“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (3 John 2)
John, in writing to his dear friend in the truth, Gaius, wishes him well regards and greetings. In particular, he desires and prays that Gaius would prosper and be in good health “even as thy soul prospereth”. He desires for his friend’s physical health to be as strong, robust, and vibrant as his spiritual health and growth. Could the same be said for us? If our physical health were to mirror our spiritual health, would we be strong and active or weak and constantly sickly?
The Apostle John in this brief fourteen verse epistle is writing to his dear friend, Gaius (v.1). This most likely was Gaius of Corinth, who is noted in Paul’s epistles and was even Paul’s host in Corinth when he wrote Romans (Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 1:14), although it could be some other Gaius mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 19:29, 20:4) or a gentleman not specifically noted in the scriptures. Regardless, Gaius was a “beloved” friend of John and a devoted disciple of Christ. Gaius is commended for his love and devotion to the truth, exhibiting the actions to back it up as well, walking in truth, not just making an empty profession (v.3-4). He was faithful and sincere in everything he did, both within the church and without (v.5). He was also well known for his “charity before the church” (v.6). For John, hearing the report of how sincere and devoted Gaius was to the cause of Christ gave him great personal joy because “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (v.4).
We see from John’s descriptions the godly manner in which Gaius lived his life, both within the church and without, among both brethren and strangers (v.5). He exhibited all the traits of a spiritually healthy and vibrant church member and disciple of Christ. In light of how Gaius’ soul is evidently prospering and growing and how he is so spiritually healthy, John actually “wishes” for him to be in as great of physical health as he is in great spiritual health. This may indicate that Gaius was not in good physical health at that time. Some who serve so diligently in the kingdom as Gaius evidently did, sometimes do so to the detriment of their own physical health. They expend themselves so heavily in serving God and God’s people that they literally wear themselves out physically, making themselves more susceptible to physical illness. That may have certainly been the case with Gaius because of all his work in the kingdom, so John desires for God to bless his dear friend with good health in the future.
During this beginning of a new year, we certainly desire and wish for all our loved ones (and selfishly for ourselves as well) to have good health this year. However, if our physical health was equivalent to our spiritual health, what would our health look like? Would it be a curse or a blessing for someone to wish for our physical health to mirror our spiritual health? In the manner that Gaius was living his life, it was a great blessing for John to desire his physical health to be equivalent to his spiritual health because his soul was prospering abundantly. However, I feel that oftentimes my spiritual health is weak and infirmed. Without listing all of my shortcomings here, suffice to say many times I don’t think my spiritual resume would exhibit spiritual health like Gaius did in this epistle. Instead, my faith is oftentimes weak, my love for the truth colder than it should be, my charity towards others not as fervent as it should be, etc. This exhibits some severe symptoms of a spiritual malady, not strong spiritual health in my life. I fear that my physical health would oftentimes be sick, weak, and decrepit if my health mirrored my spiritual health.
John also desires for Gaius to “prosper” in general in the same manner that is “soul is prospering”. Again, if someone wished for our finances or career, etc. to grow and prosper in the same manner that our spiritual health was growing and prospering, how would that look? Is our spiritual growth stagnant or vibrant or declining? If my change in personal wealth mirrored my increase or decrease in my spiritual prosperity and growth, would I be on the fast track to financial stability or on a runaway freight train toward bankruptcy? Again, would it be a blessing or curse for us to tie our financial prosperity to our spiritual prosperity? I’m afraid I might be in bankruptcy territory sooner than later sometimes if that was based on my spiritual health and prosperity.
As this year begins, I wish all of you great health and prosperity, not just physically but more importantly spiritually as well. I have known many elderly men and women, that even though their physical health had deteriorated severely, they were as spiritually healthy as they had ever been. Their soul was still prospering and growing, and they were a tremendous encouragement to me. I have seen the opposite as well. A young person who is in good physical health, but their spiritual health is deteriorating and waning. As the old saying goes, “Unfortunately, youth is wasted on the young.” This year may we honestly examine ourselves and see what symptoms of spiritual malady need to be healed in our lives. I hope above all things that your soul may prosper abundantly in the year to come.
Originally published January 2018