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Answer to Those Who See from These Things That They Are Not Good Traders

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders}


OBJECTION: All this goes against me and confirms my just fears that I am a stranger to spiritual thriving. I now see that it is a pitiful trade that I pursue in godliness. I profess Christ, hear sermons, pray, perform duties, and enjoy privileges, but am never the better. Oh, how I may stamp lost labor on all my Christian work! I need no greater proof than this evidence, nor any other judge than my own conscience to convince my languishing soul of daily wastes and poverty in heavenly trade. What shall I do to get my case mended and attain to true thriving in this holy calling?


ANSWER: There are four things that usually make people thrive in their earthly trading; these also contribute to prosperity in this heavenly merchandising:

  1. Provident care.

  2. Diligent hand.

  3. Secret trade.

  4. Divine blessing.


Things to Make You Thrive: Provident Care

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Things to Make You Thrive: Provident Care}


People who are thriving in the world are provident [prudent and prepared] and careful to guard against dangers, make their assets and interests secure, and allocate their resources to their advantage. And Christians must do likewise if they ever think to flourish in godliness. What losses and miscarriages in Christianity might provident care prevent if temptations were waylaid and corruptions timely guarded against? Souls might thus escape many occasions of being pounced on by sin and escape many losses of benefits of grace. Never think to prosper in holiness until you are provident to prevent its weakening and to contribute all you can toward its strength and enlargement. Someone may enjoy a good frame of soul and much peace and joy in believing, then, for lack of watchfulness, lose it all. Another has gotten a little power over his corruptions for a time, then for lack of provident care to avoid ensnaring occasions of sin, is overcome again. Another has a choice advantage put into his hand for spiritual good, but by not exercising timely care and preparation to use it well, miscarries in all his hopes and labors. By these changes and interruptions, their spiritual welfare is impeded. “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6–8 NASB). Be wise as serpents; they avoid danger as soon as they see it and guard their most important parts even at hazard of their all1396 (Matthew 10:16).1397 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15 NKJV). Oh, how happy might Christians be if they were as provident for their souls as they are for their bodies and engaged thoughtfulness, care, and foresight to further their spiritual interests. Without this provident care, never think to prosper in this heavenly merchandise. Take heed of sins that waste grace; do not allow any secret lust or roll any sweet sinful morsel under your tongue. That will prove a moth in your spiritual estate and keep you low in your heavenly concerns. Souls that are under some entangling lust are like Israel under the prevailing hand of Midian against them. “For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them. So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it. So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord” (Judges 6:3–6 NASB). So it is with those who do not take provident care of their souls; no sooner do they get any mercy, strength of constitution, blessed experience, hope, or other advantage to their souls, than a prevailing lust rises up and destroys it all. Therefore cry to the Lord, as Israel did, until He delivers you from every iniquity. If you want to prosper in your souls and way of life, do not make peace with any corruption; never let it rest until it is wholly destroyed. Also, be provident to take all possible advantages for godliness and watch your opportunities for every duty. Just as the secondhand goods trader goes to every flea market and fair, go to every soul-goods market and fair, that is, all the public and private means of grace, and get in profit for your souls (Proverbs 8:34).1398 Be careful to get some good from everything and to keep and save what you have; this will tend to a thriving soul (Acts 2:46).1399


Things to Make You Thrive: A Diligent Hand

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Things to Make You Thrive: A Diligent Hand}


