Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Week Thirty-Two - Prosperity

“I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear.  This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice.”  Jeremiah 22:21
The definition of prosperity is not wealth.  It is to do with ease –“I speak to those who are at ease.” It so reminds me of the teenager slouched on the sofa.  Everything is provided for him.  He has technology around him for entertainment and socialization.  Mom does his laundry and cooks his food.  Dad brings in the finances to provide him a comfortable room and clothing. The only thing required of him is to obey the rules of the house.  But what is the normal response when asked to simply take out the rubbish or wash up some dishes? 
The bad habit of seeking ease over effort nearly always results in an attitude of disobedience and disrespect.  It breeds ungratefulness and selfishness.  It accommodates self-focus and rebellion.
Now, lest we condemn the teenager, we must look at ourselves as well.  Most of us prefer an easy life without hitches and difficulties.  We will do all we can to keep life simple and uncomplicated.  Most of us avoid things that make us get off the couch!
The danger is that we get self-focused, disobedience and ungrateful.  Matthew Henry says,  “It is common for those that live at ease to live in contempt of the word of God.”
What is the manner of your life?  Is disobedience and ungratefulness your pattern?  Are you like the teen – everything provided for you?  Do you resist obeying the Lord’s command?  Is your first response to difficulty a complaint?

“For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them”  Proverbs 1:32
Again, the definition has little to do with wealth; it has the meaning of much ease.  Much ease is not healthy. Over the years man’s life has gotten much easier in the Western world.  We have a shorter workweek, more conveniences and appliances to take the real work out of life.  We have more free time and can afford more holidays.  But the real question is:  Is that making us happier, more contented and more productive?  Or, is it making us fat, lazy, and discontent?  You only have to take a look around you to answer that question.
Let’s look at this verse in three ways.
First, when God was dividing the land among the Israelites, the people were asking for the lush valleys and grassy plains.  Caleb asked for a mountain.  Blackaby says, “if you always choose the easy way, asking for the peaceful valleys, you will never see God’s power displayed to enable you to take a mountain.”   Seeking ease does not produce strength within us or demonstrate our faith.
Matthew Henry says, “…by puffing them up with pride, gluing their hearts to the world, furnishing them with fuel for their lusts, and hardening their hearts in their evil ways,…the more dreadful and certain will be their destruction.”
Prosperity, ease, is destructive for our hearts and is characterized by a decline of morals and standards.  It does not produce healthy, vibrant Christians.
Barnes goes even more to the heart of the matter when he says, “...Not outward prosperity, but the temper which it (ease) too often produces, the easy-going indifference to higher truths, is that which destroys.  For the word prosperity, read – carelessness.”  The carelessness of the fool destroys him.
It is certain destruction to follow the path of the fool who only lives for ease.  It is unhealthy in our day-to-day lives, and it is considerably unhealthy in our spiritual lives.  Lazy Christians can be certain to miss the higher truths that give life depth and richness.  Ease has its place, but it should not be the paramount feature of our lives.  Challenges to our faith, hard work, and considered productivity are the really valuable things. 
What about you?  Is your attitude one of always seeking the easy way through life?  Do you compromise the challenges of God in order to make your Christian life “easier” or “simpler”.  Would you be up for the challenge of taking a mountain, or, would you prefer to lay by the stream?

