Sky Valley Park,
Desert Hot Springs
January 8, 2001
"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth " (III John 1:2, KJV).
For quite some time, I have been pondering what this verse means for Lenny and me, and for the rest of God's children who are being stressed and confined by financial deprivation, some suffering serious health consequences, caused by lack of funds for medical care. Others are now dealing with heavy business and professional losses due to poor economic conditions in the country and in the world. Certainly, New Testament Christians were not strangers to this kind of grief, and on top of that, they had to suffer persecution for their new faith, for following "the Way," as the infant church was known (John 14:6; Acts 9:2; 16:7; 18:25-26; 19:9,23; 24:14,22; 25:3). Being thrown to the lions, or covered with tar and burned as flaming torches to light Nero's garden party should give us all a bit of perspective on how tough our lives are today compared with theirs. None of us have been stoned and left for dead, for example, as Paul was in Lystra. Yet, he was not killed and he was the one who, along with Barnabas, traveled through the various towns encouraging the disciples, and saying, "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Jesus Himself did not promise us a rose garden, but made this statement: "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). I am always amazed at the "word of faith" preachers who proclaim that we can always expect God to provide us with good health and ample financial means if we just follow their precepts (conveniently made available on tape or video by sending them money, of course).
Having said that, I am still left with the verse we began with, in which the Apostle John offers his wish that we prosper and be in health as our soul prospers. Strong's Concordance gives this definition of the word "prosper" (#2137): euodow (Greek) euodoo (yoo-od-o'-o); from a compound of 2095 and 3598; to help on the road, i.e. (passively) succeed in reaching; figuratively, to succeed in business affairs:-- (have a) prosper(-ous journey)." This is interesting in light of the comments of Jesus, Paul and Barnabas, which appear to indicate that we can expect trouble along the way, but that we are not to be dismayed or defeated by anything that befalls us.
My definition of the elect has long been "those who are dragged through the cactus patch first." The reason for this is that I have observed in my own life and in the lives of those dear to me, that God disciplines His sons (Heb. 12:5-8), giving us ample opportunity to trust Him. Discipline, by the way, does not mean "spare the rod and spoil the child," as some believe. The dictionary defines it as "1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill; 2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training. 3. punishment inflicted by way of correction and training. 4. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc." As an aside, being tormented in an endless hell which so many Christians declare is the eternal and just punishment for the wicked, is not discipline by this definition, since there is no possibility of escape and thus no correction or training is possible. It becomes rather a cosmic example of harsh parenting, taking out on the child the wrath and disfunction of the parent. Webster's definition, "an activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill," reinforces my conclusion based on our life experiences, which is that the vicissitudes of life are tailor made to promote the spiritual growth of the person who experiences them. Who matures and grows if things are always rosy? Would a plant grow if there were only fair skies and sunlight 24 hours a day? Obviously, not. This supports Lenny's conclusion that we need opposites in our lives. If we only had good fortune, perfect health, excelling and always obedient children, satisfying relationships, why would we need God? The people who sought out Jesus when He walked the dusty roads of Galilee, were usually those who were downtrodden by life, oppressed by poverty and sickness, defined by lack. This is why He brought tears to their eyes when He said, "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20).
I am really tired of words, and I'm especially tired of saying what something is NOT, instead of what it IS. What I long for is the power of God, the rhema to break through the theological fog with blazing glory, in order to enlighten our darkened and stress wearied souls, or as Lenny says, for God to turn on the switch in our lives. In fact, one day last week, after having begun this commentary, I decided that I wouldn't write another word until God supplied the power. By morning light, I saw the foolishness of that. God did not call me to be anyone's guru, nor to speak as one with authority. He did call me to be a messenger of what He is showing us, and we have noted since being on the Internet with our writings, that the most interesting letters we get are from those who found us "by accident," and had confirmed for them in our writings what they themselves were hearing from the Spirit. That being the case, I will share our recent adventures with the hope that perhaps it will affirm what someone else is hearing.