A diligent hand tends to make people thrive in their employment. People who prosper in the world take pains and follow their employments, rise early, sit up late, and neglect no business that may help them profit. Those of you who intend to thrive in Christianity must do likewise. You must make Christianity your business, be laborers in God’s vineyard, and be workers that need not be ashamed (John 6:27; 2 Timothy 2:15).1400 For the most part, Christians are too slothful in their spiritual business to see profits. It will cost you more striving to enter into the narrow and difficult gate and make progress in the narrow and difficult way that leads to life (Matthew 7:14).1401 You need to hammer your [spiritual] enemies yet more before they are defeated and put more labor into your work before you can turn a profit. Scripture describes this work variously as running (Hebrews 12:1),1402 striving (Luke 13:24),1403 wrestling (Ephesians 6:12),1404 labors more abundant (1 Corinthians 15:10),1405 in weariness and toil (2 Corinthians 11:27),1406 and watching (Luke 12:37).1407 By comparison, what pains people will take for the world: “She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens. She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night” (Proverbs 31:15, 18 NKJV). “When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do ones eyes see sleep” (Ecclesiastes 8:16 ESV). “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15 NASB). Should Christians not do more for Heaven? The most diligent soul is the most thriving soul. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NASB), in season and out of season, taking every opportunity for Heaven. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol1408 where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NASB). This is the way to a thriving soul (1 Corinthians 9:24–25; Hebrews 12:4; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 11:23–27; Proverbs 31:15–18; Ecclesiastes 8:16; Matthew 23:15; Ecclesiastes 9:10).1409


Things to Make You Thrive: A Secret Trade of Holiness

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Things to Make You Thrive: A Secret Trade of Holiness}


Driving a secret trade of holiness helps the soul to thrive. People who have some particular skill and proprietary secrets in their trade that are not common usually get the greatest income and advantage. So it is in this heavenly trade: the more people are engaged in the mysteries of godliness, the more they thrive in Christianity (1 Timothy 3:16).1410 There is a secret in holiness with in no stranger shares (Proverbs 14:10).1411 There is a way within the veil, the hidden part in which souls are made to know wisdom (Psalm 51:6).1412 There are hidden riches in secret places that thriving Christians receive (Isaiah 45:3).1413 If you want to prosper in godliness, be sure to maintain the secret duties of piety. The Christianity of most people lies in the marketplace and in view of others, but their hearts and prayer closets are not privy to any secret transactions between God and their souls; in the praise of people, they have their reward. But the thriving trade of Christianity is the secret trade. Christian, give priority to those duties that people least observe and to the invisible part of your visible work. Public duties are most honorable, but secret duties are the most profitable (Matthew 6:3–4).1414


Things to Make You Thrive: The Blessing of God on Your Labors

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Things to Make You Thrive: God Blesses Your Labor}


The blessing of God makes people rich. “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, And He adds no sorrow to it” (Proverbs 10:22 NASB). “For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south” (Psalm 75:6 NKJV). Prosperity does not come from the ends of people’s fingers, but from God’s hand. “The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow” (Deuteronomy 28:8–12 NASB). Prosperity, both spiritual and temporal, comes when God sends it. “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity” (Psalm 118:25 NKJV). See also Psalm 18:32–33.1415 “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows” (Psalm 23:3–5 NASB). “You water its furrows abundantly, You settle its ridges, You soften it with showers, You bless its growth. You have crowned the year with Your bounty, And Your paths drip with fatness” (Psalm 65:10–11 NASB). “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11 ESV). “I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily, And he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5 NASB). Secure your portion in the promises and get your souls under the showers of blessing if you ever think to thrive in godliness.1416


Things to Make You Thrive: Use Well Those Graces That Make You Thrive

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Things to Make You Thrive: Use Well Graces for Thriving}


Put those graces that promote thriving to good use and take paths that lead to prosperity. These come with promise of blessing. Every grace and duty, according to its nature, helps prosper the soul, but there are some graces and duties that have a more special influence on spiritual thriving.


