(12) For you will go joyfully, and be led out in peace. The mountains and the hills will break out into singing ahead of you, and every tree of the field will clap its hands. (13) Instead of the thorn bush, Juniper trees will grow, and instead of the nettle, cypress trees will sprout up. This will be for YHWH’s reputation, for an eternal sign that won’t get removed. — Isaiah 55:12-13
I don’t particularly like what is called â€œprosperity theologyâ€ the idea that Christians in general should be materially prosperous in this world. There is too much strong evidence that Jesus and his disciples were not so prosperous, and it wasn’t personal, temporal prosperity that Jesus was offering them. The question he had for his disciples was whether they could handle the difficulties of truly following him.
But beyond all this there is one scriptural fact: God’s plan for you is prosperity.
Now how does that differ from prosperity theology? Well, first notice that I didn’t say temporal prosperity. Oh, it’s quite possible that God will prosper you in this life and in things that the world’s accountants can count. If so, God is calling you to extraordinary stewardship. God may be calling you to steward millions of dollars or even billions of dollars worth of material goods. He not only owns the cattle on a thousand hills, a scriptural symbol of prosperity; he owns the computers in a million offices, the cars on thousands of roads, the houses in thousands of communities, and all the dollars he wants in as many banks as he wants. Hmmâ€”let’s make that everything!
But all of that is small potatoes from God’s point of view. What he wants for you is that you â€œgo joyfully and be led out in peace.â€ He wants to make youâ€”you personally and individuallyâ€”into an eternal, immovable, imperishable sign. He wants to recreate you, make new life in you, his kind of life that doesn’t diminish or fade. He wants to replace the thorns and nettles in your life with beautiful, productive plants.
Isaiah 55:12-13 is talking about the literal return of the Jews from exile in Babylon to replant themselves in Judah. But even more importantly it’s expressing God’s principle of redemption and recreation. Physical and spiritual restoration are in his plan, but he won’t be satisfied with a few dollars in the bank. He wants to make a new you.
Some have suggested that my objection to prosperity theology stems from doubt that God can perform such a miracle. How can I possibly doubt God’s power in this way? Do I think prosperity is too big of a miracle? No! Absolutely not! It is much too small of a miracle. Tiny, unimportant, incidental, a sideline. God is in the business of rebuilding souls and building a kingdom with those rebuilt souls, and he’s going to do whatever it takes. The souls he is rebuilding cannot be comfortable in this world. If you desire prosperity to be comfortable in this world, then God may not be there to give it to you. You see, billions of dollars are only petty cash to him in the process of redeeming people, redeeming you.
It would be so easy for us to miss out on God’s big miracle, the transforming miracle he’s doing in our life, while arguing about who gets what’s in God’s petty cash drawer.
Here’s how it works:
In the world you will have trouble. — John 16:33b
Discouraging? Could be! But read on.
But be encouraged! I have conquered the word! — John 16:33c
Don’t miss what God is doing in your life today!