There is no one who does not want to be prosperous or successful in every aspect of life. Apart from being strong in body and mind, each person wants to be successful in his domestic relations, in his trade, profession or any other activity. It is reassuring that God Almighty has these ends in view for His people, if only they would be diligent in obeying His voice.
The word “secret” means “known to very few people and consequently quiet and secluded”. “Prosperity” is the condition of enjoying wealth, success, or good fortune. Prosperity in the context of this sermon does not mean increase in material wealth only but also growth in spiritual qualities that enables one to be in good standing with God and men. The adjective true which qualifies prosperity shows that while some types of prosperity are genuine, others are counterfeit or artificial. Everyone should be concerned with how to get lasting prosperity and not the one that is transient or temporary. Apostle John stated:: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” - 3 John 2.
Power to make rich
Some people think that those who serve God will continue to wallow in abject poverty, as if want is a mark of righteousness. That thinking is not correct. Even though the degree of blessing would not be the same for everybody, there is no one who serves God diligently and faithfully who will not be blessed spiritually and materially in this present world and more abundantly in the world to come.
God Almighty declared through Jeremiah the prophet: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Earlier, David the prophet had confessed: “Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.” (1 Chronicles 29:12) The power of God to raise those in low estate to make them enjoy His riches is also highlighted in the song of Hannah, the second wife of Elkanah, when her prayer for a male child was answered by God. She stated: “The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.” - 1 Samuel 2:7, 8.
Indeed, those who patiently continue to look to God will be raised by Him by and by. Scripture says: “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” -Psalm 75:6, 7.
Even though God has provided enough resources for the inhabitants of the earth to be able to meet their needs, yet not everybody is able to afford three square meals a day because of the interference of the devil and the greed of a few persons. There is a tendency therefore for some among the few who are rich to assume that they became wealthy as a result of their intelligence, discipline, hard work and so on. Though these factors cannot be discounted in wealth creation and accumulation, yet they do not on their own enable one to get rich, for, unless God gives one the strength and wisdom to make good use of opportunities He had provided, no one would be able to realize his ambition.
This understanding should make those who are rich to be humble and to have regard for their fellow men. Moses the servant of God exhorted thus: “Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” - Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17, 18
It should be stated however that material prosperity is not possible without skills, hardwork, frugality, moderate living, patience and above all the grace of God. Those who are preoccupied with what has become known as “prosperity gospel” today tend to downplay these qualities, as if riches would fall on the laps of those who folds their hands and do nothing. Scripture says: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” (Proverbs 22:29) Certainly, riches do not come overnight, but are gathered gradually over time by His grace. (Proverbs 13:11) Futhermore, it is not everybody who will be rich as “the poor shall never cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy 15:11) The Lord would bless the faithful who are not rich materially, in other ways, as it pleases Him. The fact remains however that God will always provide the basic needs of each of His worshippers in fulfillment of the prayer “give us this day our daily bread”. The Bible says: “The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.” - Proverbs 22:2.
God does not give out His blessings indiscriminately; He blesses only those who serve Him faithfully. It follows therefore that the riches of those who are irreligious and wicked do not come from Him but from the devil, the “god of this world”. (2 Corinthians 4:4) That the devil blesses people who do his bidding could be deduced from what happened during the temptation of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that after the devil had taken Jesus Christ into a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, he said to him: “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” - Matthew 4:8-10.
David the prophet was disturbed by the anomaly whereby good people suffer while the wicked wallow in riches, and consequently declared: “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:1-3) He added: “They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.” - verses 8, 9.
This situation continued to engage his mind “until he went into the sanctuary of God”, that is, he sought the knowledge of God, and then he understood their end. He then declared: “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.” - verses 18, 19.
The problem highlighted by David the prophet also drew the attention of one of the friends of Job - Zophar, the Nasmathite - who asked: “Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” -Job 21:7-15.