Faith

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Things to Make You Thrive: Use Well Graces for Thriving

Faith}


Faith1417 is a grace that makes a soul prosperous. “They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed’” (2 Chronicles 20:20 NASB). “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16 ESV). Every grace is useful in spiritual warfare, but especially faith. Other graces may (as Saul) slay their thousands, but faith (as David) slays ten thousands (1 Samuel 18:7).1418 Some darts may be defended against by other graces, but faith quenches fiery [flaming] darts, yes, all the fiery darts of Satan; this wonderfully furthers thriving. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38 NASB).1419 Faith will maintain the soul’s life in the greatest distresses and pressing necessities. Faith is a receiving grace; it takes in whatever is laid up in the promise, and that promotes thriving. “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22 ESV). Faith is also a grace that makes the soul rich. “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5 NASB). Faith is a working grace. “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NASB). It is a powerful grace; it gives the soul experience of the mighty power of God. “And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19–20 ESV). See also 1 Thessalonians 2:13.1420 It is a strengthening grace. “…quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Hebrews 11:34 NASB). Through faith, the Lord gives His abundant grace. “And the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:14 NASB). It exceedingly nourishes the soul in grace and edifies it to salvation. “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Timothy 4:6 NKJV). “Nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4 NKJV). One reason why souls prosper no more in piety is their unbelief; they are full of doubting, fears, and questions at every turn, still wavering as a wave of the sea. These cannot receive much at the hand of God, but are still weak and backsliding in Christianity. Greatly believe the promises against [merely earthly] hope and above fears if you ever think to prosper in Christianity.


Love to God, His Name, and Ways

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Things to Make You Thrive: Use Well Graces for Thriving

Love to God, His Name, and Ways}


Love to God, His Name, ways, and His concerns is a soul-prospering grace. “‘Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord; But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.’ And the land was undisturbed for forty years” (Judges 5:31 NASB). “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you’” (Psalm 122:6 NASB). “But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You. For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11–12 NASB). Love to God is necessarily a prospering grace because it brings the soul under the blessing of God and inside the boundary of His securing shield. Love is a grace that strengthens and establishes the soul. “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faiththat you, being rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17 ESV). The Greek translated grounded, τεθεμελιωμενοι [root: θεμελιόω them-el-ee-o´-o], means to set in a firm ground, not easily shaken from God or their integrity [or lay a firm foundation]. Love makes a growing soul. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 ESV). Love helps edification in grace: “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16 ESV). Love drives the soul to God, makes His commands pleasant, and enlivens the heart to make haste in the way to glory. The more you love God, the more you will prosper in godliness.


Humility

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Things to Make You Thrive: Use Well Graces for Thriving

Humility}


Humility is a grace that brings prosperity to the soul, and comes with a promised blessing: “A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor” (Proverbs 29:23 NASB). Montanus said that the Hebrew means that humility will bear him up from falling and bring him into honor.1421 “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility” (Proverbs 15:33 NASB). The humble soul is, of necessity, a thriving soul, for God gives grace to it (James 4:6).1422 Yes, God dwells with the humble to revive the spirit of the humble (Isaiah 57:15).1423 There is a great deal of pride in most Christians, and that hinders the soul from thriving. People are proud of abilities and grace. They are proud under seeming humility and proud of humility. Low valleys are fruitful, but high mountains are barren [above the tree line]. “Folly is set in great dignity, While the rich sit in a lowly place” (Ecclesiastes 10:6 NKJV). “Those who are rich in wisdom,” said Mercer, “sit in a low place; they come down and lie low in themselves, but folly is set in great dignity.” Poor, foolish, empty creatures: many times they are high in conceit, as well as in place. But the richest and most thriving souls are the poorest in spirit and lowest in their own eyes. The richer the metal, the heavier. Gold depresses the scale more than [an equal volume of] silver or tin. The more full of fruit branches are, the lower they bend. “He sends forth springs in the valleys; They flow between the mountains” (Psalm 104:10 NASB). “The meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy” (Psalm 65:13 ESV). Vineyards thrive best in low places. One branch from the valley of Eshcol was said to be a burden for two men (Numbers 13:23).1424 Would you flourish in grace? Then take heed of pride. Mr. Adams, on 2 Peter and 2 Corinthians 12:7, said, “Pride in the soul is like the spleen in the body; when that swells, all other parts languish. It is poison at the root of the tree that corrupts the sap. It is so dangerous a poison that an antidote, itself poisonous, was concocted to preserve Paul from it (2 Corinthians 12:7).1425 Do you want to prosper in godliness? Then be people of low, humble spirits.” “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Remove the turban and take off the crown; this will no longer be the same. Exalt that which is low and abase that which is high’” (Ezekiel 21:26 NASB).


