What would you think if you turned on your TV and spotted a preacher wearing nice clothes, preaching to thousands of people inside a well-furnished building on the subject of prosperity and success? If you’re like me, you might shake your head at the shameless preaching of the so-called “prosperity gospel” and switch right off. But if the preacher in question was Joseph Prince, you would be making a mistake.
Contrary to what the devil would have you believe, the words “prosperity” and “success” are actually found in the Bible, so any preacher who aims to teach the full counsel of scripture must surely talk about them. The only difference with Joseph Prince is that he is not ashamed to do so. Even if you have only a passing awareness of his ministry, you will know this. Afterall, the subtitle of his first book, Destined to Reign, is “The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness and Victorious Living,” while the first chapter of his second book, Unmerited Favor, is labeled “The Definition of Success.” And if we are to return to a Biblical view of such things, a good definition is a good place to start.
The world defines success in terms of what you have done and what you have accumulated. But the Bible defines success in terms of Jesus. As CS Lewis said,
“He who has God and everything else has nothing more than he who has God alone.”
Imagine a prisoner with no hope of freedom and who spends his days waiting to die. Then, inexplicably, a great and loving king befriends him. The king frees the prisoner, pays his debt and adopts him into the royal family. Let me ask you this: Will the prisoner now become healthier than he was when he was in prison? Will he have better prospects? Will he be blessed and in a better position to bless others? Of course he will. But if we or the prisoner become preoccupied with the change in his circumstances, we will miss the greatest change of all, which is that the king now calls him “friend.”
It saddens me to see some people bickering over the blessings. They miss the astounding thing, which is that a Great King calls us his “friends” (Jn 15:15). If you have Jesus and nothing else, you have something of infinitely greater value than the entire universe. Anything extra is just loose change. And yet God, in his awesome generosity, promises to take care of all those little extras that we need:
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33)
When we look for Jesus, everything else gets taken care of. And we’re not just talking about our basic needs, for he is the God of “more than enough”. In Unmerited Favor, Prince reflects on the story of Joseph, a prisoner in a foreign land. Joseph had nothing, but the Lord was with him, therefore he was successful and it was only a question of time when his earthly circumstances reflected that spiritual reality.
Joseph Prince has been preaching on true success for years and I don’t have the space here to give you anything more than a taste. But what I do have is a list of 12 quotes taken from Unmerited Favor. I present these quotes simply to get believers thinking about a subject that has been considered taboo for too long:
1. “Success is not what you have, but rather who you have.” (p.3)
2. “God has no problem with you having money, but He does not want money to have you!” (p.27)
3. “There is no such thing as a ‘prosperity gospel.’ There is only one gospel and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (p.29)
4. “When the little boy brought his five loaves and two fishes to Jesus, did He gobble them up and say, ‘I am giving you a lesson in poverty?’ Of course not!… Jesus did not feed the multitudes with just enough food. He blessed them with more than enough food. He is the God of more than enough and that is His style. Likewise, Jesus wants to bless you with more than enough, so that you can be a blessing to others.” (p.238)
5. “The Lord blessed Abraham so that he could be a blessing to others… You cannot be a blessing to those around you – your loved ones, local church, community and the poor – if you are not blessed by the Lord first.” (p.231)
6. “Religion is blinding. Religion will tell you that ‘God’ wants you sick to teaching you character and patience. Religion will tell you that ‘God’ wants you poor, so that you will learn humility. It sounds noble, doesn’t it? But these are LIES from the pit of hell! Let me tell you this: It is the devil who wants you sick and poor, but the God I know paid a heavy price to redeem you from the curse of sickness and poverty!” (p.30)
7. “The more occupied you are with Jesus, the more money follows after you! Now why is that? It is simply because when you seek first the kingdom of God, and put Jesus, His righteousness (not your righteousness), His joy and His peace as your first priority, God’s Word promises you that ALL the material things that you need will be added to you.” (pp.233-4)
8. “Don’t love money and use people. Use money to love people.” (p.234)
9. “The secret to walking in the blessing of Abraham in your life is to stop trying to deserve it.” (p.240)
10. “The irony is that if you were to examine the lives of those believers who fight against the teaching that God blesses His children with more than enough, you would see that they have no problems with doing their best to secure a nice home and give their children the best education money can buy… You see, they have no problem with accumulating wealth for themselves and living well, but they have a problem when we tell them that financial success is from God. They would rather believe in their self-efforts and say that their success is ‘self-made,’ than give God the credit.” (p.232)
11. “There are no ‘money problems,’ only ‘idea problems.’” (p.308)
12. “Don’t be afraid to use the word ‘prosperous.’ It’s God’s promise in the Bible.” (p.207)
I don’t know about you, but I read these quotes and think “sounds reasonable to me.” Yet I know that others will react strenuously against this merely because it’s politically incorrect for Christians to even discuss these things, or because they think we’re better off poor and sick (even while they’re working hard to save money and stay healthy). What do you think?