February 2, 2020
Pastor John Hering
11 Certainly, this commandment that I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not far away. 12 It is not up in the heavens, so that you have to say, “Which one of us will go up to the heavens and get it for us so we can listen to it and carry it out?” 13 It is not across the sea, so that you have to say, “Which one of us will cross over to the other side of the sea and get it for us so we can listen to it and carry it out?” 14 Instead, the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so you can obey it.
15 See now, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. 16 This is what I am commanding you today: Love the Lord your God, walk in his ways, and keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances. Then you will live and increase in number, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are going to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you do not listen, and you are lured away, and you bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 then I declare to you today that you will most certainly perish. You will not live a long life on the land that you are about to enter and possess by crossing over the Jordan.
19 I call the heavens and the earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, a blessing and a curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live 20 by loving the Lord your God, by listening to his voice, and by clinging to him, because that means life for you, and you will live a long life on your land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.Deuteronomy 30:11-20
We all make plans for success. If you’re married you might plans to have a date night every month, or to raise your children to be good citizens. If you’re thinking about your career then you might have plans to earn a livable wage, buy a house and set aside enough money to enjoy retirement. If you run a business you might like to grow your business by 10% this year, or expand your business into 10% more of the market by 2021. That’s how we define success. We make a plan then review the plan to see how we did. Moses knew the people that were before him were making plans for success because they were about to enter into the Promised Land. He spent the first 29 chapters of Deuteronomy in order to give the people God’s plan for success. You see, it was God’s intent to take the people from Egypt, past Mount Sinai, right into the Promised Land. However, while they were receiving the law (civil, ceremonial, moral) through Moses, it took them about 40 days to forget about the Lord and build the Golden Calf. That’s when God made an executive decision and judgment that these people would not enter into the Promised Land, but they would spend 40 years wandering in the desert until they all died off. Then their children would enter into the land. The lesson we have before us today happened 40 years after Sinai. They were camped on the east side of the Jordan River and ready to start their new lives. They were done living in tents and were ready for homes with for walls and a roof. They were ready to start their own business and earn their own income to support themselves instead of relying on daily manna and quail from the Lord. Moses was enlightening them with Epiphany guidance to do just that. He was giving them, and to us,
God’s Plan For Prosperity
The Plan is Simple
Plans are very important for families and even more so for businesses, so last year USA businesses spent about $58 billion on consultants. Even our own church, the WELS, was willing to spend a huge amount of money in order to call me to be a Mission Counselor. That’s because running a church or any business is complicated. However, God’s plan for success is very simple. Listen: “11 Certainly, this commandment that I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not far away. 12 It is not up in the heavens, so that you have to say, “Which one of us will go up to the heavens and get it for us so we can listen to it and carry it out?” 13 It is not across the sea, so that you have to say, “Which one of us will cross over to the other side of the sea and get it for us so we can listen to it and carry it out?” God’s plan is not too difficult for you. It’s easy. It’s in almost every hotel room you’ve slept in. You can boil it down and recite it from memory. It is “is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so you can obey it.” Moses wrote about it in the first 29 chapters of Deuteronomy. Now, you might say, “Wait a minute! That’s a ton of laws!” True, but if you boil it down it is very simple. Jesus was once asked to do just that. “36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” There it is. So simple. In every aspect of life love the Lord God more than anything or anybody. And, put your neighbor’s happiness and wellbeing above your own. If you do that, your joy and happiness will increase.
Do you buy it? You realize this is contrary to the American Dream—that if you work hard and put your nose to the grindstone, you can become all that you can be! So, what drives the American Dream? No doubt a large part of this is to become wealthy. This desire has lured millions of people through our boarders! To us Baby Boomers it looks like this: live in the suburbs, have one or two cars and maybe a boat, have kids with straight teeth, be able to go somewhere warm on vacation and make enough to retire comfortably. Now, if you’re a millennial you want to live downtown in a sweet loft, have a job that has an positive impact on society, go shopping at Whole Foods and afford all the Organic foods, join a local gym, and travel to cools places. It doesn’t matter which group you’re in, the point being that everyone wants upward success. But, this is completely opposite of God’s Plan for Success. God says go downward—put yourself beneath God’s holy will and desires, and the wants and needs of your fellowman and you’ll have success. Who doesn’t understand this? Indeed, it is easy to understand, but so hard to implement!
If you would follow this, then the goal of a business would not be to build and empire and get wealthy, but 1st to give God glory through your work. And to make sure the things you produce would make God proud, hire Jesus to come and watch how sausage is made to the glory of God. 2ndly you would have a great concern for the well-being of your employees. Ask any true Capitalist how to make a product and he will tell you that you have to find the place and people where you can pay the least to make those widgets as cheaply as you can. A Christian business owner knows the right way, the simple way, and God’s way—that is to pay the most you can to the employees so they get to share in as much of the success of the company as you do. Not, over pay and collapse the company—for then nobody has a job. What business thinks this way!?!
And for employees, remember the primary concern is to give glory to God and love your neighbor. So, if your employer asks you to be dishonest at work, you have to respectfully decline and give glory to God. 2ndly you work hard for your employer because you are putting his interests above your own. That means you would be very careful about complaining about your wages and even more careful about going on strike—rather putting your employer’s best interested above your own. I suppose you could strike if a fellow worker was in a dangerous situation. But, generally, God’s simple plan for success is 180 degrees the opposite of the way the world thinks. It’s not about upward mobility for self, but rather putting God 1st and your neighbor 2nd.
