Proverbs 29:7:
“The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.”
That really places a tremendous responsibility upon us not just to be indifferent but to have a concern for the needs of the poor. One mark of righteousness is that we consider the cause of the poor.
One thing I’ve noticed in the generation that is now growing up—I don’t know where to begin or end with that—but I have noticed especially in my own black daughter Joska, a real sense of social responsibility. Sometimes it gets a little awkward, she doesn’t want to eat because there are people starving somewhere else. And things like that, but I do believe that the generation now growing up—well, you know, the people that are anywhere from 15 to 30, let’s say—they have a much greater sense of social responsibility than my generation did. I have to say this, frankly that’s true. I think that’s from God because the righteous consider it the cause of the poor but the wicked regardeth not to know it. He’s indifferent. He says, “So what? No skin off my nose.” and goes his way.
The next thing, going further, is all believers are required to show mercy to the poor. Again, we’ll go to the book of Proverbs. You’re beginning to be able to find the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 14:21:
“He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.”
“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”
When you give to the poor you’re lending to the Lord. I want to tell you from experience when the Lord pays you back he doesn’t forget the interest!
Proverbs 28:27. Sometimes I try to find reasons for God’s goodness to me and it’s really contrary to what I’m telling you this evening because I’m amazed at God’s goodness to me. I really am overwhelmed. What Eric said about me is really true. I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God. It’s not a religious act, it isn’t just a theology; I cannot find words to express how amazed I am at God’s goodness to me. As I say, I never believe I can earn it but I think when I ask myself sometimes, “Why is God so good to me?” I think there are two things that I can say about my own experience. Neither of which I deliberately worked out in order to achieve God’s goodness, but the first was—as you know, my late wife and I, we took care of a lot of unwanted children. The first demonstration of religion is to care for the fatherless. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is to visit the fatherless and the widows. That’s the first practicing aspect of religion that God cares for.
Secondly, again it’s well known that my wife and I were both deeply committed to the well-being of Israel and the peace of Jerusalem. I still am. Though I never could earn God’s goodness I have to say I think those are two things that has caused God to look upon me with favor. I commend them to you because God is no respecter of persons.
There’s one last scripture about the poor that we’ll look at, Proverbs 28:27:
“He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack; but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.”
Let me go through that because it got a little involved but it’s quite simple when you see it in outline before you. This is all in the first area of conditions for prospering. Our motives and attitudes must be right, specifically it is wrong to make wealth our God, to seek wealth by wrong means, to trust in wealth, to use wealth selfishly.
And then in our attitude toward the poor it is wrong to despise or oppress the poor. On the contrary, we are required to show mercy to the poor, it’s part of our faith.
There’s two other scriptures I will give there about showing mercy to the poor. They’re so powerful. One is in Daniel 4:27. Here’s where Nebuchadnezzar had this dream which Daniel interprets that Nebuchadnezzar is going to be driven out from his palace and from human intercourse and he’s going to have seven years living like a beast in the field. Daniel is really troubled about having to interpret this dream for the king and he said, “King, if you take my advice you might postpone your problems if you do just one thing.” And this is what he advised him to do in Daniel 4:27:
“Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor...”
What’s the alternative to leading a wicked life? It’s showing mercy to the poor. Had Nebuchadnezzar done that, who knows whether he might have been spared that judgment of God.
And then without looking at it, in Galatians 2:10 Paul records the situation where he and Peter and James had their confrontation about the gospel to the Jews and the gospel to the Gentiles and they came to the conclusion that Peter and James were to go to the Jews, Paul and his group were to go to the Gentiles and that whole problem and tension was resolved. But they said one thing, we want you to remember the poor. Paul said, “I already was very zealous to do that.” Notice whether you preach to the Jews or to the Gentiles, one essential part of the gospel is remembering the poor. I think that’s a part that’s been forgotten by most fundamentalists. I don’t say that they’re greedy or selfish persons but they don’t include in their religion the thing that God said is primary of true religion which is to visit those in need.
I’m not doing well as getting through in time but I’m going to go quicker. Let me just emphasize this. Conditions for prospering. The first one is our motives and attitudes must be right. I dealt with that whole area. Condition number two has already been touched on this evening by Eric. Faith is essential, there’s no substitute for faith. Romans 1:17:
“The righteous will live by his faith.”
Every area of righteous living must be based on faith. Whatsoever is not of faith is what? Sin. When you handle your money in an unbelieving way, that’s sinful. The entire disposing of your money must be based on faith just like the way you eat or anything else you do. The entire Christian life is based on one simple principle, faith. Whenever we depart from faith we get into sin. Faith consists in acting before you get what’s promised. So, Luke 6:38, Jesus says:
“Give and it shall be given unto you...”
