Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - The Problem With Prosperity - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - The Problem With Prosperity - Part 1

TOPICS: Walking by Faith (Series), Prosperity, Wealth, Danger, Abraham, Lot

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Trials have a way of strengthening our resolve and teaching us to rely on God. But in many cases, times of peace and prosperity can be an even greater test of our faith. Today we're going to conduct a case study on Abraham and his nephew Lot. The consequence of one man's choice reveals an important lesson about the dangers of success. My message is titled "The Problem with Prosperity" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

It was the Scottish essayist, Thomas Carlyle, who said, "For every one-hundred people who can handle adversity, only one can handle prosperity". What is it about prosperity that causes some people to stumble in life? There's something about prosperity that naturally lures people away from God. Now I know what you're thinking, I can read your minds by looking at you. You're thinking, "Pastor, this is one message that certainly doesn't apply to me, I'm not a wealthy person". Well, you better think again. The fact is, by the world's standard, if you know how you're gonna eat for the next week, you're not worried about food for the next week, if you have an automobile to drive, if you have a place to stay, you are a wealthy person, by the world's standards.

In fact, Caroline pulled up a chart for me, just this week, that says in 2022 if you're a family of four, two adults and two children, and you have an income of $50,000 you are wealthier than 89.7% of the rest of the world. We are wealthy, whether we realize it or not. And the danger of wealth, is it can lead us to make decisions apart from God. Let me illustrate that: there's hardly a person in this room, or watching television right now, who, if you wanted to, couldn't go out to DFW Airport and either pay for, or at least charge on a piece of plastic, a ticket to just about anywhere in the world. You could go anywhere you wanted to. You might spend the next thirty years paying it off, but you could go anywhere in the world you wanted to go, without ever asking God about his plan for his life. Whether that was in his will for you or not.

That's the danger of wealth. And today we're going to look at the episode in Abraham's life that best illustrates the problem with prosperity, living apart from God. If you have your Bibles, turn to Genesis, chapter 13, as we discover the problem with prosperity. Now, first of all, let's set the context for this story. Context is all important. Remember when Abraham was 60 years of age, he was an idol worshipper, he wasn't a godly person, he was an idol worshipper, and yet, he lived in Ur of the Chaldeans, and God said to him, "Abraham, I'm choosing you for a special purpose. I'm gonna give you a land, a piece of real estate that's gonna be yours's and your decedents's forever. I'm gonna make you the father of a great nation. And through you, all of the nations of the world will be blessed".

Abraham believed God and he packed up his family, which, by the way, he shouldn't have done, God told him not to take his family, but he said, "What's a little family time, that'd be good. We'll all go together as a family to this land". But remember what happened, he didn't go all the way there, he stopped in Haran because of his ungodly father's influence. And he spent 15 years living in Haran, living in disobedience. Finally, his dad dies, and Abraham decides to obey God, after God comes back to him and said, "Abraham, you're not there yet, go to the promised land". And he arrives in the promised land, he builds an altar there, thanks God for keeping his promise.

But no sooner had he been in the promised land, than he faced a crisis. There was a drought in the land, that caused a famine. It threatened Abraham's livestock and Abraham's family members. And he was faced with an important question: Could I trust that the God who brought me to this new place, will sustain me in this new place? By the way, some of you right now are facing that same question. Can you really trust in God? Can you trust that the God who brought you into this marriage will keep you and provide for you in this marriage? Can you trust that the God that brought you to this strange city will sustain and provide for you? Can you trust God to take care of your needs? Abraham came to the conclusion: he couldn't trust God.

So, without consulting God, he went to Egypt, and there in Egypt remember, it was a disaster. Pharaoh tried to take Abraham's wife, and finally God miraculously intervened, but the last time we saw Abraham, he was making a beeline back to Canaan with his tail tucked between his legs. He ended in disgrace and that's where we pick up the story in Genesis 13, beginning with verse 1, "So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, and he and his wife and all that belonged to him; and Lot," his nephew was with him, underline that, warning sign, this is gonna be a problem. "Now Abram was very rich in livestock, and in silver and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar, which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord".

Have you ever experienced a failure in your life? Failures can do one of two things: they can either drive us further away from God or they can drive us toward God. When you have failed, Satan will do everything he can to persuade you that your live is over. This mistake is too big to overcome. God can never forgive you. You are gonna be placed on the shelf forever. That's Satan's lies, don't believe it, there is always a path back to God.

