Editor's Note: This is an edited version of the recorded Bible study under this title at Truthtellers.org.
At any time of day or night, one can turn on multiple channels of religious TV and hear the same message: that God has a wonderful destiny for every Christian, which includes all the elements of the American dream. It means abundance of money, material things, professional success, physical healing and even happy and obedient children. All that is necessary to access this destiny is to discover the heavenly secrets that will unfold it. Such knowledge comes to us as we patronize televangelists’ tapes and books, seed tithe to get the heavenly flow going, and affirm that if we believe it, and profess it repeatedly enough, our destiny will shower us with fulfillment and blessing.
Yes, Scripture does say that God is able to do abundantly above all that we think and ask. But God and the Bible do not say we will become materially successful if we follow certain steps. The Bible describes true success as spiritual. And it says the best way to realize our destiny is twofold.
Most importantly: Possess a consecrated humble heart, which the Holy Spirit creates in us when we sacrifice everything to Him. Scripture says if the Lord does not build a house, they labor in vain who build it. Pleasing God through total willingness opens the possibility that God can give you any kind of destiny He desires. If he does not find you in such a heart, He can do nothing. It was said of Jesus that because of the unbelief of one town in Israel, even He, the Creator of the universe, could do nothing there because of their unbelief.
Second, it is only commonsense that we prepare for our future with hard work, taking practical measures. It is not Biblical or spiritual to believe that if we have sufficient faith God will give us money, food or a home without our participation.
Behind every great and truly successful figure in Scripture we find a simple reason they found themselves caught up in a mighty manifestation of divine destiny. In their initial obscurity, they were faithful and obedient to God. In being faithful, we make ourselves available to fulfill a destiny not of this world, but of God. If He doesn’t want such a destiny for us, but rather one of obscure Christian service or intercession, that is His right. History shows that the overwhelming majority of saints died in such obscurity, being, as Scripture describes, unknown on earth but well known in heaven.
With this in mind, let’s consider a number of examples of how great figures in Scripture became great simply because God came to them, respected their sincerity and took the initiative to exalt them. Sometimes that exultation brought riches to Old Testament patriarchs such as Abraham, Joseph and David. In each of these, God found hearts strongly inclined toward Him. God found Abraham in the land of Babylonia and told him to travel far to the west to the land God had for his descendants. God also promised him a son, but he would not be born until Abraham was 100 years old. Yes, Abraham finally realized his destiny, but it only came after decades of wandering, waiting and incredible faith testing. Job, the most righteous man on earth, was also found by God, but his great destiny and claim to fame was to suffer, as no other human had done before, by the clear permission of God. Joseph and David were also found by God with perfect hearts but achieved their destinies through incredible reversals of fortune including long periods of suffering, persecution and deprivation. Elijah was also loved by God, but his destiny of victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel was very brief. This physical victory seemed to evaporate as he ran for his life from a death sentence from Jezebel. Elisha, driving a team of oxen, was also found by God because of the righteousness of his heart. Yet, like Elijah, his destiny never included wealth. After healing Naaman of his leprosy, he told him to keep his money. His destiny was to remain present and faithful in every kind of invasion, famine and spiritual backsliding in Israel. The same destiny was imparted to Jeremiah, who was found by God as a youth with a clean heart. Jeremiah was abandoned in a dungeon to die. His destiny was the extreme opposite of that held up today as God’s will for all believers. It was to become a weeping prophet, one who said that God had made him a target for His arrows.
Almost all of these great saints experienced as part of their destiny long periods of seemingly wasted time when God seems to have vacated the scene. Certainly, this was the case with Jacob. He was clearly shown a transcendent vision of a ladder and angels stretching up to heaven, as well as special promises and anointing from God. But his destiny came with a lifetime of affliction of a hip out of joint, as well as mostly carnal, violent sons, not to mention what he believed for much of his life was loss of his favorite son, Joseph, to wild beasts. Jacob, summarizing his life to Pharoah, testified that his destiny had been by God’s design one of very great hardship and seeming waste. The same was very largely true for Moses. In the first part of his life he was condemned to be a shepherd in the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years.
Many other great saints throughout history have met reversals and disappointments of which they would not have dreamed. God found them as he finds each of us even in our seeming hopelessness and sustains us. As we look back over the action periods of their lives, it is easy to condense their experiences, forming the impression that they had lives full of high intensity fulfillment and that is what we can expect today. But that was not reality, then or now.
God found the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, but it was as Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish zealot persecuting the church. Later, Paul said he found favor because he did it ignorantly in the misguided belief that he was saving Israel from heresy. Like Moses, Paul was sent almost immediately out into the desert of Arabia for three years. God was intent that Paul be taught not by man, but by Himself. Paul was about as far from what is promised by present day prosperity preachers as can be imagined. He relied on others’ generosity and occasional tentmaking to tide him over between multiple persecutions, primarily from the Jews. Yes, Paul was found by God and was given a great destiny, but it included bonds and the final chain that he dragged behind him for the rest of his life.
Peter and the other disciples were found by God because God liked the attitudes of their hearts very much. But like the apostle John, who was found by God exiled on the Isle of Patmos where he received his vision of the book of Revelation, this destiny was primarily spiritual. History has shown that most Christian saints had far less in life than they had hoped for. The overwhelming majority are unremembered today.
Let’s conclude by asking what this record tells us about the integrity of the prosperity preachers who encourage vast audiences that God has a wonderful destiny of success and riches in store for all of them. It tells us they are deceivers. Only a deceiver would tell great multitudes, most of whom they have never met, that they are good, promising them a destiny of abundance. Jesus and no Biblical prophet would ever do so. Scripture says the people believed on Jesus but He did not believe on the masses, because He knew what was in them. Rather, Jesus dealt with people individually, getting the best or worst out of them and coming to judgments about them on a personal level from personal experience. Every person has unique weaknesses that can only be dealt with personally, often through rebuke by godly people, but also through chastisements by God.
No one has the right to imply to large audiences that they are collectively good and ready for God’s blessing. This is what the rebels of Korah in Numbers 16 did, defying Moses. They claimed all the people are holy. This is also true of Talmudic Judaism, which claims all Jews have preexisted in heaven and seen God and therefore are intrinsically holy. In reality, God comes only to individuals, describing us as righteous or sinners. He neither gives nor inspires anyone to make such promises to large numbers of others. Only charlatans intent on pleasing the fleshly masses make such blanket endorsements and promises. The Biblical pattern is that the prophet or preacher is allowed by God to make statements of general spiritual truth to vast audiences but never endorse large groups of people in their varying states of spirituality. Yet Pentecostal prosperity teachers routinely describe conference audiences of many thousands as pleasing to God. They teach that nothing hinders them from realizing their destinies—nothing except not knowing the latest techniques in their new book or video series.
Let’s conclude by asking again the question posed by this Bible study: Does God have a wonderful destiny full of abundance and pleasure for every true Christian?
The answer is yes, absolutely. It’s called heaven.
Rev. Ted Pike is director of the National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog organization.
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