A Word for our Times
Wirtten by: By Alex Tinson | Updated: 17/06/2012
Something the Lord has been impressing on my heart recently. A word for His people.
A number of years ago the Lord impressed these verses from the prophet Elisha onto my heart.
"Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants?" II Kings 5: 26.
Naaman the captain of the army of Aram had just been healed of leprosy by acting on the Word of God from Elisha. The prophet had refused any reward for this miraculous act. One CANNOT pay for anything that God decides to give you. This is a fundamental principle with God. You cannot buy or earn anything that comes from Him. Try to do so and you probably won't get the very thing you're desperate for. God gives by grace and by grace alone.
But against the prophet's will, Gehazi his servant had secretly caught up with Naaman and secured some of the Aramean's wealth through lies and deceit. Spiritually speaking he was teaching Naaman that actually it was a GOOD thing to pay for God's blessings. And even more so as a servant of God would be the beneficiary! Though this was completely OPPOSITE to what God had said Gehazi reasoned that it would be ok to run this little scam as Naaman was rich anyway and what would it matter? And wouldn't it be a great thing if the people of God were able to benefit from the gifting's God gave them? Imagine if they then became so rich that they could then be channels of blessing to everyone else!
Today many church people are being taught that it's fine to do whatever you need to do in order to be blessed. In fact the idea of being blessed has become the number ONE goal of many believers in today's modern church. Get blessed and get rich! And make sure you then pay your dues in church and tithe religiously.
For many years I was a fully signed up member of the faith prosperity movement. We were constantly taught the ways of Gehazi, attempting to profit and benefit from God and His people. Numerous testimonies of God's 'blessings' would be churned out like an Amway Convention testimony night to encourage each one to reach out for more of those blessings God's got for us! I have no problem with men being rewarded for hard work. After all the scripture does say that all hard work leads to a profit (Prov.14: 23). But when the blessings then become the literal focus of our faith, something has become drastically wrong.
The faith prosperity camp may be an extreme example of covetousness and self-indulgence in the church today but isn't it true that believers everywhere are getting sucked into materialistic lifestyles? The spread of Western capitalism around the world has resulted in greed becoming an acceptable virtue in society and this has had a HUGE IMPACT on the church worldwide. Churches that were once full of spiritually hungry people are now struggling to keep meetings going and are resorting to more and more techniques and entertainment to try and attract people back into the pews.
As societies become richer and more aware of what money can buy them, the lure of an easy life suddenly becomes very appealing. If only you get this and this and this, your life will be sorted! More and more choices open up to people for how to spend their time and the prospect of enjoying life suddenly starts to outweigh the old fashioned virtues of losing your life here on earth in order to gain eternal life with Christ. Why go to church when you can go to a theme park, drive to the beach or even get a dose of retail therapy at the nearest shopping centre? After all, isn't Sunday our day of rest and don't I work so hard anyway? The opportunity to please the flesh in acquiring and experiencing more and more has DULLED our spirits and resulted in an insipid, feeble church jam-packed with Amazon's latest offers but devoid of the genuine power of the Lord Almighty.
I believe God is saying to His bride, "Now is not the time to be chasing after such things. This is the way of this world. You are called to OVERCOME the world, not copy its corrupt ways and practices."
I am convinced we are in preparation time for the great coming of the Lord and the consummation of the age. The bridegroom is coming and is looking to join with a bride that has got herself READY. Not one that is busy chasing the things of this world. And it is clear from scripture that He is going to deal RUTHLESSLY with those who do not get ready for His coming.
There appears to me to be an amazing level of APATHY and IGNORANCE in the church regarding the coming of the Lord. So many just ASSUME they'll be fine and enjoy a great party in the sky when they have no idea what is really going to happen. All they know is what some well-meaning pastor has told them who got it from their favourite preacher or the latest best-selling christian book (I use a small 'c' deliberately). How many know what the Word really says about what will happen when Jesus returns? I can guarantee you there will be many at that time who'd have wished they'd focused more on their salvation then on the vain things of this world that so enamoured them in their oh so short sojourn through this world.
So is it a time to receive money, clothes, businesses and land? No it is not. It is time to get READY for His coming. It is time to examine ourselves in the light of scripture and honestly assess where we are in the faith. If we're in it at all that is. Are we growing in the Lord and the strength of His might or just developing our own illusion of spiritual maturity? Are we glorifying Him with all of our being or just offering up fake sacrifices and profane worship? Are we being conformed into the image of Christ or are we just spiritually airbrushing the fleshy carnal person we've always been? One day the light will truly shine upon us and there'll be no hiding place left for those who are unprepared for His coming.
