As Your Soul Prospers

3 John 1-8 –  The Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth:2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, 7 because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.

Consider vs. 2“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers”

A.  In this verse, John alludes to two kinds of prosperity:

  1. And there is material prosperity (“that you may prosper in all things and be in health”)
  2. There is spiritual prosperity (“just as your soul prospers”)
  3. These two are not necessarily connected. If fact, much of what the N.T. says about material possessions would warn us that prosperity can be dangerous for the soul.  (easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. – Lk. 18:25).

B.  The manner in which John mentions and compares these two kinds of prosperity is interesting, and raises several questions worth considering:

  • What are the signs of spiritual prosperity?
  • What is the propriety of praying for material prosperity?
  • Would we want John to pray such a prayer for us?

I. What does Spiritual Prosperity look like? John’s words to Gaius help us with a picture of the spiritually “prosperous” Christian.

A. The ‘truth that is in you” – John rejoiced greatly when he heard from others of how the  “truth” was in Gaius – (v. 3)  What does it mean to have the “truth” in you?

1.  The “truth” here may refer to Jesus as the living truth, who resided in Gaius through the indwelling Spirit of God. (Let Christ dwell in you richly).

2.  But the best idea here is that the truth was the objective message that Gaius had been taught through the apostles. This message was abiding in him in that he was completely convicted of it, and was willing to live by its commands. But this is synonymous with saying that Jesus was abiding in Him, as the evidence is seen in the influence of the Spirit.

  • John 14:21-23 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
  • 1 John 3:2424 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. A prosperous soul, then, is one in which one’s heart and mind has opened itself up to receive all that Jesus taught, and one is feeding daily upon the Word of God, whereby spiritual growth is possible.

B. “Just as you walk in the truth” another sign of spiritual prosperity & health is “walking in the truth.”  (v. 3-4)  2. In a sense, there is a mixing of metaphors here, as Gaius is said to have the truth abiding in him and to be walking in it.

1.  The image of walking in something is often used in scripture to indicate a continuous way of living, as opposed to sporadic activity. If one is walking in the truth he is putting it into action and allowing it to lead him.

2.  It also points to the need for progress. To walk in the truth is to constantly assess my position and activity by the truth. It is not enough to simply sit and say “I have the truth in  my soul”. One must be acting upon it, living according to it.  

  • James 1:22-25 – 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
  • John 13:17 –  17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

3.  Spiritual prosperity occurs as one feeds upon the truth of God found only in His Son Jesus Christ, and lives his or her life in harmony with that truth.  So Gaius prospered in his soul, and so can we!

II. Praying for Prosperity. There are many in Religion today who are totally convinced that material prosperity is a sign of spirituality. They teach that God wants me to be rich, and if I can harness the vision and have enough faith, God will reward me with money, health and wealth. It is a gospel that caters to the flesh.  John was not advocating such a materialistic approach to godly living.  The health and wealth gospel flies in the face of N.T. teaching and N.T. history. In the beginning of the church faithful Christians lived in poverty and persecution because of their strong faith.

  • Consider the apostles: 1 Cor 4:9-13For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
  • John’s words were meant to place the spiritual condition of the soul as the first priority. Not because through spirituality one could receive physical blessings (folks have always been tempted to make godliness a way of gain), but to show the proper place of each  type of prosperity.

A.  Praying for material prosperity: Is it right to ask God for material prosperity?  John obviously thought so here.  “that you may prosper in all good things and be in good health”

1.  The Psalmist often spoke to God about the need for marerial prosperity. Psalms 144:12-15 12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; 13 That our barns may be full,Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands And ten thousands in our fields; 14 That our oxen may be well laden; That there be no breaking in or going out; That there be no outcry in our streets. 15 Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!

2. The example of our Lord – Mt 6:11 (“Give us this day our daily bread”)

B.  The need to keep it in perspective – The spiritual is always more urgent and important than the physical. This is the challenge before us.

1. If our desire for material prosperity is for personal gain, then we should not expect God to answer favorably – James 4:2-4 – 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. NKJV

2. We can pray with the proper motivation and goal.

  • o We can pray for health, that one might live longer to serve the Lord in this life
  • o We can pray for success in business, that we might have the means to help others
  • o We can pray for peace, that we might further the spread of the gospel

3. In all circumstances , it is not to be about us. Phil 2:33 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

III. “Just as Your Soul Prospers” – The question that these verses have always engendered in me is “would I want God to answer this prayer in my behalf?”   John prays that Gaius prosper materially just as he does spiritually.  For Gaius this prayer would bring blessing. But what about me?

  • Would we want the same health for our bodies that we have for our souls?
  • Would we want Him to bless our families, our homes, our jobs, our nation on the same basis?  It might be a curse instead of a blessing.

A.  Material prosperity is good, but spiritual prosperity is better.  It is eternal.

  • 1 Timothy 4:7-8 – 7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
  • 1 Timothy 6:6-76 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. We can’t take material prosperity with us, and it takes spiritual prosperity on our part (i.e., wisdom from God) to properly use the material blessings we have –
  • 1 Timothy 6:8-10 – 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
  • 1 Timothy 6:17-1917 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Conclusion: 1. So while we may certainly pray for our material prosperity, may we never lose sight of the fact that our greatest need is spiritual prosperity which lasts forever.

Are you walking in the truth?  Is the truth abiding in you?  Heed the call of the gospel today if you have not already.