Sincerity

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Things to Make You Thrive: Use Well Graces for Thriving

Sincerity}


Another choice fruit of the Spirit that will help the soul thrive is sincerity.1426 “The house of the wicked will be destroyed, But the tent of the upright will flourish” (Proverbs 14:11 NASB). “Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit, but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance” (Proverbs 28:10 ESV). They will not only be preserved from evil and escape the pit into which the wicked fall, but they will be sure to meet with good; blessings and good things will be given to them as their inheritance, as Aquila and Theodosius interpret it, inheritance.1427 “He said, ‘O Lord, the God of Israel, there is no god like You in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart’” (2 Chronicles 6:14 NASB). “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord And righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Psalm 24:4–5 NASB). Upright souls will necessarily prosper; they dwell in the presence of God (Psalm 140:13).1428 He will not withhold anything good from them (Psalm 84:11).1429 His countenance beholds them (Psalm 11:7 NASB).1430 God engages His all-sufficiency for their good (Genesis 17:1).1431 They will hold to their way and grow stronger and stronger and they will prosper (Job 17:9).1432 “Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21 NASB). It is not your many duties before God, but unity of your heart with God that will make you prosperous in your heavenly concerns. Likewise, it is not the bulk of your services, but the sincerity of your soul that will prosper you in your heavenly interests.


Take Action That Leads to Prosperity of Soul

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Take Action That Leads to Prosperity of Soul}


Again, take courses of action that lead to thriving and prosperous ways, as well as prospering graces. These are under a promised blessing also. Not to multiply particulars, but there are four ways by which Christians may thrive and in which Christians may attain a prosperous trade in Christianity: the way of:


Take Action That Leads to Prosperity of Soul: Self-Examination

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Take Action for Prosperity of Soul: Self-Examination}


First, frequently examine yourselves and call yourselves to account concerning how matters stand with your souls. Traders who want to thrive will often examine their books, balance their accounts, and take inventory on set days. They will calculate whether they are making a profit or losing money. Christians who want to profit in Christianity must do likewise. They must often judge themselves that they not be judged (1 Corinthians 11:31).1433 They must audit their own books and determine whether they are going forward or backward. “Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5 ESV). Determine how your case stands: are you making a profit or losing money, and what is the cause of all those ravages that are against you? “Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah” (Psalm 4:4 NASB). “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB). Neglect of this examination is one cause of that great mistake people make about the state of their souls. Some think they are better than they really are (Revelation 3:17).1434 Others judge themselves to be worse than they really are. This causes false security in some, discouragement in others, and error and sloth in all. A right estimate of your spiritual strength, either poverty or riches, gain or loss is absolutely essential to properly conduct yourself, especially in holy duties, so as to sanctify your heart and advance your spiritual condition. Look over the journal of your heart and life every night and post the journal entries to the accounts of your conscience. In addition, take special times for a more full survey of your soul and eternal state. This will be of good use for a thriving soul.


Take Action That Leads to Prosperity of Soul: Be Much with God in Prayer

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Take Action for Prosperity of Soul: Much Prayer}