Remember the prodigal son? He took his inheritance early, he went to the far country, dissipated on wine and women and every other thing you can imagine, and when he came to the end of himself, he couldn't afford enough to eat. So, he took a job feeding the swine, the pigs, he fed them the husk of grain, that was pig slop. And one day, he came to himself, he came to him senses and he says, "This is insane! I'm here barely existing and my father's slaves have more than I have. I will get up and I will return to my father, and say thus, and thus, and thus, and thus".

You know somebody once said, "Swine husks are often the hors d'oeuvres before the fatted calf". Sometimes we have to get to the very end of ourself. We have to reach rock bottom before we come to our senses and return to the father who loves us. There's always a path back to God, but it begins with repentance. That word repentance, metanoia in Greek, means literally to change your mind. Repentance begins with a change of mind, that says, "I don't wanna keep going this direction. I'm gonna do a U-turn and change directions in life," and that's what Abraham did. He acknowledged his mistake, he went back to that altar, where he had been before, praying to God in Canaan, the promised land.

Remember this: the point of your departure is often the beginning place of your return to God. Most every one of us can point to a bad decision we made that led to bad consequences. The point of return is going back to that bad decision, repenting of it, and asking God for a new direction. That's what Abraham did. And so, when we last saw Abraham, he's back in that altar near Bethel, praying, asking for God's forgiveness. But even though he received God's forgiveness, that forgiveness didn't exempt him from future problems. Right around the corner, there's yet another crisis awaiting Abraham. But this time the crisis isn't concerning how he's gonna deal with a famine, with poverty, it's how he's gonna deal with prosperity.

And you see the conflict beginning in verse 5. Actually, there are two players, two characters in today's story. One is Abraham and the other is his nephew, Lot. Go back to verse 2 for a moment. "Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold". That word translated, "very rich," is the Hebrew word kabed, literally means heavy. Abraham was heavy with riches. As one expositor says in today's language, we would say Abraham was loaded. He was weighed down with possessions, very, very wealthy. But he wasn't the only wealthy person in this story. Verse 5 says, "Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents".

Lot was Abraham's nephew. He was the son of Abraham's dead brother, Haran. We don't know where Lot got his wealth, may have been he inherited it from his dad. May have been Abraham gave him some of his wealth. But he was very, very wealthy, and that was going to provide a problem. He had flocks and herds and tents. Now, the difference was, never once do we find Lot ever acknowledging his gratitude to God for his wealth. Never once, he thought it was his own doing, he could do whatever he wanted to do. Now we need to stop here, and answer a question Bible students have wrestled with, and that is: Was Lot a believer? Was he a believer? And the Bible doesn't hesitate in answering that question. Yes, without doubt, he was a believer.

How can I say that with such certainty? In Second Peter, chapter two, Peter gives a commentary on this Old Testament story, and listen to what he says in verses 7 and 8, "And If God rescued righteous Lot," he calls him righteous. "If God rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what Lot saw and heard that righteous", there it is again, "man, while living among them, felt his", and here it is again, his, "righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds)". Three times, Peter says Lot was a righteous man, but he acted unrighteously. Like so many Christians today, he was carnal, he was fleshly, he walked not by faith, like his uncle, he walked by sight.

Now, the Bible doesn't come out and say this. This is my imagination, but I think it's a sanctified imagination. I think Lot was one of the strong reasons Abraham made that disastrous decision to go to Egypt. Remember, God had said, at the very beginning, "Abram, I'm gonna call you to a land, and I want you to separate yourself from your family". And Abraham didn't do it. And the first consequence of that was Terah, the father, caused Abram to stumble and stay in Haran for 15 years instead of going to the promised land. God had to take Terah home, through death, before Abraham got the personal fortitude to march on to Canaan. And now, he takes Lot with him to Canaan.

Because he didn't separate himself from Lot, I believe when they got to Canaan, the promised land, and they suffered that drought, Lot, a man lacking in faith, was the one who sounded the alarm and said, "Abraham, we gotta do something! To protect our family, our livestock. The only rational thing to do is to go down to Egypt, where there's plenty of places for our animals to graze". And Abraham made that mistake of listening to Lot, and he went to Egypt. He comes back, realizing he'd made a mistake, he knelt down at the altar at Bethel, and began to pray.

Now what did he pray for? I'm sure he asked for God's forgiveness for the bad mistake. I'm sure he also prayed for God's forgiveness for his disobedience, and not separating himself from his family. I'm sure he said, "God, I should have listened to you, years ago, and separated from Lot. Please help me get out of this situation". Be careful of what you pray for, God just might answer that prayer. In fact, sometimes we pray, we really don't know whether God will say yes or no, because we don't know if we're praying in God's will. Faith in praying means boldly asking God for what is in our heart, but quietly trusting in his answer, whatever the answer is. However, whenever we pray for something, we know is the will of God, according to scripture, we can be certain God is going to answer.

