Amidst all the talk about grace, blessings and prosperity, much controversy has come up lately within the Church, affecting its unity as One Body. However, if we take a survey of churches today, we would discover that such as those headed by Benny Hinn, T D Jakes, and Joel Osteen invariably draw in large numbers of people into their congregation.
Not knowing much about these speakers beyond the controversies that arose, I cannot say whether they are false prophets or not. What is clear to me is that there are a lot of hurting people in search for answers and hope from beyond their immediate surroundings.
The Question of Blessings
However, as a Christian, I would say that I truly believe that God wants the best for His people. And I also believe that He does bless His people. Not necessarily in becoming rich, if that would pose a danger to our spirits, but in such aspects as good health and with good people around us. Though not rich, I am often aware that I am truly blessed with the good people around me; people who are concerned and loving, protective and supportive.
Above all, I am blessed by knowing a personal and loving God who is full of grace, mercy, and patience. Looking at many parts of the world and the lives of many more unfortunate people on this earth, if that’s not a blessing, I don’t know what is.
Yet though we know that God wants the best for His people, we also need to understand the role of blessings in a believer’s life. And we need to understand this in a balanced manner. Why does God bless us? Is it simply to make our lives comfortable and easy? What is prosperity in Christ? How do we become prosperous in Christ? How can we best steward the blessings of God in a way that honours Him?
The church of Kajang Assembly of God is currently taking on a discipleship project. This project has 4 elements, leading from one to the other, but with one overarching vision. These 4 elements are Connecting (A Hand to Hold), Equipping (A Pathway to Growth), Mentoring (A Life to Invest), and Release (A World to Change).
Recently, in connection with this, Rev Dr Paul Ai shared in the church a missiological and testimonial message in an answer to such questions as those above.
Rev Dr Paul Ai
Rev Dr Paul Ai has a life-story that is pretty well-known. He is a Vietnamese pastor and evangelist who have been put into jail for 10 years because of evangelism. Today, he is not allowed to go back to Vietnam anymore and travels the world to share the Gospel. Though he can no longer step into Vietnam, his passion of spreading the good news to his people, the Vienamese, is still very much alive.
Rev Paul Ai took his name from the Apostle Paul, and shares a remarkably parallel life journey to that that was lived by the apostle. Coming from a background of being a witchdoctor, God humbled him and convicted his heart. After receiving Christ into his life, he was persecuted and driven out by his own family.
Despite all the challenges, God has brought him through numerous miraculous experiences. The ten years he spent in prison were the best and most powerful years of his life, he shared. In those ten years, he saw how God poured His grace and mercy upon death-sentenced criminals, and despite the harsh laws of Vietnamese prison allowing each prisoner only 1 liter of water per day, God made it possible for him to baptize many of them into God’s Kingdom.
God reached into the hearts of many of them, and many make sacrifices just so that they could be baptized and accept Christ formally into their lives. They managed to know about the gospel and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal saviour before they died. How does one who has gone through so much such as Rev Paul muster such assurance in God’s goodness that it led others to Christ?
Trusting in God’s Goodness
It was such verses as 3 John 2 and Psalm 37:18-19 that kept Rev Paul strong. In Psalms 37:18-19 in particular, we are reminded of the promise we have in God; that the Lord takes care of the innocent and though famine may come, they will not be disgraced in hard times.
In Jeremiah 29:11 God gives the assurance that He has good plans for our future, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future. Rev Paul shared that as God’s children, we have identities as princes and princesses of God. We have a highly-privileged role as holy ambassadors unto God.
In Joshua 1:8, we receive an important reminder to study the Word of God continually. We are instructed to meditate on it day and night and to be careful to do everything written on it. Only then will we prosper and succeed in everything that we do.
From the very start of the Bible, in Genesis 26:12-13 and Genesis 39:23, we learn through the lives of Isaac and Joseph how God protected and watched over those who were faithful to him. This is what it means to prosper in Christ; to grow in the assurance of our provision and security that we have through our identities in Him.
Why Does God Prosper Us?
We have a gracious God, Rev Paul shared. Why does God want us to prosper? Is it just for us? Rev Paul gave 3 reasons why God blesses and prospers us. Firstly, as written in 1 Timothy 5:8, God wants us to take care of our families. The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is a picture of how God relates to His children, and another light on this is given through Matthew 7:11.
God is concerned about our family lives. He blesses us with provision and good health so that we can take care of our families. Especially for those with parenting and caretaking roles, we have a responsibility of stewardship over our families, bringing them up in the Word of God, making sure that they’re strong, healthy, and well-fed, and that there is a conducive environment in which they can grow in the knowledge of the Lord. This is one principle: a Christian family ought to be a testimony of God’s provision and faithfulness.
Secondly, God wants His Church to be strong. In Galatians 6:6-7, we are counseled to share all good things with those who teach us the Word of God. This speaks of the people who lead the Church. In 1 Timothy 5:17-18, we are instructed to treat with respect and render with double honour those who work hard for the Kingdom, preaching and teaching God’s word.
Why does God want us to treat our church leaders with respect? In order for a church to continue functioning, there must be a sustainable structure within it. As members of the church, we must treat our church with a true sense of belonging, serving in it, giving to it with a generous heart when there is need, not as if unto another, but as from being a part of the community in which we belong. Apart from our direct families, our church and leaders must also be given consideration that they’re part of our larger family in Christ.
Thirdly, in Romans 10:13-15, Scripture reminds us of the responsibility of the Church. Everyone who calls upon the Lord will be saved, but how will they call upon His Name unless they have heard of Him? Rev Paul communicated that the reality is missions work require resources, and as citizens of the Kingdom, we must have a Kingdom mentality. The challenge to us is; “How can we be a blessing unto others now that God has blessed us? How best to steward these blessings?”
We must get beyond our poverty mentality, Rev Paul shared. Though the work of God may cost money, it is cheap in comparison with the souls of people. The Phillipian church had such a culture of going beyond the poverty mentality. They were generous to the Apostles and the Apostle Paul found much strength and encouragement from the community (Phillipians 4:15-20).
In today’s materialistic and self-seeking world, many people understand prosperity as an inwards, self-directed thing. Some other philosophies will teach you that asceticism and a vow of poverty is admirable and ought to be pursued. But how are we going to spread the Gospel if we intentionally limit our resources?
Rev Paul shared that God’s Kingdom is balanced. It is not all about riches, yet God supplies enough provisions and blessings upon His people so that the work of the Kingdom can be accomplished until the crucial day when His final purpose will be fulfilled.
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– Jason Law