Second, if you want your souls to prosper, be often and mighty with God in prayer. Scripture says of King Uzziah: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5 NKJV).1435 Prayer done well is a wonderful way to get your soul enriched.1436 Someone said that nobody can be spiritually poor who can pray well. One reason that this king prospered as long as he sought the Lord was that by this means he learned from the visions of God, which helped him to take the right way to prosperity. By prayer, you get counsel from God concerning what course to take toward mercy. Prayer is your ephod1437 by which you ask counsel of God1438 where to go to avoid danger, and what to do to carry out your duty and obtain mercy (1 Samuel 23:6–9; 1 Samuel 30:7).1439 By prayer, you obtain the graces and supplies you need. “Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!’ And God granted what he asked” (1 Chronicles 4:10 ESV). Prayer brings down the Holy Spirit, sometimes insensibly, and sometimes to an almost intolerable degree. There was a precious servant of the Lord, Mr. Bruce in Scotland, of whom King James said he was worth half of his kingdom. When he had given a sad description of the imminent danger that the Church was in, there was such a perceivable pouring down of the Spirit that they could hardly contain themselves. There was even an unusual influence on those who were in other parts of the house, though they did not know its cause at the time. Oh, what great things did Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jehoshaphat, Samuel, Elijah, and other servants of God get from the hand of God. Luther was a mighty man in prayer; it was said that he could get anything he wanted out of God. Nothing is too hard for faith and prayer because it seeks nothing except what God is willing to spare and has promised to give. Labor to get a mighty Spirit of prayer; the gift of prayer will not do; it must be the Spirit of prayer, who is a pure and heart-cleansing Spirit and He cannot dwell with the least cherished sin. Gifts of prayer with natural emotions may be mighty on the spirits of people, but they are useless to prevail with God for blessing. “Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper” (2 Kings 5:1 ESV). Likewise there are some who seem to be mighty men of prayer who can stir the emotions of others and pray like angels, but all the while, they are lepers, under the ruling power of some secret lust such as pride, sexual uncleanness, covetousness, or uncleanness that they hide under their tongue. But such are far from this mighty power of prayer that brings down the Spirit on their own hearts or others’ hearts. Ah, Christian, if you want to prosper in grace, get and put to good use the Spirit of grace and supplication (Luke 11:13).1440


Take Action That Leads to Prosperity of Soul: Engage God to Be with You in All You Do

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Take Action for Prosperity of Soul: Engage God with You}


Third, another way to thrive is to engage God to be with you in all you undertake. This is what made Joseph so prosperous in all he did: God was with him. “The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper” (Genesis 39:23 NASB). “David became greater and greater, for the Lord God of hosts was with him” (2 Samuel 5:10 NASB). It was not his wisdom, valor, or any means that he used, but the gracious presence of God with him that made him to grow so great. This also made Solomon to prosper. “Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you” (1 Chronicles 22:11 NASB). When people lose the gracious presence of God, they soon find that things have changed and they begin to wither and decay in their comforts of soul and prosperity. Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong; You hid Your face, and I was troubled” (Psalm 30:7 NKJV). He was troubled like a withered flower that loses its sap and vigor. Jonah soon found a change in his soul when he fled from the presence of God; things were not as before. He never had a good day after he lost the presence of God, but he experienced storms, tempests, and shipwreck of peace, safety, and prosperity. He was thrown into the deeps of distress and ruining dangers (Jonah 1:3, 10).1441 Ah, Christian! As you love your soul and your spiritual welfare, take heed of losing God’s gracious presence. Whoever else’s company you lose, keep the Lord’s presence with you. Abide with Him and He will abide with you (2 Chronicles 15:2).1442 “Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you’” (2 Corinthians 6:16–17 NASB). Love Him and keep His commandments and He will take up His abode with you (John 14:23).1443 Do not be contented with any privilege unless you have God with you. “Then he said to Him, ‘If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here’” (Exodus 33:15 NKJV). “I solemnly declare,” said Mr. Bruce when wrestling for the presence of God with him as he was going to preach, “I will not go unless You go with me.”