Which comes first? Giving. That’s faith. You say, “I don’t have it.” God says that’s faith.
“Give and it shall be given unto you...”
You say, “I’ll wait ‘til I’ve got it to give.” God says that’s not faith. Give and it shall be given.
2Corinthians, and we’ve been there once, turn back to it for a moment. Chapter 9, verses 6–7. Paul is talking about money and he says:
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
We don’t need to read further. Which comes first? Sowing or reaping? Sowing. If you never sow you’ll never reap. Isn’t that right? That’s faith. You see, every time farmer sows his field he’s exercising faith. He’s believing that all that seed he’s throwing away is going to come back multiplied. Paul says it’s exactly the same in giving. It’s important to see this. We know there are laws governing agriculture. Many people do not realize there are laws governing money. God’s laws. So, if we want to reap what do we have to do? Sow. And the measure in which we sow will determine the measure in which we reap. Sow sparingly and how will you reap? Sparingly. Sow bountifully and you will reap bountifully.
Furthermore, I think we can take it further in two respects. Sowing is not just scattering seed just anyway you happen to be. If you were to walk down the main street of your city scattering seed right and left into the gutter you wouldn’t reap much of a harvest. Some Christians give but they give like that, they just throw it out anywhere.
On the contrary, sowing means you pick the best soil, you make the best preparation, you chose the right time, you sow the best seed. That’s completely different. That’s how we should handle our finances individually and collectively. Choose the best investments, choose the best time, do everything to secure the maximum return. That’s providence, that’s wisdom. Sow and reap.
Another thing is if you sow barley you won’t reap oats. Did you know that? I really believe it goes this far with money. If you sow dimes you’ll reap dimes. If you sow quarters you’ll reap quarters. If you sow dollars you’ll reap dollars. Whatever you sow will come back multiplied. I believe that’s implied in what we’re seeing.
Let me tell you from experience, don’t start with the ambition to sow a thousand dollars. Because it’s got to be out of faith. Faith grows. Let me just say this. I hope I can say it with humility. For me today, it’s as easy to have faith for a thousand dollars as it was to have faith for a hundred dollars ten years ago. I know inflation has taken care of a lot of that! But basically, I think in different categories today because I’ve matured my faith. I know there’s much higher figures. I’m not speaking as a person that specializes in faith for finances. There are brothers that have that ministry.
I know one man who’s a missionary and God has challenged him year by year to determine in advance how much he personally will give to God out of his own finances. Two years ago he promised God $25,000. He doesn’t do this idly, he waits on God to get the figure. Do you know what he promised God last year? $100,000. Out of his own finances. He’s not a wealthy man, he’s a missionary in a poor country. But that’s faith. Faith grows. It’s a little mustard seed when it starts but it can become a big shrub if you cultivate it.
I’m not saying that God will lead all of us along that line but I’m saying the principles of faith work.
Let me tell you something else. This may not be the right place but it comes to my mind. I’m related to a very wonderful group of Charismatic believers in Jamaica. The Bashams know them and some of the rest may know them. Two years ago Charles Simpson and I were down there preaching to them. They’ve really entered into the things that we’re talking about: relationship, commitment, covenant. They care, they’re a beautiful group of people. Charles, at my insistence, related to them how at one time the people in his fellowship prayed and decided what they would make available of their personal finance and possessions to God for his kingdom. It was a sum that ran into several million dollars. So, Charles didn’t want to tell this in Jamaica but I kind of pressured him into it. It was very interesting, I went back the next year. Do you know what they told me? And, they are not legalistic in any sense. They said, “We called our people together and we asked them all to pray and determine what we collectively could make available to God for his kingdom.”
Jamaica is a small nation. It has about two million people, it’s economically on a very low level, it’s under real economic pressure. Do you know what they came up with? More than four million Jamaican dollars. A Jamaican dollar at that time was worth a little more than an American dollar.
So, God has shown me don’t ever say these people are too poor, it wouldn’t work for them. If you are poor, you better take the root out. That’s the faith root. I am absolutely convinced myself that just as the principles of agriculture work all over the world for black people, brown people, yellow people, white people, people of any background or race, I am equally convinced that the divine principles of finance work all over the world for any kind of people anywhere.
I used to tell these people in East Africa, which is a poor country though not one of the poorest, I said, “Do you think God loves the Americans more than he loves you?” They didn’t like that because they were always asking the Americans for money. Then at the same time they wanted to be, quote, indigenous. You know, independent. I said, “Just bear in mind dollars don’t grow in Africa.” I was trying to challenge them to believe that God could provide for them in their situation with the same abundance that he could provide for any of his people anywhere in the world.
