Progressive Will of God
Once we understand that the will of God is THREEFOLD, the next thing we need to know is that God’s will is PROGRESSIVE. By progressive, I mean that His Will is shaped by where we are in our walk with God and also upon our community circumstances.
My wife and I led a man to the Lord who had been doing drugs since he was nine years old. He worked as a day laborer. He was uneducated. He had disabilities from years of drug use. He had a child’s emotional level. He was a mess.
In the natural, there are definite limits on him and his ability to prosper.
When I was a judge I had a man come before me who had made so many bad decisions he had no good ones left. In 2 Samuel 24 we find David faced with three bad choices. He chose well. He chose to put himself in God’s hands and God was merciful. His choices were limited by his prior disobedience.
On the opposite extreme, I’ve also seen those who enjoy immense wealth and the abundance of good choices they have. I have a friend who has people coming to him with opportunities to invest constantly because of his wealth. The choices of the wealthy multiply in prosperity. The choices of the poor are few and rarely good. God uses this principle for our benefit. Wealth is in God’s hands.
Deuteronomy 8:18 NKJV
“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
Generally wealth grows as a result of righteousness from generation to generation. The man who spent twenty years of his life on drugs before coming to the Lord raises his children in the church. He is able to help them in ways that he was never helped. Their prosperity exceeds his. In turn, his grandchildren are able to attend private schools and get the best education. The prosperity that accompanies the Gospel is progressive.
John Wesley put it this way:
“I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.”— John Wesley (1703-1791).
Disobedience of Others
Not only does our prior disobedience limit our opportunity to enjoy the full blessing of God, but the disobedience of others affects our prosperity under the sun.
Just because God desires something for us does not mean we get to experience the fullness of it while we are in this body.
When I take up the offering in the church, I frequently reference the tithing passage in Malachi.
Malachi 3:10 NKJV
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.
In my first church, a man named Mel McDonald came to me after service one Sunday and said in his typical modest and understated manner, “Pastor, I’ve been tithing for twenty years and I’ve still got plenty of room for more blessings. What am I doing wrong?”
I gave him a quick and easy answer, “We have to take into account the whole counsel of the Word of God (Acts 20:27).”
It is a good answer but it got me to thinking and wondering as well. Like many other things, I put it on the back burner and waited upon the Lord for a better answer.
One day, a few years later, I was re-reading the passage in Malachi and I saw something that I had not seen before. I saw the context:
Malachi 3:9 NKJV
You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.
What I saw was that God was proclaiming the promise to a nation not an individual. To illustrate let me use my own hometown of Cusseta, Georgia.
We have almost exactly a thousand households in Cusseta. It is a very small place. However, if every household tithed, there would be enough money for the churches to support sixty to a hundred full time ministers. To illustrate how far we are from God’s ideal, we do not currently have a single full time minister in the whole county.
The Lord was saying that if the people of God brought all the tithes into the storehouse, He would pour out a blessing so great there wouldn’t be room enough to contain it.
In Cusseta, sixty full time ministers would mean that the knowledge of the Lord would cover the place like the waters cover the seas (Hab 2:14). We would have youth ministry and children’s ministry. Teachers and preachers and well… I can just imagine there would be a lot fewer deputies and a lot fewer divorces and broken homes. The courts would not be so busy and taxes would be much lower while the overall quality of life would soar.
Suffering for the Disobedience of Others
This was very discouraging to me. I didn’t stop tithing but I began to think within myself, “What’s the point? The disobedience of others is robbing me of my blessing!” Why should I suffer?
There are examples of this in Scripture. Joshua and Caleb were faithful to God and wanted to enter into the Promised Land but the other ten spies gave an evil report and so Joshua and Caleb wandered in the wilderness for an extra forty years because of the disobedience of others (Numbers 14:30). This isn’t just or fair but God is just.
I had recently finished writing my first book, which explores the Judgment Seat of Christ and the rewards of the believer. It gave me fresh revelation of the Justness of God.
When I recently read Malachi in light of the Justness of God, I suddenly saw something that I hadn’t seen and the discouragement dissipated. You see God is faithful to all His promises, even when men are not. I saw that every blessing that I was being denied by the disobedience of others would be multiplied back to me at the Judgment Seat of Christ! Everything that it costs me to live for God, He will repay. Why? Because God is JUST and so He MUST.
Why did the Apostles rejoice when they were beaten (Acts 5:41)? Because they had become convinced of the Justness of God and knew that God had counted them worthy to suffer for His Name and that God would reward them (2 Timothy 2:12).
When we suffer for the disobedience of others, God repays us. The price we pay will be swallowed up in the abundance of the reward.