Obviously we need money in order to live and there are certain things we need in order to get by in life. We are commanded to work if we want to eat and not to be dependent upon anyone. However most people have gone WAY beyond all that and are focusing ALL their energies and efforts at accumulating as much stuff as possible. Didn't Jesus say that the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things would CHOKE the plant making it unfruitful (Mk.4: 19)? And didn't Jesus say that unfruitful believers would be cut off and eventually given over to burning (John 15: 2 – 6)? Scary stuff but it's all there in black and white if we would only open our eyes to what the scriptures really say.
The idea of living simply without all the trappings seems abhorrent to most, yet this is how most of the early church lived their lives.
"And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content," I Tim.6: 8.
Today we seem to think that it is our divine right to prosper and be successful. Some people even seem to think if you aren't rich you're not walking right with God! I guess that would bar people like Baruch the faithful scribe of Jeremiah. He stood by God's prophet through all his trials and was faithful to him. God said to him,
"'And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,' says the LORD. 'But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go,'" Jer.45: 5.
Poor Baruch didn't acquire much from following God and living a righteous life did he? All he got was a promise he wouldn't lose his life due to the Babylonian invasion. Not sure we'd ask him to give a testimony of God's blessing in front of the church. Or for that matter what about Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian who rescued Jeremiah from perishing in the miry dungeon (Jer.39: 16 – 18). Like Baruch he also was rewarded with a promise that his life would be spared. No great riches, titles or honour. Just that he'd escape being killed by the enemy soldiers. Most of us would think well surely God could really bless him for being so good and faithful to the cause! Perhaps give him a few talents of gold, a promise of a great name or an enduring legacy? No, just that he'd be alive in a few years' time. This is all God promised him. In this life that is.
We live in days that are UNRIVALLED in all human history. The coming of God's Son from heaven draws ever closer and all the signs are pointing to the lateness of the hour. The clock is ticking down and the time to prepare for His coming is decreasing by the minute. How can we even think to put off our preparation for the greatest event in human history, the glorious return of Jesus from heaven to receive His Kingdom? Listen to these words from Paul's letter to the Corinthians,
"But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away," I Cor.7: 29 – 31.
Obviously the apostle Paul is not telling us to neglect our wives, our jobs or the practical things we need to do in this world. He is speaking of PRIORITIES and where our heart is. Just reading this short passage of exhortation you can get the sense of URGENCY that fills Paul's heart; an urgency that runs all the way through the New Testament from the gospel of Matthew through to the book of Revelation. Paul is speaking seriously to the Corinthians because he knew what it took to be a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul gives this solemn appeal to his brethren knowing that many in the church will be completely UNREADY for the return of Christ. It is an indictment of our modern church that such urgency for the most part is painfully ABSENT from most preaching today.
Is it time to be enriching ourselves? To be accumulating stuff and keeping up with the Joneses? To be profiting from the ministry and the works of God? No it is not. It is time to EARNESTLY and DILIGENTLY seek the Lord. It is time to switch off the TV and get into the Word as never before. It is time to PRIORITISE the things which are truly important, righteousness, holiness and love for our brethren. It is time to start laying our treasure above rather than investing it into vain earthly possessions that will wear out in no time. The form of this world is passing away and only the things that are laid up in heaven will survive the shaking that is coming.
Being a prophet of God, Elisha knew all about Gehazi's greed and double – dealings. After Gehazi covered up what he had been up to, Elisha asked him this question, "Is it a time, Gehazi, to be enriched through the miracle working power of God?" (My paraphrase). The obvious inference is no it is not. It is NOT such a time at all. Gehazi was marked by the leprosy that had previously clung to Naaman the Syrian because of his greed and underhand dealings. Leprosy represents sin in the Bible. All those who run after the things of this world, who worship mammon and would even dare use the ministry as a tool to obtain it will one day be marked by the leprosy of Naaman. They will be marked by sin when they stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ and will pay the terrible price for their greed.
Is it time to be enriched and profit at the expense of the command of God in our lives? No it is not. My beloved friends, it is time to get ready for His coming is very close. Let us have the same attitude as that displayed by the apostle Paul,
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified," I Cor.9: 24 – 27.
Each of us has a race marked out for us. We should not waste even a second in futile living but press on to the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us consider the days in which we live and run with endurance the race that is set before us. Let us look unto Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith that we do not grow weary, lose heart and drift away from our holy calling. Realise the lateness of the hour and set your priorities right. It is time to finish the race dear brother or sister!
"For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul," Heb.10: 36 – 39.