CLAY SIKES : WHY I LEFT THE PROSPERITY MOVEMENT
The testimony that you will read in the next lines denounces the gospel of prosperity which highlights the search for the blessings of God in defiance of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We are truly prosperous by making the will of God the primacy of our quests. The goods are given to us in addition. Concern about material goods is a pagan attitude. The self-respecting Christian knows that his God awaits him in an attitude of contentment and peace vis-à-vis the next day. This is not a testimony of conversion, but rather the experience that Clay, a Christian eager to please God in his finances, lived by putting into practice all the principles of prosperity that had been taught to him. Faced with the Word of God, these principles cannot stand. We wish you a good read.
Many years ago, the Holy Spirit told me, “Give up the system of rewards according to the world, to learn to receive according to the Kingdom. If you walk in accordance with the system of this world, you will become dependent on its rewards.”
After receiving this word, it took me years to understand the deeper meaning of these two systems and the incompatibility between them. First and foremost, I conclude that these two systems are in constant conflict. Both seek individuals through whom they will implement their principles.
Knowingly or not, every day we participate in one or the other of these systems. That of the world is led by Satan, the god of this century, and he conveys the traditions of this world. But our Lord Jesus Christ Himself leads in the ways of the Kingdom.
First, both are underpinned by spiritual forces involving angelic beings.
Secondly, whether we engage in one or the other, we will reap a harvest.
Finally, both have many members all walking in the “ways” of the system to which they have attached themselves. These “ways” become ways of life, and lifestyles become traditions. In our daily existence, the choices we constantly have to make will connect us to one or the other of these systems.
I will now examine the differences between these two systems in the area of finance and material blessings. It should be noted that the system of this world has largely invaded many aspects of the life of the Church, not only in the financial field. The typical traits of this world are found in the selfish ambitions of many church leaders: they want larger buildings, larger departments; they want cars, planes, bigger houses; they aspire to more media coverage and a bigger budget. At the root of this spiritual problem that invades the very house of God is pride, focused on the ME.
From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, I have experienced severe financial difficulties. I had two young sons whom I raised on my own, and I had to manage a debt of nearly $ 5,000,000 as a result of catastrophic commercial transactions. In short, my situation was not brilliant.
For several years, we lived by faith in God, literally without being able to say in advance where our next meal would come, or how to get the most basic food. The Holy Spirit prevented me from declaring bankruptcy. Throughout these difficult years, we have learned how faithful God is. We have always had the necessary and we have never regretted trusting God. The spiritual achievements of those years would be of great help to me later because soon after, I found myself facing the same problems.
Towards the beginning of 1991, I began to listen to the message of prosperity and to put it into practice. According to this message, when we gave, we received blessings in return. I felt stimulated, challenged. I threw myself on this teaching and its principles and began to put them into practice. One day I was led to a $ 5 note that I did not know existed; I gave it, according to what the Lord, it seemed to me, put to my heart. In a relatively short period of time, that is, in the space of three years, I was supernaturally put in a position to repay my $ 5 million debt and to obtain a net gain of to $ 5 million. So I got $ 10 million in 36 months after all these years of lean cows.
To the general consternation, and especially mine, by the end of 1997, I once again lost all my net gain, and I again had a debt of $ 5 million. In these times of debacle, we gave everything in the house outside the kitchen sink: what an effort to try to move the arm of God! In those years, we “sowed” nearly $ 750,000, giving them mostly to “big” Christian ministries.
Leaving aside the poor, the orphans, the missions, and the true needs of the Body of Christ, we have enriched these mega ministries. I mention this effort only to show the enormity of the explanation provided by the mega pastors in question: in their opinion, the second failure was that we had not given them enough.
One last point about these closely related financial fluctuations: I must explain that at the beginning we had been diligent in prayer to know the Lord’s thoughts and to give only according to His directions. At that time, we do not practise tithing. Some of the greatest financial miracles we have ever seen occurred in this context. But our hearts began to go astray. Afterward, we made giving into a law, often giving without praying, and we began to make tithing a rigid principle. We did not give by faith anymore: it was a mathematical calculation – we took ten percent – a bit like paying the electricity bill. In addition to the tithe, we gave enormous offerings.