Jesus admonished us to "be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." I'm a cognitive, (a word person), and my mind goes nuts with statements like that. Did He mean for us to endure our trials patiently because "in the end" we will overcome? This is the church position in the Bible belt and other places. "Life is tough," they say, "but he who endures to the end will receive the crown of life." One dear old saint I knew always prayed, "If I have been found faithful, let me have a home in heaven when I die." That prayer was all about what man could or must do, but Jesus did not mention man's part at all, except to point him to the WAY. He did not say, "YOU must overcome the world." He said, "I HAVE overcome the world." That is past perfect tense, meaning that He has ALREADY done it. Being persecuted by sadistic Romans and angry Jews, as the early church was, those Christians would have renounced their faith and cashed it all in quickly, had they not known by the Spirit what Jesus meant. It took Paul to come along and say that it is "not I, but Christ" who lives (Gal. 2:20), and it is "in Him that we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). In Christ, there is nothing that we must do. "IT IS FINISHED!" He said on the cross, and finished it is! (John 19:30). He came to fulfill the law and all righteousness, and He came to live in and through those whom the Father drew to Him. In Christ, where dwells the fulness of the godhead bodily (Col. 2:9), we abound. We prosper. We stand holy, blameless, and unreprovable in Him (Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:22). In Christ, there is no darkness, no pain or suffering, and no lack. In Christ, the glory of God is everywhere around us. And dear ones, over 80 verses proclaim that we ARE in Christ, PRESENT TENSE! Until God reveals that to us, our souls cannot prosper. It is impossible!
So what am I suggesting about life's problems? I'll give you a personal example of the recent trials of the Antonssons and hope you see what I am seeing about it. A dear brother in the Sunday School class where Lenny was sent offered to lend us his motor home to come to California, to visit our kids and grandchildren, to enjoy our friends, and to spend time in Sky Valley Park (outside Desert Hot Springs) so Lenny can soak his arthritis damaged joints in the hot mineral spas. We hoped he would get some relief from the debilitating pain he has suffered steadily for well over a year now. I was afraid to take the motor home because it is old and I feared it would break down en route. However, as I was food shopping in Walmart, thinking only about what I was going to fix for supper, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Don't be afraid to take the motor home. I'll take care of you." My heart leaped within me and I told Lenny that I was now excited and ready to make the trip. So, with the funds the Lord provided, we set out for California.
We decided to leave on the afternoon of the 21st of December, heading west on I-40. There were fierce head winds which buffeted the motor home and made it difficult to keep on the road. Lenny was already worn out from cleaning the motor home, and struggling with the wheel to keep it on the road just exacerbated his discomfort. He was in bad shape when we got to Oklahoma City. The following day, Saturday, he was in terrific pain, and sick to his stomach as well. We pulled into the Flying J truck stop in Amarillo, Texas, at 2:30 in the afternoon, and spent the night there. Sunday morning, we got as far as Wilcox, AZ (we had turned south on Interstate 10 at Albuquerque) when the head lights went out. As it was after dark, we had to be towed back to the truck stop, where we spent that night. On Monday, Christmas Eve, we looked at the map and decided we could make it to our destination, before dark, planning to get the lights checked when we arrived in Desert Hot Springs. It was not to be. About 23 miles west of Blythe, CA, the radiator blew, and we stood by the side of the road watching the RV spew out its green guts all over the desert sand. As the light faded over the western mountains, we knew that our dream of getting to Sky Valley that day was shot. We called back to the Flying J truck stop where we had refueled and they sent a tow truck to haul us back there. So far, we had spent $275.00 on towing, and $100.00 on a new battery.
There was nothing to do but wait since the next day was Christmas. So, we passed the time, played a few hands of Pinochle, and enjoyed a slice of Pizza for our Christmas dinner. The morning of the 26th, we called the Chevy dealer in Blythe, who told us he could fix us up and get us on the road. So far, we had already replaced the battery, having been told that the old one was ruined by a dead alternator. I don't know anything about car repair, but I could see thousands of dollars flying out of our checking account. What was troubling was that I had heard the Lord say, "Don't be afraid to take the motor home. I'll take care of you." I know His voice, and so I was in that familiar place where you have the choice of listening to your natural mind, or to the Holy Spirit. So, I said, "OK Lord, I am upset about this, confused and disappointed, but you have taken care of us, and I know you are not going to give us a stone when we ask for bread." As it turned out, it was the starter cable which had burned out, causing all the problems with the battery, alternator and headlights. They flushed out the radiator and charged us only $132.00 for it all. What a relief.
We got to Sky Valley uneventfully, but it took us another week to get over the attack of nerves which the whole episode had evoked. Lenny was in bad pain by the time we got here, and he spent a lot of time in the spas. After two trips to town when the motor home performed OK, we began to relax and enjoy the vacation.
