Your Success is not Evidence of God’s Favour

The Prosperity Gospel – the belief that God rewards faithfulness to Him with health, wealth and fame – is incredibly damaging.

There are some who preach this openly – indeed, they build whole careers out of it.

But I believe that many Christians (even those who would openly distance themselves from Prosperity teachings) hold to beliefs that, when you scratch the surface, come back to the same heresy.

One of these beliefs that is quite common, is that when life is going well, this is God’s “blessing” on your life. That God is saying, by way of material or spiritual success, that he approves of your life.

In actual fact, if we look at the Bible, we see that many times it is the wicked who enjoy prosperity.

The Wicked Prosper Materially

Jeremiah 12:1-2:

You are always righteous, Lord,
    when I bring a case before you.
Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
    Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
    Why do all the faithless live at ease?
You have planted them, and they have taken root;
    they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips
    but far from their hearts.

Jeremiah is crying out to God about the injustice he perceives as wicked people have good lives.

And notice that it’s not just the wicked who prosper, it’s their way. The whole way they live their lives seems to work, it has worldly wisdom.

When the way you do life works, when you enjoy good fruit and prosperity, you might be tempted to think, “This is the right way to do things.” But remember, success is not evidence that God approves of your life.

And it’s not just “pagans” Jeremiah was talking about either!

He says, “You are always on their lips…”.

There are people who claim to follow God – they might talk about him all the time – but their hearts are far from Him.

This is an attitude that Christians need to seriously guard against by remaining in Christ. It is only through a true relationship with Christ that we will genuinely live to please God, and know that our lives are pleasing to Him (regardless of our material circumstances). I know I say it again and again (if I have one hobby horse, let it be this), but EVERYTHING in the Christian life comes down to relationship with Jesus.

God sees and knows our hearts – we can’t fake it with him!

 

The Wicked Prosper Spiritually

And it’s not only material prosperity.

There are people who equate spiritual success with God’s favour too.

See Matthew 7:21-27:

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

You would think that if you are doing great wonders and miracles in Jesus’s name, that would be evidence that he approves of you as a person, and certainly that he approves of your ministry!

But here Jesus tells us that is not the case. And this won’t just be a few people, it will be “many”.

Do you really know Jesus? Or do you just assume that you must because you have a successful ministry?

 

The Real Danger

The real danger of equating our own success with God’s favour is that we will “succeed”all the way out the door of God’s kingdom. Success has a way of blinding us of to the spiritual reality.

If you recall the parable of the sower, the seed that falls among the thorns…

…refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Wealth and prosperity are deceitful. They trick us into thinking we are fine, when the spiritual reality is that we are dying.

We should be like Paul, when he writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Let your success or lack of success be passing circumstances. And remember that they do not determine your spiritual reality.

 

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7 thoughts on “Your Success is not Evidence of God’s Favour

  1. I cannot love this post enough! My husband and I came out of a denomination that was pretty much prosperity gospel. It’s been a few years now and we are still healing from some of the ridiculous stuff we had to deal with. Thank you for bringing the truth.
    The Matthew 7 passage has always frightened me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oftentimes when people are raised on a mind set like this one, when someone they love is diagnosed with cancer or suddenly dies in a car crash, it sparks the good ol “Why do bad things happen to good people?” question. Nonetheless, living on a decaying world where sin abounds has a way of causing fatalities. I just wish more preachers who do the funeral services would switch their message from “sometimes it’s God’s plan that…” to something like what you’ve written here but they’ve convinced themselves that works are the answer and when someone whose works were outlandishly good dies, they are speechless.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. One of these beliefs that is quite common, is that when life is going well, this is God’s “blessing” on your life. That God is saying, by way of material or spiritual success, that he approves of your life.

    We are in the process of finding a church in our new location and have been listening to sermons online from the one that RLB will likely choose. Your post reflects what the last sermon we listened to was saying.
    He was discussing Matthew 5 and the beatitudes making the distinction of the definition of the word “Blessed” that starts each out.
    One form of “Blessed” is eulogeó – Verb (adulation, praise, blessing, gift.). This is where eulogy comes from and is used to discuss speaking well of another.

    (Side note, the pastor talks of “how do we bless God as we are instructed to do?” Going to Genesis 24:11 we see the root of the word used for kneel means bless. We bless God by kneeling before him.)

    The word “Blessed” in the beatitudes is the word makarios – an Adjective. It is the existing state of favor, spiritual joy. Each beatitude tells us what that spiritual quality is.
    When one is very well educated in a topic, he may be called “learn-ed”. The same for this word “blessed” – we are “bless-ed”
    Matthew 5 is not a formula to follow, it is not a performance. Jesus is declaring this to be part and parcel of your life and what you already have. The distinctive religious joy from being in the Kingdom. Unlikely, undeserving yet we are bless-ed because of Jesus Christ.

    What I’ve come to understand is the very distinct difference between Joy and the most oft expression of happiness. Happiness, of course, being subjective and not always good. Joy, on the other hand is objective (not influenced by personal feelings or opinions) and does not exist outside of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (like marriage, anyone can use a word, it doesn’t mean he is using it correctly). If you are of the Kingdom, you possess Joy. And the more we Bless God (kneel), the more we *feel* that which we already possess – joy, peace, grace etc – that is our spiritual reality. And like you said, our earthly success and failures, moments of *happiness* and moments of *sorrow* are certainly passing circumstances that are not influenced by God due to our performance.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. @wordsofgold,
    You are right – I didn’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t have fear of the Lord. Just that it is possible to have certainty – we don’t need to fear being rejected by Him on judgement day if we are in relationship with Jesus.

    Like

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