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3 John 2 Prosperity and Prayers

Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This is the sixth in a series of lessons on The Third Letter of John. Watch the video or scroll down to read the transcript.

Transcript:

Hi, thanks for watching Bible Mountain. This is the sixth lesson in a series of lessons on The Third Letter of John. 

In the previous lesson, we looked at verse one and I talked about the author and recipient. I pointed out that we actually don’t know whether or not this letter was written by John, nor do we know much about Gaius, the recipient. This means we need to make sure we don’t allow information elsewhere in the Bible about men named John or Gaius to influence our understanding of this letter. 

In this lesson, we’re going to look at verse two and I’m going to talk about prosperity and prayers. Let’s get started by reading the first two verses of 3 John.

3 John 1  The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 2. Beloved, in everything I pray for you to prosper and be healthy, just as your soul prospers.

We see here that the author was praying for the recipient. In other words, the elder was praying for Gaius. The elder’s prayer was that Gaius would prosper and be healthy. Notice we have the words prosper and healthy in verse two. 

When you see the words prosper and healthy in the same verse, you might start thinking about the health and wealth philosophy. Some people call it the prosperity gospel. Essentially, the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth philosophy, says that Christians can and should be healthy and wealthy. I do not agree with that belief. I’m not going to take the time to refute that philosophy in this lesson. Instead, I’m going to point out what this verse actually says, and what this verse does not say about health and wealth. I’m also going to talk about the ramifications of this verse on us and on how we pray. 

What does this verse actually say? It says the elder prayed that Gaius would prosper and be healthy. Notice also the word everything. The elder was praying that Gaius would prosper and be healthy in everything. 

This verse does not say that Gaius would indeed prosper and be healthy. There’s no guarantee in this verse that the elder’s prayers would be answered in the affirmative. 

If you’re thinking the elder’s prayer would be answered affirmatively just because he was an author of Scripture, that is not correct. We have an example in Scripture demonstrating that the authors of scripture did not always get what they wanted. I’m referring to the Apostle Paul and something he wrote in 2 Corinthians about a thorn in his flesh. 

Let’s read this passage in 2 Corinthians 12. I’ll start reading at verse 7. Again, this was the Apostle Paul writing. 

2 Corinthians 12:7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

We see that Paul had this thorn in his flesh and he prayed, he pleaded, that the Lord would remove it. Three different times he implored the Lord to remove it. But the Lord said no. This is an example to us that the Lord does not always answer our prayers the way we want Him to. It’s also proof that the Lord did not always answer the prayers of the authors of scripture in the affirmative. So when we look at 3 John and see this prayer of the elder, we should not assume his prayer was answered affirmatively. The author of 3 John prayed that Gaius would prosper and be healthy in everything, but there was no guarantee that Gaius would indeed prosper and be healthy, nor do we know whether or not he prospered and was healthy. Therefore, 3 John 2 cannot be used to promote a belief that Christians can and should always be healthy and wealthy.

We also need to think a little bit about the definition of prosper. In our culture, when we hear the word prosper, we automatically associate that with wealth. We think that being prosperous means being wealthy. However, the Greek word that was used here is not quite that strong. The Greek word is in some ways the idea of succeeding.

For example, the Greek word that was used here was also used in Romans 1 and was translated succeed.

Romans 1:10 always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 

In Romans 1 this word has nothing to do with money. We also see this word in 1 Corinthians 16.

1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.

In 1 Corinthians 16 the word prosper is associated with money, but it does not indicate anyone  was necessarily wealthy. It’s more the idea that on the first day of every week, each person was supposed to set aside a portion of whatever they had successfully earned the previous week. These people were not necessarily wealthy.

When we look at 3 John and see the elder was praying that Gaius would prosper, it was more the idea the elder was praying that Gaius would be a successful person. You can be a successful person without being wealthy.

Now let’s think about the ramifications for us regarding how we pray. 3 John indicates it is okay for us to pray for anything and everything. You may think that’s an obvious statement, and in some ways it is, but think about it this way. 

Suppose you are an athlete and you’re about to compete in a race. As you take your place on the starting block you pray and ask God to make you the fastest person that day so that you win the race. Suppose there’s another Christian in the race. Suppose that Christian is also praying that he would be the fastest and he would win the race. Do you see what’s happening here? You have two Christians in the same race, and both of them are asking God to make them the winner.

I’ve often pondered scenarios like this. I’ve asked whether it would be okay for me to ask God to make me the winner, because in some ways that’s being very selfish. There might be another Christian in the race. Why should God make me the winner and not him?

Related to this, I’ve often pondered whether or not it is okay to pray and ask God to make me wealthy? Is it okay to pray that I would get a pay raise or make more money than I’m making now? Is it okay to pray that I would get a certain promotion? In some ways, all these prayers are selfish.

The answer is found in Philippians 4.

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 

There’s a command here telling us to pray about everything. The command tells us to let God know what we want. If we want to win, we should tell God we want to win. If we want wealth, we should tell God we want wealth. However, as we do this, we have to accept the reality that the Lord may say no, just like He said no to the Apostle Paul. There’s no guarantee we’re going to get what we ask for, but Philippians 4 tells us we are supposed to let the Lord know what our requests are. No matter how big or small, and no matter how important or trivial, we are supposed to let our requests be made known. 

In 3 John we see this in action. In this case the elder was praying for somebody else, but it’s the same idea. The elder was praying for Gaius about everything. The elder was praying that in everything Gaius would prosper, be successful, and be healthy. The ramifications for us and how we pray are that it’s okay to ask God for anything we want. We just have to accept the fact that He might say no, and we have to be content if and when He says no.

Thanks again for visiting Bible Mountain. I greatly appreciate you spending some of your valuable time watching my videos and reading my articles. In the next lesson I will look at 3 John 3-4  and talk about the true joy of parenting. If you haven’t already done so, please join either my email list or my Patreon Page in order to make sure you receive that lesson as well as all of the future lessons in this series.

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Scripture quotations from 3 John taken from a translation by Bible Mountain.

“All other Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org)