Take Action That Leads to Prosperity of Soul: Follow Divine Counsel in All You Do

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Good Traders in Christianity

Advice: Bless God for Good Trading

Answer to Those Who See That They Are Not Good Traders

Take Action for Prosperity of Soul: Follow Divine Counsel}


Fourth, follow the counsel of God if you want to thrive in the work and way of God. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8 NKJV). “Jeremiah said, ‘You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the Lord in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared’” (Jeremiah 38:20 ESV). One cause why people prosper only a little in their Christianity is that they make little conscience of doing the will of God. People hear but forget the Word. Others know their Lord’s will, but do not prepare themselves to do it. We live in an age of abstract theology, but not motion toward God. We are like people who see countries on a map, but do not travel to them. Bare knowledge pleases most. People’s zeal after truth is like Absalom’s love to his father, David; it was only to see him, not serve him. “Absalom answered Joab, ‘Behold, I sent for you, saying, “Come here, that I may send you to the king, to say, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me still to be there.’ Now therefore, let me see the king’s face, and if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death”’” (2 Samuel 14:32 NASB). Soon after he did see the king’s face, and then he conspired against him. So most care for no more than to behold truth, not to dwell with it; thus prosperity is such a stranger to them. It was not instructions that could heal Naaman of his leprosy, but obedience. He was no better until he followed the prophet’s counsel and washed in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:13–14).1444 Although the ground got rain, because it did not bring forth fruit for the farmers, it was close to being cursed (Hebrews 6:7–8).1445 If you expect to prosper in Christianity, do not just seek truth, but walk in the truth (James 1:25).1446 Only the doers of the Word will be blessed in their doing.


1396When confronted by a predator, a snake not able to escape may hide its head under its body or elsewhere or wave its tail in the face of the predator.

1397Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

1398Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors” (Proverbs 8:34 ESV).

1399Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46 NASB).

1400Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (John 6:27 NASB). “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV).

1401For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14 ESV). The popular expression “straight and narrow” is a corruption of “strait and narrow.” In Matthew 7:13–14, in the KJV, the gate is called “strait,” meaning narrow. But it can also mean difficult or strict. The underlying Greek is στενος [sten-os´], which also can connote strict or exacting as well as narrow. It is typically translated narrow in more modern translations. On the other hand, the word describing the way in verse 14 is τεθλιμμενη, a form of θλιβω [thlee´-bo], literally meaning compress, restrict, or rub together. It is used in a figurative sense of afflict, cause hardship, or oppress. Referring to the way (as opposed to the gate) the KJV and NASB translate it as narrow, the NKJV translates it as difficult, and the ESV translates it as hard. However Matthew 7:13–14 is translated, the gate and way are clearly no easy path and Ashwood’s discussion is true to the Scripture text.

1402Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB).

1403Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24 NKJV).

1404For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV).

1405But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10 NKJV).

1406In weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:27 NKJV).

1407Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37 NKJV).

1408Sheol: Hebrew word for either hell or the grave. The latter fits the context of this verse.

1409Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:24–25 ESV). “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4 NASB). “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB). “Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:23–27 NASB). “She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night” (Proverbs 31:15–18 NASB). “…when I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night)” (Ecclesiastes 8:16 NASB). “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15 NASB). “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NASB).

1410And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16 NKJV).

1411The heart knows its own bitterness, And a stranger does not share its joy” (Proverbs 14:10 NASB).

1412Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6 NASB).

1413I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name” (Isaiah 45:3 ESV).

1414But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3–4 NASB).

1415It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places” (Psalm 18:32–33 NKJV).

1416Promises of temporal blessings given to the ancient nation-church-state of Israel foreshadowed the mostly spiritual blessings under the Gospel. These blessings illustrate the truth of what Ashwood said: “Prosperity, both spiritual and temporal, comes when God sends it.”

1417As in a previous footnote, trust encompasses most of the meaning of faith (the noun) and believe (the verb). Also, the distinction between the English trust and believe does not exist in the biblical languages. True faith in Christ also entails a total commitment to Him. We exercise faith when we choose to believe God in spite of apparently contradictory information from the world or our senses, thoughts, emotions, and so on.

1418The women sang as they played, and said, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7 NASB).