That's what First John, 5:14, is all about, "And this is the confidence we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, we know that he hears us". If you ask anything according to the will of God, you can know that God is going to answer that prayer. And he may do it in an unusual way. That's how he answered the prayer for Abraham, to separate from Lot. He sent this crisis that came from great wealth. Look at verse 6, "And the land", that is Canaan, what would be Israel, "could not sustain Abraham and Lot while dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together".

Their wealth had grown so much, especially the livestock, there wasn't enough land to feed them on. And that produced strife, look at verse 7, "And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsman of Lot's livestock". You know what's interesting, this is the first chapter in the Bible where wealth is mentioned. And it's in the negative context. Wealth causes conflict. Now, it's not saying wealth is necessarily sinful. You can use wealth for great good, but just be aware that wealth can cause conflict. I see it all the time, a couple gets married in their young adult years and they barely scrape by, providing for themselves and their family. But they get to a certain stage of life in which they experience prosperity and guess what?

They realize they don't need each other. And they decide to separate from one another. They can be self-sufficient without the other person. Or here's a family run company, they start together, barely making it, wondering how they're gonna meet payroll week after week. But God prospers the business, and with that business comes disagreements among the family members. When should we sell the company? Who ought to succeed the CEO? And all of these conflicts, money creates that's what happened with Abraham and Lot. It caused conflict. There's not enough land. This land isn't big enough for the two of us, we've got to do something.

Now notice the parenthetical statement in verse 7, "Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling in the land". What is that all about? You know who lived in Canaan before Abraham got there? This is a Bible quiz. Who lived in Canaan before Abraham got there? The Canaanites. Took me 7 years in seminary to figure that out. The Canaanites lived in Canaan, they were ungodly, they were not thrilled with Abraham and Lot being interlopers who took their land from them. And so, they were looking for any opportunity to overthrow Abraham and Lot and their family and get them out of the land.

You know what? Abraham said, "Let's not let that happen. Let's don't let there be strife between you and me, for we are brothers". Abraham understood the truth that Jesus would echo many years later when he said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand". You know people are so ignorant of the Bible today, they think Abraham Lincoln is the one who came up with those words. Abraham Lincoln stole that from Jesus. Jesus is the one who said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand". Abraham was saying, "Look Lot: we're brothers, we're one family. The enemy is not you or me, the enemy is them. Let's remember we are brothers".

Christians, we need to remember that today. In Romans 12:10, Paul said, "Let us be devoted to one another in brotherly love". That word brotherly, adelphos in Greek, means we are from the same womb. Paul is saying, the enemy we're facing is not another Christian. Quit the strife, quit the fighting. Our enemy is not other Christians, the enemy is Satan. And he's looking for any opportunity to divide Christians and destroy them. We need to remember, we're from the same womb. The same blood, the blood of Jesus Christ flows through us, that's what unites us to one another. Abraham understood that, and it's out of that spirit that he was going to offer a compromise. Let's not let there be any strife.

You know, in our culture, compromise means weakness. Our philosophy in America is, "Don't give an inch in negotiations. Stand your ground. Don't leave anything on the table". That is a carnal perspective. God says, "Be willing to make peace". Proverbs 17:14 says, "The beginning of strife is like the letting out of water. So, abandon the quarrel before it breaks out". Proverbs 19:11, "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger. And it is his glory to overlook a transgression". So, in that spirit, Abraham offers a compromise, look at Genesis 13:9, "Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me: if you want to go to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left". In other words, "Lot you choose whatever land you want, and I'll take what is left over".

Why was Abraham willing to do that? Why was he willing to be taken advantage of? Three reasons, first of all: Abraham had a greater purpose. He had a greater purpose in life. You know, every life, listen to this, every life is either self-focused or it's God focused. It's one or the other, it can't be both. Lot was self-focused, his credo for living was get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can. That was Lot's philosophy. Look out for number one. Abraham's focus was the glory of God. He knew that if strife broke out between them, if the Canaanites overtook them because of that division, the reputation of God would be ruined. Because God had promised them that land.

And so, he put the interest of God above his own. He had a greater reward. Secondly, not only did he have a greater purpose in life, he possessed a greater faith than Lot. Now it hadn't always been that way. There had been a time in Abraham's life when he thought he was responsible for his own wellbeing. And that's what led him to make that disastrous trip to Egypt, that almost cost him his wife. But after that he learned his lesson. He believed that God could be trusted to take care of him. I like what one biographer of Abraham has written, "The person who is sure of God, can afford to hold loosely the things of this world".
Are you Human?:*