While it’s not January First, I still pray you have a great New Year, and the Bible gives us reason to do so. John, the beloved disciple, wrote more of the New Testament than anyone besides Paul, who wrote Romans and so many other letters.
John wrote the gospel of John and the letters of First, Second and Third John as well as Revelation. In his third letter, he writes: Dear friend, I am praying that everything prosper with you and that you be in good health, as I know you are prospering spiritually. (3 John 2, Complete Jewish Bible).
The Amplified version words this verse like this: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers. And the Message Bible* says: We’re the best of friends, and I pray for good fortune in everything you do, and for your good health — that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul!
I include these three version to give us more insight even though each is similar. Sometimes wording can help us grasp something we don’t from another version.
John knows Gaius well, calling him a dear friend and knows that Gaius is growing spiritually. Therefore, he prays that Gaius will also prosper in all other ways and be healthy. That verse doesn’t mean that if we continually grow spiritually that we automatically have success in life. Only John died a natural death out of all the apostles and many other early Christians suffered death as well. But John had horrible persecution before his death. He’s already gone through much of this agony when he writes this letter, so he knows that following Christ doesn’t automatically bring an easy life, but still he prays for Gaius.
Prosperity doesn’t only mean financial success, though it can imply that. People who aren’t wealthy can be very content with what they have. I’d say contentment is the greatest part of prosperity because many wealthy people are still not happy. John also prays that Gaius will be healthy. Sometimes we take our health for granted, until we lose it or some of it, and then we realize its true value.
Let’s look at a couple of Scripture references about being content. In Matthew 5:5*, a part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
Paul too suffered much persecution but he writes in Philippians 4:11-12*: Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.
Wow! What a confession. If we could experience contentment whatever our circumstances, that would be a great achievement for the year. My prayer for you this year is that you would prosper and be healthy, but beyond that, that you would grow spiritually even as that’s my goal for the year.
* THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
Note: I’ve written about this verse a couple of times before but this is a new devotional about it.