Now, some of you might be thinking, “Thanks Pastor Hering, now I’ll just give my employees a 10% increase in dental care and then God will bless me!” But, that’s not really giving glory to God, but using God. Others might be thinking, “Sure, that might work in your church world, but not in the real world!” You might have a point, because sin has ruined God’s simple plan for success in our sinful world. That means we need to listen to God’s Word and the simple plan (love God and neighbor) and then learn how God defines success.
God’s Plan for Success – the Definition
Moses reveals God’s definition in these words, “15 See now, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. 16 This is what I am commanding you today: Love the Lord your God, walk in his ways, and keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances. Then you will live and increase in number, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are going to possess. 17 ” Moses gives a simple definition to God’s plan of success. God did not mention quality or quantity, but whether it is life and prosperity, death and disaster. You see, if you want your life to be filled with heartache, stress, unethical work, employees that hate you and the IRS coming after you, then choose to put yourself before God and your neighbor and be unethical as you can—then you’ll experience death. He isn’t talking about physical life or death, but the life or death of your faith.
It is so easy to see examples of people who have their Christian life and their business life. People try to separate the two—doing all the church stuff on Sunday, but not at work on Monday! You can’t compartmentalize God! God is omnipresent—here with us at church, but he is also present in the board room (worship him there, too), on the assembly line (worship him there, too), at school (worship him there, too) and in the cubical (worship him there, too). Moses says if you try to redefine God’s plan of success, then you may die spiritually! “17 But if your heart turns away, and you do not listen, and you are lured away, and you bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 then I declare to you today that you will most certainly perish.”
You might think this isn’t going on in your life, because you love God. However there are plenty of people who have said, “I love God.” How about the college student who says, “I love God” but I love sex, too! It’s not that I don’t love God, but I love sex more. Do you want proof? They don’t want to listen to what God says about sex but rather do their own thing. Or how about Money! When you say, “I love God” but I don’t want to listen to all that God says about money. Well, if you don’t want to listen and follow what God says about your management of your money then you say “I love God” but you love money more than God. SIN is going on in our lives. It’s usually not like a sword, but more like arsenic that poisons you slowly. You don’t even know it’s happening! And then faith dies!
Therefore it is important for us to know the definition of God’s success. “life and prosperity, death and disaster.” Dear Friends, if you refuse to God 1st and your neighbor’s happiness 2nd then you might get all sorts of stuff, but you might very well kill off your faith, then are you really prosperous? You know Jesus’ answer, “26 After all, what will it benefit a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul?” (Matt 16:26). God’s plan is simple and his definition is clear. Put God 1st and the benefit of your neighbor 2nd and you’ll enjoy God’s gift of prosperity! How can I be so confident of this? Because of
The Power behind the Plan
Moses knows this power. “19 I call the heavens and the earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, a blessing and a curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live 20 by loving the Lord your God, by listening to his voice, and by clinging to him, because that means life for you, and you will live a long life on your land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Did you hear what Moses just said? “The Lord is your life!” Choose life! This is not to say that the first 29 chapters of law couldn’t give life. Do this and your will live! That’s what God gave Adam and Eve in the garden. If they obeyed the Lord they would have life. Jesus said the same thing to the expert in the law, “25 Just then, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “What do you read there?” 27 He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” 28 He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10). Jesus speaks the truth. Obey the commands and you will never die! The Law can give life. So, anybody here not dying? Have you stopped aging? Why? You can try to exercise and use a gallon of makeup to cover up dying, but each day we’re one day closer to death because we are all broken with sin.
The only reason we have a home, college education, food and medical care is only on account of God good and gracious mercy toward you. You can work 50 hours a week, but during those 50 hours has it ever crossed your mind to give glory to God at work? During those 50 hours have you ever thought to put your fellow worker or even your employers before yourself? We are so broken we can’t keep the law and we would be doomed.
But, the Lord is your life! The Lord is the power behind the plan. Where we failed, Jesus succeeded. God came up with another plan of prosperity. It wasn’t easy. Jesus came as the CEO, the president, the owner of God’s business plan. Jesus wasn’t thinking about HIS bottom line—what’s best for him. Just think about his pay cut! He left all the glory of heaven and the throne of gold for a manger of straw. All along he had you on his mind. Business leaders are always thinking about their exit strategy—you know when they retire. Jesus’ exit strategy wasn’t about a sweet pension, perks and bonuses for himself, but all for you. Jesus’ work came to an end with nails, thorns and a biting whip. Jesus took the cuts for himself to pay for your sin’s expenses. Jesus’ power behind his plan means he picked death so you might have life. He chose to be cursed by God the Father, so you could be powerfully blessed. For Jesus, God came first and your wellbeing came second. Grace upon grace—when Jesus’ powerful love for you sinks in it transforms how you look at prosperity and success.
We all make plans for success. Whether in marriage, business, school or work let us all confess, “God is my life!” This is God’s Plans for Prosperity for you that last for eternity. It is not too difficult for you. It is not beyond your reach. Moses was very clear: “the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so you can obey it.” God grant it. Amen!