“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2). Most of us agree with Apostle John’s prayer that we should prosper in all things because no one wants to live in poverty. Poverty is a curse.
Material prosperity and physical health affect all of us. However, it is important to note that each of these are the by-product of a prosperous soul. If you are constantly having problems in your finances or health you need to check out the condition of your soul. How well is your mind, will and emotions lined up with the Word of God?
Apostle John says “just as your soul prospers”. This means that financial blessing and physical health are in direct proportion to the degree that our soul is prospering. This means that as long as we have a lot of baggage in our soul, we will not prosper financially and physically. “Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked and perverse, he who guards his soul shall be far from them (he will prosper and be in health)” (Proverbs 22:5).
The majority of believers’ chronic problems are related to failing to keep their soul well. Many people’s souls are cluttered with unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, greed, pride, lust, idolatry, fear, cares and worries. This crowds Jesus and His life, healing, provision and nature out. In Revelation 3:20 we find Jesus on the outside looking in “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with me”. Most of us have locked Jesus out because He can’t cohabit with anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, pride, greed, lust and fear.
Most of us we sing the song, “It is well with my soul” and yet in reality it is the opposite. So how can you make sure that your soul is keeping well so you are not lying when singing, “It is well with my soul?”
A prosperous soul comes to Jesus regularly for rest. “Come to Me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”. (Matthew 11: 28-30). The soul needs rest if it is to prosper (be kept well) just like the body needs rest for health. We allow our souls to get so weighed down with pressures, stress, anxiety, troubles and cares that it can’t rest. Most people are currently going through incredible stress because of the economic climate of our country. In such times it is very easy to weigh down your soul. Some end up committing suicide, others find pseudo comfort in drugs or toxic substances.
An unrestful soul is an unprosperous soul. This kind of soul works so hard, the body cannot rest, causing burnout, exhaustion, depression and nervous breakdowns. In Matthew 11 quoted above, Jesus is implying in this passage that a primary cause of souls failing to find rest is due to people taking yokes and burdens upon them that are not from Him.
A yoke was made of wood with two hollowed-out sections on the bottom portion that rested on the necks of oxen that were used to plough or to draw a cart. Figuratively, a yoke symbolised servitude or submission. Jesus was admonishing us to submit ourselves to Him, for true rest comes from serving Him not ourselves.
A new ox was often trained for ploughing or drawing a cart by yoking it with an experienced ox. The yoke kept the young ox from “doing its own thing,” and it soon learned obedience to its master. In like manner, we are to commit ourselves to being yoked to Jesus. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Unlike the sometimes-harsh treatment oxen are given to bring them into subjection, Jesus is “meek and lowly in heart” and wins us by love (1 John 4:11). Jesus pulls more than His “share” of the load, therefore our burden is light.
Rest is defined as pause, intermission, refresh or take ease. We can only receive ease, refreshing, intermission for our souls by coming to Jesus and leaving stress, worries, pressure, and all the baggage that clog our souls. We have to learn to “cast all our cares (all our anxieties, all our worries, and all our concerns, once and for all) on Him for He cares about us (with deepest affection, and watches over us very carefully” (1 Peter 5:7 Amp). Instead of casting all this burden on Christ, some of us take it to our “friends” who are not even able to give us good counsel. Instead they take this and share with other people and you become a public disgrace. Others go and look for some form of entertainment or hobby to soothe their soul. Unfortunately, all these solutions offer temporary relief. There is only One answer to all our life’s problems. The answer is Jesus.
Furthermore, Apostle Paul advises us “to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7). When your faith is in Christ, there is no need to worry because He is faithful.
In Luke 10: 38-42 we come across the story of Mary and Martha. Mary was at Jesus’ feet while Martha was in the kitchen preparing a meal for Jesus. This didn’t please Martha that she was working alone while Mary was just seated with Jesus and so she complained to Jesus. Jesus answered her and said “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
We see two different types of Christians illustrated in this story. One whose soul is prospering and at rest and the other whose soul was full of anxiety and not prospering.
Most of us believers are like Martha. We are restless, anxious and stressed.
The focus of this lesson is not about pitting devotion against duty. It is about how priorities and focus affect the condition of one’s soul. Martha was distracted by her serving, and was angry and envious of her sister. Jesus said that caused her to become worried and troubled about many things. Her soul was not prospering. Jesus was in her house, but she did not focus on Him. When your focus and attention is on Him, all the troubles and burdens become a shadow in His presence. An anxious soul is easy prey to the enemy. It provides an open door to attack against your health and finances.
Psalm 23: 1-3 talks about the Lord as our Shepherd. David makes it clear that the fact that He is his Shepherd, he “shall not want”. This means that all my needs are met and I will not lack anything. He restores my soul. Yielding to my Shepherd, leads me to lie down and stop worrying and lay aside all self-effort. When you follow His leadership, you will camp by still waters or waters of rest. Unfortunately, most of us because we don’t allow Him to be our Shepherd, we live and camp at the raging turbulent waters which means constant unrest and uncertainty.
Taking time to come aside from self-effort, struggles and troubles to rest by still waters by coming to Him, the good Shepherd is the process He uses to restore our souls. Failure to do so results in more of the same, troubles, anxieties, worries, problems, turbulent waters in various areas of your life.
Jesus said, He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Apart from Him we will have activity with no fruitfulness.
Most Christians know they need to abide in the Lord more, but they don’t feel they have the time. If we would see ourselves as worthless as a detached branch without Jesus, we would make the time. The more demands we have on us, the more we need to abide in the Lord.
Abiding in the Lord certainly demands intimacy that cannot be achieved without time spent alone with the Lord. But we must also learn to be in communion with the Lord during our daily activities. Apart from spending quality time with the Lord, we will appropriate no significant power in our lives. Appropriating the benefits of eternal life can only be realised by coming to Him regularly knowing Him and finding rest for your soul. This is the foundation for a prosperous soul.
Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: email@example.com or Twitter @dougmamvura