Many years later, I understood that all that does not proceed from faith is a sin. I did not write the tithing check in faith, I just obeyed the new law I had been taught. Listen to what I discovered after seeking God’s will for almost four years: one hundred percent of our income belongs to the Lord, not ten percent, twenty percent, or any other percentage. Today when I receive money, I seek the will of God for the entire sum or some other percentage.
But at that time, I continued to practice the teaching on “prosperity” that was instilled in the beginning. I continued to walk by my faith, giving my money. I did not understand why, but it did not work anymore. Having recently had a wife and a newborn child, I had to face various ordeals on a natural level. For the first time in many years, I felt the need to receive from God the true message of prosperity. The method that worked so well, in the beginning, did not have the slightest effect on my financial situation. I had been taught that the laws of prosperity worked for all those who applied them. It was enough, I was told, to give large sums, and God would make them multiply. It had worked for a while, not just for me, but also for others. Remarkably, we all faced the same problems.
So I was again in the throes of financial distress, again in need of things as basic as food, clothing, payments to pay for the house, water and electricity, for example. Again I cried out to God, asking Him, “Why?”
For every answer, I heard, “Because of My mercy!” I was about to learn a key lesson essential for my life and for my financial future. What I am going to say applies to all those who have financial needs, or who feel challenged by the message of “prosperity” that is being heard today.
The great change to which God has called me contradicts so radically the teaching that I received
then, that I had to learn to think in a new way, throwing to the winds many elements that had become a tradition for me. This change came after I had spent a lot of time in the presence of the Lord, and prayed in the Spirit for long hours. Once I heard the Lord say to me, “Spiritual ignorance often takes the form of tradition.” He began by telling me to stop worrying about money; I had to trust Him more and settle for what I had. He also showed me that I had to trust in God, not in my own faith or in the fact that I gave.
I must admit that without money, without food, and sometimes without medication for my child, it was difficult for me to learn contentment. But at a time when I was in dire need, I received an important revelation. In the midst of this storm, God kept telling me to stay contented. I was trying very well, but the worries and anxiety were constantly catching on.
One Sunday afternoon in May 1998, one could say that humanly speaking, my situation had never been worse. I found myself deprived of house, car, electricity, water, and practically all my material goods. Only when I humbled myself and shouted to the Lord, the grace of God gave me contentment despite these extreme circumstances. God acted supernaturally, and soon, inexplicably, incredibly, God had given me that contentment that I had asked Him. For a moment, I stayed there, marveling at the state in which my heart was miraculously plunged.
That’s when I heard honking in front of the house. He was a former employee whom I had not seen for two years. He did not live in Hinesville, GA and we had not seen each other since he quit his job two years ago. When he was stopped at a red light, the Lord had made him want to visit me.
He did not know anything about my dramatic situation. After a brief exchange of greetings, he said to me, “Clay, it bothers me a lot to ask you this question, but do you have a financial need?” Without even giving me time to answer, he added, “I feel that God wants me to bless you financially.” Of course, the gift he gave me did not solve all our problems, but it enabled us to meet many pressing needs. While I was in destitution, H rescued me; but God has given me the grace to grasp this spiritual principle: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6: 6).
Divine contentment frees us in the anointing of God, and then our needs are fulfilled not only spiritually but also materially. Since this event, Money has no power over me, because it is God who provides for my needs, and I trust in Him. Now, as far as financial matters are concerned, I feel a peace that goes beyond anything that can be understood, and that does not depend on the amount of my bank account.
In seeking first the will of God, I released the hand of the Lord; He is taking care of all my needs now. What a contrast between this satisfaction and the message of “prosperity”! He says, “If you’re not happy with your current financial situation, you can do better. So offer God gifts that really cost you (preferably through our ministry) and God will have to bless you in return. This prosperity movement learns to be unsatisfied, just as it is in this world. We focus on you, and what you can do, to the detriment of total trust in God. The system of this world is based exclusively on what we can do for ourselves. In the Kingdom of God, we trust in the goodness of God for our needs, whoever they may be.
