Flourishing in God's House
What would you think if I told you that the Bible teaches God wants you to prosper? Let's go to the Bible and see what we learn.
The apostle John makes a really encouraging statement in the opening of his third letter:
I pray that you may prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers. 3 John 2
John wants his reader to prosper as much as his soul is prospering. The idea behind this statement is that his reader's soul is prospering. This word for prosper means to flourish, to grow strong and healthy. That's why the ESV translates this as go well with you.
Things are going well with this goes soul, and John is praying that his entire life will experience the same prosperity, the same well-going, as his soul. This word (Gr. εὐοδόω euodoō) also means to be successful; in the first century, this is what someone would wish a friend as they were departing on a journey: may you have a prosperous (blessed, successful) journey. May it go well with you!
God wants it go well with us. He wants us to prosper, to be successful.
But the key from 3 John 2 is that this person's prosperity started in their soul. That is, they had tapped into the peace that trascends our understanding (Philippians 4:7); they experienced righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). They had learned to let go of fear and cling to faith; they had given up doubt and were abounding in love and grace. In short - Their soul was so rich in their experience of God that John uses this as the basis for wishing that all their life could do as well as their soul.
This all brings us to Psalm 92, where we get a glimpse of what flourishing looks like.
First, the person who prospers prioritises praise.
This is what is says in Psalm 92:1-2:
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
Giving thanks, singing praise, declaring God's steadfast love. What is all that about? All of those actions set our hearts and minds on God, not ourselves; on God's provision, not our problems. There is no room for anxiety in the heart of the person filled with thanks and praise. The praising person is a prosperous person.
Second, the person who prospers prioritises God's simple provision.
Look what the Psalm says in Psalm 92:4-5:
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
How great are your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep!
There is a place for pondering the mysteries of life; the Psalmist even recognises that God's thoughts are very deep. But the focus of consciousness is set on what God has done:
- you have made me glad by your work
- at the works of your hands I sing for joy
- How great are your works.
God's works are all around. From the power of inspiring the Bible to the sublime sunsets and the solace of a gentle breeze, God's work is all around. He sustains us with air and gives us relationships for our encouragement. The prosperous person appreciates God's provision.
Third, the prosperous person is planted in the Lord's house.
The Psalmist ends with flourish (word play intended) in Psalm 92:12-15:
The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Cedars and palms are very different kinds of trees; cedars are tall and majestic, and palm trees sort of laze about, reminding us that we're in the tropics and it's time to chill. But in the Psalm, they both flourish because they are planted. What's at stake in being planted?
- Being planted involves roots that go deep
- Being planted includes the ability to tap water, in dry or wet climates
- Being planted means growing and giving shade to others.
- Most of all, being planted means being part of an ecosystem of mutual encouragement.
In short, being planted involves both receiving and giving. Like trees that receive nourishment from the sun and soil, we receive nourishment when we're planted. But we also give to others - shade, fruit, and the hope of growth.
But don't miss the Psalmist's key point: the place of flourisinghing is the house of God with the people of God. Too many people live spiritual lives of perpetually being transplanted, looking for the perfect soil conditions, and in the process miss out on the flourishing that can only come from staying put.
The result of being planted is two-fold:
- First, they still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green. For an old guy like me, that's encouraging. But it reminds that the key to sappyness (is that word) is connection with God, not chronological age.
- Second, they declare that the Lord is upright; he is a rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Because they have experienced God's goodness, they can declare God's goodness unabashedly.
In short: yes, God wants you to prosper! And the place of prosperity is the house of the Lord, with the people of God. Learn how to be planted and grow - and experience the goodness of our Lord for a long, long time.