I was working with young people who were students and they were all of the poor. It was a continual struggle for them to raise the money for their school fees because there was not free education in East Africa. I went back in l976 at the end of the year. Two of my former students met me, entertained me and took me to lunch in one of the best restaurants in Nairobi. I didn’t care about the food because by the grace of God I eat in all sorts of restaurants everywhere. It really did me good to see that it works in East Africa. It works anywhere. You find the right soil, follow the right principles, sow the right seed and you’ll get the right harvest. But, it must be in faith.
Malachi 3, we won’t dwell on this but just look there. Malachi 3:8. You’ll notice here in these verses, Malachi 3:8 and following we have the curse and the blessing, we’ve come back there.
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me, but ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.”
I don’t want in any way to be legalistic but I just want to say that if you withhold God’s portion from him you’re robbing him. And robbing God leads to a curse. It leads to the poverty curse. It leads to the sickness curse. It’s very clear.
What’s the remedy? God says:
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now herewith...”
God says you’ve got to put me to the test. “Don’t wait for the abundance and then bring the tithe, bring the tithe and I’ll see to the abundance.” Always it must be in faith.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse... prove me now herewith... if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
What’s the blessing? Is it spiritual? No, sir. It’s very practical. It’s financial, it’s material. I’ve been in prayer meetings where Christians pray, “Lord, open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing.” It sounds good but I always want to get up and shake them and say, “Listen, it doesn’t come by praying, it comes by tithing.” You could pray forever and if you didn’t obey you’d have no claim to the blessing.
Then God says:
“I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. All nations shall call you blessed...”
It’s very clear what the blessing is, isn’t it? It’s not confused, it’s not obscure; it’s real. As soon as we get outside the four walls of a church building we all know what it is. It’s just while we’re in church we get so spiritual that we don’t care about money. I don’t believe it.
Principle number three, this is also very important. Principle number three. Giving is a scriptural way to show honor. Okay. Money and honor go together. I’ll give you three scriptures. The first is in Proverbs 3:9–10:
“Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”
The teaching is bring God first his portion freely and you’ll be prospered and blessed with all the rest. But, in bringing God his portion, the firstfruits, you are honoring the Lord. So, giving according to scripture, honors the Lord and withholding dishonors the Lord. Those of us that do not give according to the principles of God, we are dishonoring the Lord.
Then it says by giving we honor our parents. This is very significant. Matthew 15:4. The Pharisees were criticizing Jesus for not keeping the traditions of the elders. Jesus said, “You keep the traditions of the elders but break the commandments of God.” He gave them one specific example. He said:
“God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But you say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift [?korban?, something devoted to God] by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free.”
Notice how we honor our parents. How? By giving them of our substance. Withholding that which they need financially and materially is dishonoring them. This is a very penetrating scripture. If our parents are well provided for we don’t have all that obligation in that area but we do have the obligation to honor father and mother. Which is the first commandment that carries a promise with it. I want to tell you from long experience in the ministry of deliverance, people that do not honor their father and mother never have it well with them. They can be saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit and do all sorts of things but there’s always something missing in their lives. We really cannot talk about honoring our parents if we do not meet their genuine financial and material needs.
Then, along the same line, 1Timothy 5:17–18:
“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.”
What kind of honor are we talking about that we give to elders? Well, the next verse makes it absolutely clear.
“For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward.”
So, we honor elders by showing them financial appreciation for their services. I once remarked that if you double zero you still got zero! This to me proves that basically in the set-up that Paul envisaged there was a regular recognized remuneration for the elders. Because, you can’t double a vague figure. I mean, I’m not forcing a point, I’m just saying to me the implications are clear.
So notice, what we do with out money determines three things. Whether we honor God, whether we honor our parents, and whether we honor our spiritual leaders. In each case money is an essential factor in honoring. I don’t say that to bring anybody under condemnation because I’m convinced that most of you are already doing that. But it’s good to see these scriptural facts.
The fourth principle is right thinking, speaking and acting. I want to put the emphasis on thinking. I want to suggest to you it is impossible to think wrong and live right. And it is inevitable if you think right you will live right. Joshua 1:8. This is the instructions to Joshua when he was to lead God’s people into their inheritance.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous and then thou shalt have good success.”
To me, that’s the most total promise of prosperity and success that a person could ever wish. “Then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, then thou shalt have good success.”