1419Regarding live by faith: The Greek ζαω [dzah´-o], in common with the Hebrew, Latin, and English words for live, denotes either of its two common senses, life as opposed to death, and manner, course, or quality of life. The editor suggests that the Scripture deliberately embraces this ambiguity and means both. The Greek also commonly suggests a quality or abundant life.

1420For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NKJV).

1421There is a textual variant here and the KJV could support Montanus’s statement. However, the Hebrew יִתְמֹךְ [root: תמך taw-mak´] seems to be now uniformly accepted and translated by modern versions along the lines of obtain/retain honor.

1422But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6 NKJV).

1423For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite’” (Isaiah 57:15 ESV).

1424Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs” (Numbers 13:23 NASB).

1425So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7 ESV).

1426Most often, sincerity is equated with honesty and truthfulness with respect to other people. But it may also mean—and here in this book does mean—an inward honesty and truthfulness in one’s heart, without excluding outward honesty.

1427The KJV renders possession, for יִנְחֲלוּ [root: נחל naw-khal´], whereas modern versions render inheritance in Proverbs 28:10, agreeing with Aquila and Theodosius.

1428Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; The upright shall dwell in Your presence” (Psalm 140:13 NKJV).

1429For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11 NASB).

1430For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face” (Psalm 11:7 NASB). The NKJV and KJV translate that God will behold the upright. The ESV agrees with the NASB as above that the upright will behold God’s face. Commentators are not in agreement here.

1431Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless’” (Genesis 17:1 NASB).

1432Yet the righteous will hold to his way, And he who has clean hands will be stronger and stronger” (Job 17:9 NKJV).

1433But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31 ESV).

1434Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17 NKJV).

1435The Hebrew is difficult at this point. NKJV, KJV, NASB indicate that Zechariah had understanding of visions of God. The ESV says that Zechariah instructed Uzziah in the fear of God. This difference is tangential to Ashwood’s point, however. “He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5 ESV).

1436There is no “magic” to prayer; prayer done well is simply talking to God reverently, plainly, honestly, and sincerely. This is in contrast to just going through the motions or saying words without engaging the mind and heart. That is the most important thing, although there are other things that can help us in our prayers, and volumes have been written on them.

1437A description of the ephod worn by the high priest may be found in Exodus 28:6–12. But references to the ephod in the context of inquiring of God most likely actually refer to the Urim and Thummim mentioned in Exodus 28:30 and elsewhere, which were used for inquiring of God. Their nature is unknown today. This indirect use is similar to using the White House to refer to the president of the USA.

1438God has determined all events, even the smallest from eternity before He made the world. Humans cannot change what He has thus irrevocably decreed. Yet, part of what He has decreed is that He has chosen to use our prayers to do His work on earth, a thing of great awe and mystery. It seems paradoxical, but while God’s mind is not changed by prayer, He does use prayer to change our minds!

1439Now it came about, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David at Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand. When it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah, Saul said, ‘God has delivered him into my hand, for he shut himself in by entering a city with double gates and bars.’ So Saul summoned all the people for war, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men. Now David knew that Saul was plotting evil against him; so he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod here.’” (1 Samuel 23:6–9 NASB). “Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, ‘Please bring the ephod here to me.’ And Abiathar brought the ephod to David” (1 Samuel 30:7 NKJV).

1440If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13 NASB).

1441But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3 NASB). “Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, ‘How could you do this?’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them” (Jonah 1:10 NASB). Although God rescued Jonah from the belly of the big fish and Jonah completed his assignment, he was petulant and rebellious in heart to the end of the narrative: “Then God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?’ And he said, ‘I have good reason to be angry, even to death’” (Jonah 4:9 NASB).

1442And he went out to meet Asa and said to him, ‘Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you’” (2 Chronicles 15:2 ESV).

1443Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him’” (John 14:23 NASB).

1444Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, ‘My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, “Wash, and be clean”?’ So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:13–14 NASB).

1445For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:7–8 ESV).

1446But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25 NASB).

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