To be clear, what I am saying is that God always keeps His promises. The tithing promise will be answered in full at the Judgment Seat if it is not answered in full in this body.
Bound to a Community
Our ability to receive the promises of God is often conditioned upon more than a single person’s faith and obedience. We are bound to the community we dwell in.
A pastor in Haiti will not make as much as a pastor in the Hamptons. People in Haiti have an average annual household income of $409 a year. The average annual household income in the Hamptons is over $126,000. Prosperity means something different in Haiti than it does in the Hamptons. That may be unfair. There are very wealthy Haitians. In fact, ten families own 95% of the economy. But unless you marry well, or have members of those wealthy families in your church, you are probably not going to enjoy the same level of prosperity in Haiti as a pastor in the Hamptons.
Why is that?
Proverbs 13:23 HCSB
The field of the poor yields abundant food, but without justice, it is swept away.
The land in Haiti is not poorer than the land in the Dominican Republic. They share the same island in the Caribbean but you can see the border in this photograph. Household income in the Dominican Republic is four times the household income in Haiti. That still isn’t great but it makes a big difference to the people who live there.
The last evidence that the Will of God is Progressive is found in the prophets. Consider for a moment the effect the Deuteronomic Cycle has upon our ability to receive from God. The cycle is described in Judges Chapter three.
Look what Jeremiah said:
Then the Lord said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel should stand before Me, My compassions would not reach out to these people. Send them from My presence, and let them go. If they ask you: Where will we go? you must tell them: This is what the Lord says:
Those destined for death, to death;
those destined for the sword, to the sword.
Those destined for famine, to famine;
those destined for captivity, to captivity. HCSB
Even if Moses and Samuel should stand and ask… did they have faith? Yes. Were they righteous and holy men of God? Yes. Yet, they could not have gotten mercy from God for Judah during the days of Jeremiah.
Ezekiel makes an even more startling proclamation:
Ezekiel 14:12-20 NKJV
The word of the Lord came again to me, saying: “Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it. Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord God.
“If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they empty it, and make it so desolate that no man may pass through because of the beasts, even though these three men were in it, as I live,” says the Lord God, “they would deliver neither sons nor daughters; only they would be delivered, and the land would be desolate.
“Or if I bring a sword on that land, and say, ‘Sword, go through the land,’ and I cut off man and beast from it, even though these three men were in it, as I live,” says the Lord God, “they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but only they themselves would be delivered.
“Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out My fury on it in blood, and cut off from it man and beast, even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live,” says the Lord God, “they would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness.”
Noah, Daniel and Job could not seek the Lord and deliver their own families from death during the coming destruction of Jerusalem!
Consider further the effect of righteousness in an unjust society in the Martyrdom of Isaiah. Isaiah had been a hero of the Nation of Judah during the reign of Hezekiah. He had proclaimed the word of the Lord and the Assyrian army lost 185,000 men in a single night. Yet, under the reign of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, Isaiah the prophet was “sawn asunder”. He was killed by being sawn in half while in a hollow log.
Is this a just reward for a righteous man? No.
Is this what God desired for Isaiah? No.
When the king was godly, Isaiah was exalted. When the king was ungodly, Isaiah was executed.
When a nation is unjust, are God’s people spared? No.
So following the Deuteronomic Cycle, if a nation is on the rise and mostly righteous and just, the people of God will enjoy the blessings of God. But when a nation has become wicked and unjust, those who do good and stand for good will be punished for their righteousness. No good deed will go unpunished. Indeed, in that society, the believer in God can expect persecution, poverty through the seizure of his goods and property, and possibly martyrdom.
There is ample evidence that God’s will is PROGRESSIVE. I illustrated using finance because it is simple, but it follows that the will of God is progressive in every area where we claim the promise of God.
Is there no hope?
Yes, there is hope. First, there is the hope of JUSTICE at the hands of God. God will repay and we can joyfully accept the confiscation of our goods (Hebrews 10:34) knowing that there is great reward in our confidence.
But second, Isaac sowed in the year of famine and drought and reaped a hundredfold harvest (Genesis 26:1, 12) because God blessed him. We see Daniel in the court of Babylon being blessed. We also see Esther and Mordechai being blessed in the midst of captivity. So we know that God can bless us when others are under the curse. We will need the word of the Lord though to be able to stand in faith and receive the blessing in the midst of the curse.
Next week, I will take up A Unified Theory of the Will of God Part 3 and explain how the believer applies the Threefold, Progressive Will of God to his or her life.
Ken Van Horn is pastor of My Father’s House Family Church at 501 Broad Street in Cusseta, Georgia and author of the book: “A Greater Reward,” which is available from Amazon on Kindle. Questions for him should be asked in the form below. You may also contact him through Facebook or follow him on Twitter.