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Friday, December 18, 2009

"Enjoy Prosperity..., but When Hard Times Strike..."

This is an excerpt from a sermon given by my friend and personal Pastor Dr. Bob Roane during his Sunday school class at Christ E.P. Church. I wanted to share his message with everyone.

Ecclesiastes 7:14: Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life." (NLT)

The first part of the verse is easy to understand, yet I still manage to forget how the Lord Jesus has blessed me. To compare myself with others, imagine shrinking global population to 100 people, with all existing ratios unchanged:

There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western hemisphere (North and South) and 8 Africans. 70 non-Christian, 30 Christian.
50% of the world's wealth would be in the hands of only 6 people (all citizens of the US). 80 live in substandard housing; 70 are unable to read; 50 suffer from malnutrition.
1 would be near death; 1 near birth. Only 1 with a college education; no one would own a computer.

How can I be cheerless when the Lord provides for me so richly? Instead of comparing myself with others who have more, Christ shows me billions who have less. In material and spiritual advantages, God has lavished His gifts upon us. So let us give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for us with things to enjoy, not selfishly, but as occasions for glorifying Him and doing good to others-as stewards. He creates a lifestyle of thanks-living in us which involves attitudes and actions, behaviors and beliefs, character and conduct.

God rebuked Old Testament Israel for ungratefulness because they did not serve Him with gladness after He showed them such abundant kindness-all undeserved. In the New Testament He groups ungratefulness with scandalous sins and declares that failing to honor Jesus as God or giving thanks to Him is a mark of pagans with foolish and darkened hearts.

Because happy hours and sunny days don't last, Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, "When hard times strike, realize that both [merry and miserable moments] come from God. The Hebrew word for adversity covers all negative situations-bad, sad, disagreeable, displeasing, distressing, hurtful and painful. This wide range of meaning is what the Apostle James means when he says that we face trials of many kinds. The Lord calls us to face reality (not deny it); to confront it (not refuse it); to consider and learn what He is trying to teach us. Unpleasant days come from our Heavenly Father's hand as surely as pleasant ones.

As I read this, I thought about an old friend who recently went through a tough breakup and subsequently had a good friend pass away. He has spoken much about wondering why God has been making him suffer so much and why has God turned his back on him. Suffering is not God turning his back on us. Adversity is what is sometimes needed to make us realize how much we need to lean on and gain strength from Him because we are not capable of doing it alone. So what are we to do when we suffer? Here are some questions to ponder.

Am I being punished by God by sin? Confess known sin.

Is Satan attacking me as I try to survive as a Christian? Call on God for strength.

Is my suffering due to some unknown reason? Don't draw inward from the pain. Proclaim your faith in God, know that he cares and wait patiently for his aid.

Is my suffering a result of natural consequences for which I am not directly responsible? Recognize that in a sinful world, both good and evil people suffer. But the good person has a promise from God that his or her suffering will one day come to an end.
Sola Gratia,

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