Through the whole ordeal I have been confronted with the Apostle John's statement that we prosper and are in health as our souls prosper. Based on our experience, I concluded that our souls needed to be in the divine repair shop as much as the motor home did. Or to put it another way, we were shaken at a deeper level, so that which cannot be shaken would remain (Heb. 12:27). When you shake a container, the debris on the bottom comes to the top. What came to the top of our containers wasn't pretty to look at, but I knew He meant it to us for good and that He alone could skim off the dross.
This brings me to the main point of my musings today. I was running some references when I came upon the story of King David's purchase of Araunah the Jebusite's threshing floor. He was commanded to offer sacrifices there in order to stop the plague in Israel. The story, found in II Samuel 24 and I Chronicles 21, contains an interesting discrepancy which I'll briefly mention here. In II Sam. 24: 1, the text reads, "Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He incited David against them, saying, 'Go and take a census of Israel and Judah." In I Chronicles 21:1, it says, "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel." So, which is it? God or Satan, we wonder? It does not matter, because as the NIV study notes commented, while God does not tempt anyone to do evil, nevertheless, He is ultimately responsible for the actions of men and Satan as well. So true. It mirrors the account of God's interaction with Satan where Job is concerned, in Job, Chapters one and two.
The point I'm getting at here, is that even though neither account faults David for his actions, one making God responsible and the other casting blame on Satan, nevertheless, he felt guilty about it and was compelled to atone for his sin. You see his Christ like heart in this passage, "David said to God, 'Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? O LORD my God, let your hand fall upon me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people'" (I Chron. 21:17). God heard his cry and sent Gad the seer to tell him to purchase Araunah's's threshing floor and offer a sacrifice there. That location on Mount Moriah was where Abraham had taken Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice, and it was the location where Solomon built his temple, and Herod the great rebuilt the temple of Zerubbabel (Ezra, Chapters four and five), which the Roman hoards destroyed in AD 70. The Moslem mosque, The Dome of the Rock sits on the site today. History lesson aside, in King David, we see how man fared under law. I could describe the law of Moses as it played out in the lives of men and women, in three little words: "You can't win." The reason this is true is because though the law was perfect (Ps. 19:7), man most certainly was not, nor could he become perfect by attempting to keep the law! (Heb. 7:19; 10:1). In Christ, You cannot lose!
Every benefit under the law depended on man's obedience to God, and clearly, in this case, the fact that David's disobedient act of counting the fighting men of Israel did not originate with him mattered not a whit. He was guilty, and God had sent Gad to him with three choices of punishment: "three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD, days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.' Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me" (I Chron. 21:11). Typical of David's devotion to and relationship with God, he answered, "I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men" (I Chron. 21:13).
What I saw in this story was not the goodness and severity of God, though that is obvious, but rather, the magnificent blessing we enjoy of living under grace, rather than under law. It took Paul to come along and pen the words, "For GOD has consigned ALL men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon ALL" (Rom. 11:32, RSV). In one sentence, this anointed Apostle of Grace removed all blame and all guilt from the souls of men. To the degree that God has not revealed this to us, we still feel guilt and shame, two commodities which churches have capitalized on because they are good for business, a sure indication that many people are still living under law.
If we are ever to be in health and prosper, our souls must be transformed, and our minds renewed from the ravages accrued from trying to live by law. Tribulation makes it clear that we must depend solely on God, not on our own efforts. Paul penned these words to the Romans: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom. 12:2, RSV). The "word of faith" preachers tell us that it is NOT God's will for us to be poor or sick, and that our lives will run swimmingly, if only we obey. Sounds like law to me. Paul says here in this passage that when our mind is renewed, we will prove, test, and know what is the will of God. The Holy Spirit shows us that God has only ONE agenda, ONE purpose, ONE goal, and He uses whatever means He chooses to accomplish it. He works ALL THINGS together for our good, after the counsel of His own will so that we will be conformed, molded, and transformed into the image of His dear Son, "that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 1:11). In this same passage, the Apostle asks, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
Under the law, a man was guilty until he did something to atone for his sins. Under grace, we are covered by the blood of the Lamb, seated in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 1:3; 2:6; Col. 3:1), no matter what our mind, the church or the world tells us. I had a whole new appreciation of that during our trip west and afterward. In "trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ....in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:35-37). Only in Him can our souls prosper and be in health. We are in Christ right now, today. Lord open our eyes to see it to feel it, to know it now and in this time. Amen.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 1/19/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last edited on 10/28/08.