Tuesday, June 9, 2009
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE TRIALS AND TESTS? Grateful Heart
“On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscious.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.”
When we are on the mountain top, humans congratulate themselves on all the hard work they did to place themselves there. One of the major flaws of the human condition is our forgetfulness…we forget the source of all things good…we forget the lessons learn from the last trials. The story of Job serves as an example of how trials serve to remind us that God is in control. In Job 1:10-11 the devil says, “You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!’ ‘All right, you may test him,’ the LORD said to Satan. ‘Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.’ So Satan left the LORD’s presence.” Through the life of Job we can learn that God works as a filter, nothing can happen to us without His permission. As always, these struggles’ purpose is to shape us into the likeness of Christ and produce the fruits of the spirit. Later in Job 42:1-6, after complaining and repeatedly questioning God, “Job answered GOD: ‘I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes? I admit it. I was the one. ..I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise…"’ Trust me if I had to endure Job’s suffering I would complain even more so…it is an incredible story. As a result of his confession, God blesses Job even more than what was taken away and he lived another 140 years. The story of Job firmly explains to me that God is more concerned about our spirit, than our physical condition~ His concern is who we are rather than what we have. In addition, the lesson of what the devil had intended for evil, God used for good is powerfully illustrated; Job was stripped of all his material possessions so that he could be humbled and grateful. One can easily infer that Job’s torment was prolonged by his rebellion and complaining; the sooner he accepted God’s omnipotent power, the sooner the trial would have ended and the devil lost the bet.
As Americans in the age of instant gratification, we feel God has abandoned and punished us when our water or electricity is being turned off. We stand in front of the microwave wondering why it is taking so long. Like you, I am in full blown panic mode when my bank account runs dry, but do you realize how few people world-wide have clean drinking water or reliable electricity? How grateful are you for the blessings you do have? We feel the American Dream is a guaranteed blessing. We compare ourselves to our neighbors and constantly chase the carrot of success. The current economic crisis is a result of Americans living beyond their means. Financial expert Suze Orman highlighted the problematic attitude behind the economic crisis, “Suze commented that the economy is built on lies and deceit. A lack of regulation for banks, mortgage companies, etc combined with greed at the very top of the system all worked out to mean trouble for the American economy. Main Street America is not so different from Wall Street. Families have been buying homes they couldn't afford, leasing expensive cars, putting purchases on credit and basically living off of money they don't actually have but that is borrowed…Suze's tips for what families can start doing to protect themselves are very simple. First of all, stop living financial lies - Suze shared that if you are living an honest financial life, you will be fine no matter the state of the economy” (Elizabeth Borer, About.com, Recession-Proof Your Family with Suze Orman - Show Recap Tuesday, September 23, 2008). As humans are both physical and spiritual creations, our spiritual attitudes impact our physical lifestyle.
So I plainly ask you, what are your eyes watching—TV commercials, your neighbor’s new car, pornography, the gloom and doom newscasts? If our eyes are the lamp, then they are the gateway to coveting and jealousy as well.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:21-34
As with any journey, change begins with the first step. Living an authentic financial life will bless you physically and spiritually. Many times in the Bible restoration and thanksgiving are inextricably linked: “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise” Jeremiah 17:14. In Luke the story of Jesus and the 10 lepers tells us that only one came back to thank Jesus. As a result, the thankful man not only received physical restoration, but spiritual healing as well, “Where are the other nine?...Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17-15-18 After all, humans original design was for communion with God; it is no wonder that when we lose sight of this priority, our lives are out-of-focus and chaotic.
Most importantly, the last part of Matthew 6, offers a promise. Are you seeking His kingdom first? Thankfully give God your first fruits—the first 10% of your salary, day, time— and come back and tell me how your life is changing. I’m not endorsing your saying to God, Now God, I gave you $20, now where’s my $200?—that is not a grateful heart. Think about your relationship with your children, when they open up the Christmas gifts and ask, Is that it? How eager are you to give them more? Do we look to God with a sense of entitlement? Have we forgotten that God’s chosen people wandered the desert, the early church fathers were jailed for following the Great Commission and so on, why do we expect to be treated any differently? Even while imprisoned, Paul encourages others with the grateful heart, strength and peace he has found in relying on Christ to supply his needs, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:11-13 Pray that God will change your point of view and give you a thankful heart.