Prosperity or Presence?

We wrote last time about the success and prosperity promises under the old covenant.  Remember, the old covenant, the old arrangement between God and man was behavior focused and consequence based.  If you do X, God will do Y.  If you obey the law, you will be blessed.  If you fall short, you will be cursed.

The gist of this arrangement is recorded for us in the Old Testament over and over.  “So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do” (Deuteronomy 29:9).  Or “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night … and in whatever he does he prospers” (Psalm 1:2-3).  And of course our verse from last time, “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 success” (Joshua 1:8).

Because we like the promise of success and because we like to think that what we do will open up the blessings of heaven, we often bring these concepts into our new covenant thinking.  It is a dangerous, mixed-covenant message.  It looks like this, “Yes, let’s leave the ‘law’ behind.  Let’s focus on Jesus and His commands (new covenant) and we will receive the blessing and prosperity God promised (old covenant).”  What exactly did God promise regarding our life circumstances in the new covenant?

The ultimate promise of Jesus is His presence, not success and prosperity.  First off, Jesus promised to come live inside us.  Talk about presence!  “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20).  Just like Christ is in the Father, we are in Christ and Christ is in us.  How much closer can we get?  This is over-the-top presence.

This presence is experienced by us as Christ is literally living His life through us.  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Here is another beautiful promise of Christ’s presence.  “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4).  Again, this is presence at its best, “hidden with Christ in God”.  And it will never end.  “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Here is a verse about prosperity and presence together.  “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).  In the realm of money’s hold on our lives, we are to be content rather than grasping for more.  I don’t see any promise here of, “Be content because more money is coming your way.”  No, the promise is, “Be content because I will never leave you.”  Christ’s presence in your life is assured FOREVER!  And, I might add, Christ’s presence in your life is more valuable than earthly prosperity.

There are many more verses we could add about Christ’s promise of His presence when we go through suffering and the trials we face in this life.  Let us summarize with one more verse, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

This really sums up the idea that the circumstances of this world will be troublesome.  Smooth sailing is never the promise for the child of God.  But in the midst of it all, the incredible presence of Jesus; in us, around us, alongside us, is a promise that will never fail.

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