 “And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.”  Psalm 30:6
One of the dangers of ease is that we get complacent and satisfied with the status quo.  We actually become vulnerable to the devices of Satan because we are not being watchful. Matthew Henry says the Psalmist is saying that when he was in health of body and God had given him rest from all his enemies he thought his prosperity was fixed like a mountain.  He was secure.
Barnes says that when we take on this type of attitude we run the danger of becoming self-confident.  We forget our dependence on God.  In our own minds we trace our success to our own efforts, tact, and skill, rather than to God.  We become worldly-minded, and it is necessary for God to teach us how easily he can sweep all this away in order to bring us back to a right view of the uncertainty of all earthly things.  God will show us that our dependence is to be upon him and that permanent and certain happiness and security are to be found in Him alone.
To forget that this life is temporal, destructible and uncertain is to entertain the idea that our lives are about what we have on this earth.  Attaching ourselves too tightly to our homes, jobs, social standing or successes is to place those things above God.  All of those things can be wiped away by a single stroke.  One tornado, one bad medical prognosis, one lost job and our whole world can come tumbling down.  How much better for us to place our value in things not temporal?
It reminds me of Colossians 3:1-3  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
The way of the child of God is to not make the things of this world the place where his heart rests, but rather, to always be considering that he is but a traveller through this life.  Our home is above.  It is eternal.  Our affections should lie there.
Are you too attached to this world?  Do you believe that what you have and what you attain are the most important things?  What if God removed it all today?  Would you curse Him, or accept it by faith?

 “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.”  Ecclesiastes 7:14
While the previous definitions meant ease, this definition means good, pleasant, agreeable.  God has given us times of both pleasantness and times of adversity.  As Solomon was writing Ecclesiastes he was comparing all things, and when he came to these two aspects of life he recognized the providence of God. 
Swindoll says, “It exhorts us to consider the work of God.  For as we do, we will realize that no one can straighten what He has bent.  The Lord is in control.  Therefore, we can replace resistance and frustration with submission and relief.  Indeed, trusting in God’s sovereignty frees us to really enjoy the prosperity He brings and to seriously consider the adversity He permits.  To this fact Solomon adds that the Lord is ultimately responsible for both the good times and the bad.  He also tells us that God works through both in such a way that man cannot discover anything that will be after him unless God reveals it to him.  In short, wisdom gives us a divine outlook that helps us rejoice in our bright days and persevere through our dark times.”
We need to be living in such a way that we are joyful and appreciative when things are good – and – accepting and understanding when things are not so good.  We ought to be ready for whatever circumstance the Lord chooses.
It reminds me of David’s comment in Psalm 27:13  “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  David knew good times and bad, but he had discovered the secret to survival – acknowledging God in both time – creating hope.
None of us know what will be tomorrow.  None of us can determine the events of our lives.  Conversely, our times are in HIS HANDS!  Better for us to learn to yield and accept both the sweet and the sour with an attitude of submission and reverence to an Almighty God who has everything under control.
Have you learned the grace of submission in the face of hardship?  Or, do you complain and get annoyed when hard times come your way?  Do you really understand and accept the practical truth of the sovereignty and providence of God?

“Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.”  Psalm 35:27
And now, for a final definition.  This one has very little to do with ease, and though akin to good, pleasant and agreeable, is more based in inner qualities.  It has to do with completeness, soundness, safety, tranquility, contentment and relationship.  God desires not our “prosperity” in the manner of ease, but in those things produce peace in our lives.
It is sometimes hard for us to understand that God is not really bothered by the difficulties we face.  He isn’t afraid of them.  Rather, he uses them to create prosperity in our lives.  The richness of those Christians who have faced persecution is a depth most of us will never know.  But it is a real thing.
I saw this one time we were in Seattle with a church that had a ministry among Russians.  These were folks who knew the Lord and had faced a regime bound on extinguishing their faith.  Standing together as a choir they began to sing the songs that had come from this persecution.  They sang in their native tongue, but the English translation was projected for us all to read.  The words revealed a solid and assured confidence in God’s providence, faithfulness and protection.  It was evident that they were prosperous in their faith.  They knew completeness, soundness and contentment in their relationship with the Lord based not only in the Word, but also confirmed by experience.
Such is the desire of the Lord for all of us.  He wants us to come into such a relationship – a confident and prosperous relationship.  It is the character of God to work among us to that end.  Instead of looking for the easy paths of life, let’s look for the prosperous paths, the paths that lead us to bring glory to God and to magnify His name whatever may be, for therein we will truly find prosperity.

No comments:

Post a Comment