What are the basic requirements? Three. Meditate in the law of the Lord, speak the law of the Lord, act the law of the Lord. It’s what we think, it’s what we say, it’s what we do that determines what we experience. “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; thou shalt meditate therein that thou mayest observe to do.” I sum that up in think, speak and act God’s word.
Then again in Psalm 1, in a sense, an even more embracing promise. In Joshua it’s spoken to one man but in Psalm 1 it’s absolutely general—any person that meets these conditions. The first 3 verses.
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
Notice that last little sentence. “Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Will you say that with me? “Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” There is no room for failure there. Everything he does will succeed.
What are the conditions? I suggest to you there are three negative conditions, two positive. The negative conditions, the things you must not do, are stated in verse 1. You must not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful. Notice there’s a gradual slowing down. If you begin to walk in the way of the ungodly you then stand and finally you’ll sit and you’re there. You’ve got to avoid that evil progression from walking to standing to sitting.
Many Christians actually accept the counsel of the ungodly in many areas of their lives. Then they wonder why they don’t prosper. This is the primary requirement, we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly.
Then there are the two positive requirements in verse 2. “He delights in the law of the Lord.” And secondly, “He meditates day and night in the law of the Lord.” If I were to pick out one thing that’s absolutely central to prosperity in the scriptures, it’s right meditation. It’s what you think about, the way you think, what fills your mind and occupies your mind is really going to determine your experience.
So on the basis of meeting those five conditions, three negative and two positive, the Bible says of any person, whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. That includes every single person in this room here tonight. According to my understanding of this scripture, if you accept the Bible as the word of God, here are principles which will guarantee success for every person in this room. In fact, in the name of the Lord and on his behalf I promise you total success if you will meet these conditions.
The final condition—and I can do this very quickly but it’s very important, I don’t want to leave it out—it’s this: Let God add in his way and his time. Don’t go out and grab for it, let God add it. That’s faith. You meet the conditions. You don’t make the harvest grow. I always remember years ago when I was in Ireland, there was a little boy of 6 whose parents gave him some potatoes to plant. You know, potatoes are the staple crop of Ireland. He went out and planted his potatoes. A week later he was out to see if they were growing. No sign of growth and two weeks later he dug them up to see if they were growing. Well, you can dig potatoes up three or four times and they don’t grow.
Some Christians are like that. They plant their potatoes then dig them up to see if they’re growing. No. This is the essence of faith is you let God do it. That doesn’t mean you’re slack or indifferent or superspiritual.
We’re coming back then to the principle that God has to add. We can do it very quickly, just whisk through the scriptures. Notice Deuteronomy 28, talking about the blessings, verse 2:
“All these blessings shall come on thee and overtake thee...”
You don’t run after them, they run after you. What a relief! You go to bed at night and you wonder as you go to bed what blessing will have caught up with me by the time I wake up in the morning! All right? Jesus said don’t be careful. He said the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches will choke the seed. That’s the wrong attitude.
Proverbs 10:22, have you been to the book of Proverbs before tonight? I think you have. Now you’re beginning to discover Proverbs has got a lot to tell you about prosperity.
“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.”
What a verse! You don’t seek riches, you qualify for the blessings.
Matthew 6:33, a very familiar verse but we’ll look at it and read it.
“But seek ye first...”
Money in the bank. No. A good investment. No.
“...the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
All your material needs will be added to you if you seek God’s kingdom.
And finally, Mark 10:29–30:
“Jesus answered them and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time...”
That’s not the next world. Are you agreed about that? What will you receive a hundredfold?
“...houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions...”
Don’t leave out the persecutions.
“...and in the world to come life eternal.”
Notice, forsaking everything for Christ in this life leads to results in this life. They are not all stored up for the next world. Okay?
Now, I just have to close with this personal testimony. In l946 I did that. I had no children, I wasn’t married. But, for the sake of the Lord and the gospel I forsook everything in the worldly sense that I had. I’m not making myself a hero. I really didn’t see the spiritual principles. It was like, I think, drawing teeth out of me. I let them go because God put me under such pressure there was nothing else I could do and stay right with God. But I gave up my country, I gave up my family, I gave up my profession, I gave up my career, I gave up my money, I gave up everything. I’m standing here tonight 32 years later and telling you that God has been absolutely faithful to his word. He has added abundantly all the things that are listed in this verse. So, I want to say it works. Praise God, it works.
Just for the sake of being complete, I want to just read the list of conditions without commenting, and close. Number one, our motives and attitudes must be right. Number two, faith is essential. Number three, giving is a scriptural way to show honor. Number four, the basis is right thinking, speaking and acting; with the emphasis on right thinking. And, number five, we have to let God add in his way and in his time.