“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” 2 Cor. 11:30
I’m a bit concerned at how often we as Christians use prosperity as the exclusive measure of a successful Christian life. Please understand that I have no problem with my brothers and sisters in Christ who have positioned themselves for God’s favor and have experienced that favor. At Worship Concepts we are fond of the saying, “God’s plan done God’s way never lacks God’s supply”, so if God isn’t supplying then it might not be God’s plan or God’s way. I also don’t believe that God has called every Christian to a life of poverty. Jesus didn’t say that it’s impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven; just that a rich man would have to be humble and get down off his high-horse (camel) to fit through the small entry portal to the city. Heck, my lifestyle is extravagant when judged by the economic standards of most of the rest of the world.
My concern is when we use prosperity as the exclusive measure of God’s favor. Too often we (I) fall into the jealousy trap of judging a pastor’s impact based on the size of his ministry; how often he’s invited to guest preach; how many hits are on his blog. We look at successful Christian business people and assume that it’s the “favor of God” that led to their affluence. When other parents seem to have the best behaved children on the planet, while ours drive us to desperation, we assume it’s because we’re not in God’s will.
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, when a sports figure wins a championship we often assume that God “liked” him better than the loser. By that measure, God must have really favored Tiger Woods until he messed up (see David in the Old Testament) and hasn’t won many golf tourneys since. Of course, Tiger is still rather “blessed” as a golfer, so God mustn’t be too upset with him.
I confess that when I don’t make the best choices in my retirement portfolio my initial response is to add fifteen minutes to my morning scripture time in an effort to regain God’s wisdom in what the stock market will do. If that’s all it takes, then Warren Buffet must be just about the holiest man in the world.
Yes, I know that I’m on some thin ice here when it comes to the “power and authority” of Scripture or the need for spiritual disciplines, all of which I adamantly endorse. But sometimes we can do all the right things, read the right verses, live a godly life and it still doesn’t go the way of prosperity. Sometimes pastors can preach the good sermons and still see their congregations, and giving, shrink; sometimes parents can raise their children in “the way that they should go” and the kids still go the other way; sometimes we stand firm in the faith and get cut down; sometimes we tithe obediently and give sacrificially only to struggle financially.
Conversely, sometimes pastors live duplicitous lives and their churches grow by leaps and bounds (sometimes they even do great things for the Kingdom, in spite of the pastors “indiscretions”); sometimes parents are completely inept and still their children are arrows that fly straight and true (just look at my kids, in spite of my failures); sometimes regardless of how much we sacrifice God still calls us to poverty. “I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves.” Ecc. 10:7
When I’m tempted to use the world’s standard to measure effectiveness for Kingdom impact; when I’m start putting up decorations for my pity party because my path isn’t one of prosperity; when I assume that God has taken His favor from me in spite of my obedience; when I lament the limited success of my CV…I look at Paul’s resume.
Paul, Chief of Sinners (formerly known as Saul of Taursus)
Career objective: Preach the Gospel to Jew and gentile alike
Education: B.A. Pharisee University; M.Div Damascus Road Polytech; Ph.D. Kingdom School of Hard Knocks
- Worked much harder
- Been in prison more frequently
- Been flogged more severely
- Been exposed to death again and again
- Received forty lashes minus one – 5 times
- Beaten with rods – 3 times
- Stoned – 1 time
- Shipwrecked – 3 times
- Day and night in (not on) the open sea
- Lowered over city walls to escape evil king
Hobbies and Activities
- Endured dangerous rivers
- Attacked by bandits
- Betrayed by countrymen
- Accosted by gentiles
- Lived in urban blight
- Wilderness survival
- Labored and toiled and have gone without sleep
- Known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food
- Been cold and naked
- Daily pressure of concern for all the churches
When I start to feel a twinge of jealously because someone else’s ministry is more “successful” and has more “impact” than mine I read through Paul’s resume. Mine is rather weak by comparison…still working on my first imprisonment for preaching the Gospel. Maybe someday I’ll be able to boast about my forty lashes minus one. I pray that one day I’ll have a resume of righteousness.