Joseph (the old testament one) spent most of his youth in slavery and prison. What do you think is the one item that featured in all of his prayers while in prison? Did he pray for freedom? Did he pray for an easier time? Did he pray for justice? If we only consider a single item that may have featured in each of Joseph’s prayers, we suddenly realize that we don’t have many options. He probably didn’t always pray for freedom from captivity. Now and then, maybe, but not every time. He probably didn’t always pray for justice. What is the one prayer he might have made every time he prayed?
This morning, our senior pastor, Charles Ng’ang’a, preached a message from Deuteronomy chapter 8. The sermon title was “PILLARS OF PROSPERITY” and in order to guard against the dangers of presuming that this might turn out to be another ‘prosperity gospel’ message, he quickly added a disclaiming sub-title: “THE PITFALLS OF PRIDE”. Touche Pastor C. 🙂
“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:1-2)
Pastor C reminded us that the act of remembering is pro-active. That we often forget to remember: “Remembering means not forgetting. Forgetting is not just a lapse of memory, it is a failure to give the lessons of our past a significant place in our present. A failure to guide our choices in the present by the truths learnt in the past.”
The Israelites were urged to remember their wilderness journey because that journey was meant to teach them great lessons, not about the promised land, but lessons about the promise-maker. Using an anecdote from Neil Armstrong’s trip to the moon, Pastor C reminded us that we are all on a spacecraft traveling to a destination that is millions of light-years away. This means that the generation that sets out will not be the generation that arrives. We therefore need to preserve the ancient commands given by the mission commander.
He said, “the future generations need to know why this spaceship was launched and where it is headed. We preach the same old word, same old purpose and the same old direction. May we learn to treasure the words of the one who launched the mission.”
Translated to our present lives, this analogy points to the urgency and need to get the Gospel right, and proclaim it for posterity, not just for prosperity, to the name and glory of God. The Israelites went through all those tribulations because God was more concerned with forming their hearts than getting them to Canaan.
Therefore, we should “take seriously the days of scarcity and leanness for those are your best days. God is teaching you and drawing you closer to Him. When God tells us to remember, we are to ask ourselves “what is the role of history in my faith?” What do I need to memorize? Don’t go for plan B, focus on God and His Word… As you re-calibrate your resolutions for 2014, remember the most important resolution you can make is to solidify your relationship with God.”
In the end, what matters is whether we are staying in God’s revealed will. Are we striving to live by His commands daily? Are we obeying God? Are we delighting in Him? If we do all these things, if we make relationship with God, growing in our faith, our aim, we are going to prosper. But this is where the catch is. For the Israelites, their GUARANTEED reward was the promised land. But for those in the household of faith, our guaranteed reward is not the temporal blessings of this life, but the GUARANTEED blessing of eternal life — heaven.
Pastor Charles concluded by driving home this very point: “Our final destination as Christians, our promised land, is not found in Deuteronomy 8 but in Revelations 21:3-4:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.””
So, even as we make resolutions for the new year, as we make plans for prosperity, let these “things” not be our ultimate goals. Let us not make the temporal, earthly, prosperity the object of our every prayer or devotion time. Let us focus on the greater things. The things that Joseph probably focused on every time he got down on his knees to pray.*
The greatest pillar of prosperity is a life lived for the glory of God. A life that does not make “material, earthly, prosperity” it’s object or goal. A life that is satisfied in the all sufficient savior — Jesus Christ.
For the fame of His name,
*I came up with three main things Joseph probably never failed to mention in all his prayers in prison. The list is not exhaustive. Please consider them:
“For starters, it is reasonable to deduce that Joseph always thanked God. He thanked God for life, for health, for the will to carry on, for His sustaining grace. We can also say that Joseph probably repented each time he prayed, for harboring any bitter thoughts against the ex-prisoner who forgot him, and other day to day moments of weakness. Thirdly, I submit that Joseph always prayed for God’s guidance, wisdom and strength, the strength to persevere through the hard times, the strength to follow God’s will and keep God’s commandments.”