With the coming of the New Year, I am in agreement with Jose Feliciano when he sings “próspero año y felicidad,” a prosperous and happy New Year. As Christians, we can expect that, right? Many Christians ascribe to this expectation based on their understanding of the goodness of God. For example, Joel Osteen’s blog sets up the expectation this way:
We also believe that this coming year will be a year of increase and breakthrough for you as well. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God's plan is for your good, to prosper you and to give you a hope and a future. 2017 is your year! It's your year to rise up higher in your relationships, health, finances, and most of all, in your walk with God. As you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. He will make your rough places smooth and direct your every step!
There is just enough truth in this statement to make it believable. God’s plan is for our good. He does want us to rise up higher in our walk with him. And he will make our rough places smooth. He does, indeed, direct our every step and draws near to us when we draw near to him. But he is not a wishing genie. And prosperity in Christ is not temporal.
I believe in the goodness of God, and I trust in his greatness. I see Jesus Christ as my “Fount of every blessing.” I run to that Fount on a regular basis, drinking deeply and enjoying the prosperity that follows its refreshment. I relate to the woman at the well, who asks Jesus to give her the water that will never leave her thirsty. And Jesus does not disappoint.
I became a believer in 1997. My life was difficult before that. Debilitating anxiety, nearly divorced, dealing with the after effects of an emotionally unstable mother. Life was relentless, as it is for anyone who draws breath.
When I realized that Christianity was reality, Jeremiah 29:11 became a reality, too. That Fount of every blessing yielded ladle full after ladle full of sweet water that left me satisfied to my core. There was the ladle full of my restored marriage. There was the ladle full of children who have never wavered in their devotion to Christ. Another dip led to the finding of a solid church with strong expositional teaching, and an excellent Christian school for my children. One portion held our very dear friends who helped us in our walk when we were new Christians.
But Christ is the Fount of every blessing. There were also the ladles full of the deaths of my parents, a very serious cancer, a heart problem with my husband, a suspension from my job, more marital challenges, and the adoption and prodigality of our youngest child. If I were to listen to the Joel Osteens of the world, I would be sorely confused and eternally disappointed.
Those who ascribe to a prosperity gospel, promising earthly perks in the name of Jesus, have a deep and reckless understanding of what it means to be prosperous in Christ. Good health, nice things, obedient children, temporal happiness-these are not promised anywhere in scripture. Today, John Piper tweeted, “Prophecy from Jesus for 2017: ‘In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” This is the promise of scripture. This is what the Fount yields.
If you are pursuing happiness in the new year using God as a means, you are missing the beauty and blessing promised in Jesus Christ. The pursuit of happiness must have as its chief end God himself. He is not only the source, he is the goal. More than that. He is happiness.
The Fount, Jesus Christ, never changes. He is always good and always thirst quenching. The Source of that Fount yields water that drenches us in an understanding of the blessings of God. However, sometimes the water tastes sweet and sometimes bitter. Always, though, it quenches our particular thirst to perfection. And the well never runs dry.
A prosperity gospel will not allow its followers to experience beauty from ashes. When I had cancer several years ago, I suddenly was thrust into a situation where I stared my mortality square in the eye. I was frightened. All of my assumptions of personal safety and status quo living vanished the instant I was diagnosed. Through tears and uncertainty, I went to the Fount. There was really nowhere else to go. There I was given a ladle full of 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God didn’t give me instant healing. He gave me himself! And it was more than enough. I rested in perfect peace after I realized that anything I have beyond Christ is superfluous. If I died, if I lived, if I was healthy, if I remained sick, no matter the outcome, I had Jesus Christ, the author of all that is! How could I wish for anything more?
In this new year, be encouraged- more, be in awe- that if you believe in Christ you have access to the same God who created this vast universe and all that is in it. And he dwells in you. The same God to whom you pray sent Christ to live, die, and live again so that he could intercede for you. Your circumstances are a product of life in a fallen world. Your happiness, your prosperity, can only be drawn from the Fount that never runs dry.