Zophar went on to proffer a resolution to the problem he posed by stressing the transience of ill-gotten wealth and of persons who become rich through injustice and oppression, as it is written: “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?” - Job 20:4-7.
In view of this understanding therefore, no one should aspire to become rich through fraudulent means as God would eventually scatter such riches and the person will suffer an untimely end. Said David the prophet, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.” (Psalm 37:35, 36) Moreover, God spoke through His prophet Jeremiah thus: “As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.” -Jeremiah 17:11.
The deceitfulness of riches also affected the Church of the Laodiceans such that they strove solely for material possessions rather than spiritual riches. Jesus Christ warned them in this wise: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” -Revelation 3:17,18; see also Luke 12: 15-21.
From the knowledge of the Bible, and the benefit of experience over time, we know that those who get their wealth by wicked means suffer from anxieties, evil conscience, and regrets. They are not able to sleep peacefully. Though they may have all that the heart can desire, though they spend enormous time and energy to secure themselves and their past, yet the evil manner they acquired their wealth will continue to haunt them. (Compare Ecclesiastes 5:12) But the blessing from God does not trouble the receiver; he would peacefully and happily enjoy them. Solomon, who was not a whit behind anybody in his generation in terms of wisdom and wealth, knew this and confessed: “The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” - Proverbs 10:22.
True prosperity comes from God Almighty - “for the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof”. (Psalm 24:1) It was for this reason, David, a prophet and King in Israel, who also tasted of the goodness of God in large measure, stated: “Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.” (Psalm 112:1-3; see also Psalm 1:1-3) The secret of true prosperity therefore lies in diligently keeping the commandments of God, so as to be blessed in this world and in the world to come, hence, God Almighty told His servant Joshua “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. -Joshua 1:8. See also Psalm 1:1-6.
Another point that needs to be emphasized is the importance of good heart condition or sincerity as a requirement for true prosperity. Accordingly, Apostle Paul charged Christians: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23, 24) Hezekiah the king served God honestly and was blessed for so doing, as it is written: “And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.” - 2 Chronicles 31:20-21.
A good heart condition produces the fruits of humility and faithfulness in God's service. All such ones will be raised to positions of prominence in the way of God. Solomon the king stated: “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.” (Proverbs 22:4. See also Proverbs 18:12) Those who are humble are not only teachable, they are also contrite in spirit, and this enables them to accept their faults and refrain from sin. Elihu, one of the companions of Job made this point clear when he declared: “Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity. If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.” -Job 36:9-11
Again, the true worshipper who wants to prosper must be steadfast in God's service. The Lord will always keep His promises to those who continue to be on His side of favour. The Bible shows that Uzziah the king of Judah “sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God” and that “as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper”. (2 Chronicles 26:5) But when he violated the law of His Maker, having become intoxicated with power, he was stricken with leprosy and died in that condition. - verses 16-23.
Another way to achieve true prosperity is to support the work of God. This could be through the use of one's gifts mental, spiritual, physical and material in support of the work of God. Those who want the work of God to prosper will be prospered also themselves. (Psalm 122:6,7) An important aspect of support for the work of God is through the faithful and regular payment of tithes and offerings. Some people are very tightfisted when it comes to supporting the work of God; but they spend a fortune on themselves. Some of the natural Jews in the days of Haggai the prophet were guilty of this and God Almighty rebuked them, as it is written: “Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.” -Haggai 1:5-9.
Those who fail to pay tithes are actually robbing God. Such people are in the words of God through Malachi the prophet, “cursed with a curse” and will not prosper. To prevent His worshippers from falling into this lamentable situation, God Almighty charged His worshippers: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.” - Malachi 3:10-12.
Furthermore, Apostle Paul exhorted the Christians at Corinth on the issue of liberality in the service of God in this wise: “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” - 2 Corinthians 9:6-8; see also Matthew 6:19-21; Philippians 4:17-19.
Besides, we are admonished through Solomon the prophet thus: “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” - Proverbs 3:9,10