By Stephen Phinney

Most “Christians” today have the covert belief that external hardship is a sign of discipline or lack of approval from God. While this can be true, the Emergent Postmodern world today touts that true success is evidenced by prosperity and popularity. Did you know that if the Biblical Paul lived today, he would most likely be despised by today’s Christian church? It’s true! Paul was preaching a gospel that invited pain and suffering. In fact, he was preaching a message stating that we should question our faith if we’re not suffering external hardships.

Paul went from being one, if not the most, prosperous and popular religious person in the world, to being one of the most despised. Every time Paul turned around, he was faced with either being persecuted or having something fall down around him.

“Are they servants of Christ?--I speak as if insane--I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, NASB).

Let’s face it, if you and I were to look upon a Christian leader today with this list: endless labors, imprisonments, beatings with rods, brushes with death, whippings, stonings, shipwrecks, floating in the sea for a day, dangers of rivers, robberies, dangers from his own people and townspeople, attacks in the wilderness, betrayal of false brethren, hardships, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, and cold – we probably would tell him God was punishing him. Where do we get such “stinky thinking?” We get it from the enemy, of course. God wants us to learn to be well content with all things – good and not so good. We usually associate this with financial success; but God is actually referencing all forms of suffering and circumstances.

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philippians 4:11-12, NASB).

Up until recently, postmodern Christians have been able to escape this message of Truth. But soon, all people will be faced with the consequences of global debt. Before long, the prosperity Christians who believe popularity equals success will be faced with a global crisis. This will force humility and cause them to turn an ear to teachers who preach the same message of our beloved Paul. There is such arrogance in our brethren today; it is easy to see a great humbling is coming.

Most believers (indwelt Christians) don’t really know the difference between poverty and wealth. This is why God is committed to showing His people the difference. Some of the most arrogant accusers I have had to face in my ministry life have been “believers” who refuse to associate with me because of my beliefs regarding poverty and prosperity. Even though this is a sad commentary for me, I understand that our society has touted capitalism to the point of its invasion into the church.

Since God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5), when a man falls into the lie that he can provide for himself or his family on his own, He knows it is time for a lesson. It is difficult living out the Biblical mandates of prosperity and poverty under a banner of capitalism. Capitalism shouts out through an economic system that says “production through private ownership equals profit.” The lie pervading the American society is “if you’re not a capitalist, you are a socialist.” This is the furthest thing from the truth – at least for true indwelt Christians. Satan has installed a fear into postmodern Christians that if they live out the model of body-life prosperity in the Bible, they somehow will be supporting Socialism. I mean seriously, look at this:

“For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35, NASB).

That almost sounds like a “Jimmy Jones” cult practice. I consider these two verses to be some of the most radical in the entire Bible. What would you do if you found your neighbor selling his house to give the money to a needy person in his church? Wouldn’t you be tempted to accuse him of being in a cult? I have surveyed this and 95% of the Christians questioned said “yes” to the “cult” status.

Either Jesus Himself is an exaggerator or He is speaking the Truth when He says: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33, NASB; also see Matt. 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22, 25; Rev. 13:17).

Until we get closer to the end-times, I really don’t think your average Christian is going to get what Jesus and the rest of the New Testament characters is saying regarding caring for the body of Christ, without a heavy reliance upon a worldly system of temporal gain. The movement we are going to be seeing over the next 20 + years is this: the “Truth saying” prophet-type teachers of the Word are going to be called upon more than ever before. What many of our stabile prophecy interpreters have been saying is now actually coming true. This will even be more of the case as the enemy unfolds his evil, yet tastefully delicious, plan to the world. The danger to this new movement is that the “false prophets” will be coming out of the woodwork like never before. This is why we MUST encourage the indwelt Christians to get back into the Word and stabilize their beliefs according to the written Word of God.

Have you ever noticed how large income people never have enough money to pay their bills? The reason is they tend to spend their money on people, places, and things that have nothing to do with how God allows them to spend their money. Since a man’s heart is where his money is invested, we are quickly able to see the heart of a man by telling him what he CAN’T spend his money on. Usually, he will manifest an attitude that proves his irresponsibility – “You can’t tell me how to spend my money!” These types of money spenders are poor in the eyes of God, no matter how much is in their bank accounts.

People who are aroused in rebellion when told NOT to spend their money in a certain way typically think that making more money will make him/her wealthier. Proverbs calls this kind of man a fool. There is much more to making and keeping money than just putting one’s mind to becoming rich, or even becoming “sufficiently satisfied.”

“Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lam 3:37, NASB).

A fool can “name it and claim it” all day long, day after day, and nothing will become of it unless the Lord decides so. Even in this decision of the Lord, He will decide for a fool to become prosperous for two distinctly different reasons: one, to cause success in order to bring him to nothingness (take it all away) and secondly, to ultimately give it to the children of God. But I can assure you that while the fool is on his prosperity path, he thinks nothing can stop him and nobody can tell him how to spend “his money.” As soon as a man thinks his income is his own, he has lost touch with God’s reality. When that happens, the man is about to face a strong wind.

"You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?" declares the LORD of hosts, "Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house” (Haggai 1:9, NASB).

What we see here is the design and purpose of poverty and prosperity – according to God. If the man looks for an increase in wealth, God will work to bring it to little and sometimes will toss our hard earned money right to the wind (nothingness). Why? As the verse mentions, God is all about building His own house. Most people, who focus on making money, usually forget this and spend their “hard earned money” on either securing a nest egg or getting out of debt in order to go into debt once again. It is called “using credit to secure credit.” What the debt facilitators are really saying is “go into debt, to go into more debt.” This is why it is a vicious cycle of bondage. Those who have been there more than once know exactly what I'm saying.

Hopefully, we are now able to see that the loss of money can be God’s divine intervention and discipline for those who refuse to spend His money on what God allows. God is a “cause and effect” God when it comes to violating His laws and losing cash flow (see Proverbs 5:10; 6:11; 10:3-4; 11:5, 24, 29; 13:11,18; 14:23; 19:15; 21:13, 17; 22:16; 23:21; 28:8; 19, 22).

I know personally it is a difficult reality to embrace that God causes some to be rich and some to be poor. God has His reasons for choosing different means and people to accomplish different purposes for His glory.