A mystery is a hidden truth that comes to light. I believe the following is a message from God: If you want to enter the blessing of God, you must learn to be satisfied. Be satisfied with what you have, and God will give you to drink well water that you have not dug, and live in houses that you have not built. Stop digging and building independently of Him. A Christian who desires to be rich will certainly fall, as surely as one who believes himself to be strong enough to defy the laws of gravity. Flee selfish ambitions (Philippians 2: 3) and love of money (1Timothy 6:10). Recognize that these symptoms come from the old carnal nature. Escape them like the plague: dissatisfaction
prevents the blessings of God from manifesting freely. If you are in rest and contentment, the trials will not kill you. Contentment destroys anxiety, doubt, fear, and impious ambitions.
To run after money is to be caught up in the system of the world, “… for all these things do the heathen of the world seek them” (Luke 12:30). What is asked of us is simply to seek the Kingdom of God first, to pray, to seek the mind of the Lord, and to obey. Then God will ensure that “all these things” (all that we need materially and financially) come to us. What God made me understand completely upset my religious beliefs: running after the blessing blocks the flow of divine blessing. To seek blessing instead of seeking God is to flee from a blessing that would reach us. When we are completely centered on God (not on money or blessing) we will not only receive what we need, we will receive the things of the Kingdom: holiness, righteousness, wisdom, power, anointing, divine favor, blessings, revelations etc.
Then the sweet voice of the Lord communicated to me another revelation: a poor man may covet earthly goods just as much as a rich man, or even more. Those of us who have had to deal with serious financial dilemmas have certainly sinned by coveting material goods; I know that I am in this case. The “message of prosperity” is an enchantment for the ear of a Christian who is undergoing a financial ordeal, but in a very subtle way, he focuses on seeking blessing for himself. Today the thought of many preachers focuses more on blessings than on God; they provide us with formulas and methods to “obtain a blessing”. How ironic, these formulas often consist in making offerings for their ministry, for themselves, and for their programs! To a large extent, this explains the critical state of the present Church. Our eyes are set in the wrong direction, we seek the blessing of God and not God Himself. May the Lord forgive us!
For those of us who watch television, hardly a day goes by without a show urging us to “sow in the good soil” of this or that ministry. This kind of call comes at the end of a particularly moving message, telling us that such a “servant of God” is going into the construction of buildings, that he needs a new jet plane, or that he undertakes such masterly work for God. Some of these exhortations may come from God, but this is not often the case.
God proclaims to His people, “Whenever you give, be guided by My Spirit acting in you. Do not be fooled by messages that come to tickle your ears, by all this hype, by the entertainment, by these messages that manipulate your emotions. Recognize that all this comes from this world, and leave this system of the world that invaded My house.”
Having served on the board of one of the largest “ministries of prosperity” in this country and even in the world, I am well placed to know what the “message” is. That’s right, I do not want to throw the baby at the same time with his dirty diaper. But I am convinced that it is essential for the Church to be aware of it: this “message” is largely false. I beg you, judge yourselves. Yes, I believe that God wants to bless His people. I am convinced that God desires that His people give and be blessed by giving. But there is a limit to never crossing: one must not give without being led by the Spirit of God, and one must not give in order to receive.
The “Word of Faith” movement has long been teaching that divine laws will work for all who apply them. In other words, it would be enough to put into practice the letter of the law, and God would be “bound by His written Word”, bound to act in your existence. In the same way, this same movement has produced the “message of prosperity” which says, “If you give, God is bound to bless you.” But that is not true, quite simply. As I said above, this is one of the essential reasons why the Body of Christ is struggling financially because “the letter kills, and the Spirit gives life.” Eve succeeded in persuading Adam that he could have the blessings of God without God, hence the terrible fall of man. Satan was chased from heaven for a very similar reason.
Yes, God blesses our offerings when we give joyfully, to honor Him, to obey His Spirit. But if our motive is “to get something from Him,” and this is essentially the “message of prosperity,” our motives are defiled, they are the expression of our own self-righteousness. And all this leads only to religiosity, pride, and selfishness.