The Bare Soul - June 12, 2011
Thriving in Adversity

Ecclesiastes 7:14 - In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider--God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.

In some churches today, it is quite common to hear a prosperity message that doesn't reflect the total doctrine within scripture. While God desires for all His children to prosper, it is sometimes misunderstood how that prosperity should be manifested. I have been around enough of this teaching to understand that there is an undercurrent of disapproval if a person seems to be struggling with finances or possibly personal or family issues. Some church- and lay-leaders will often try to comprehend the source of a person's "misfortune" by seeking to explain it through cause and effect. If someone is struggling financially, then there is possibly a tithing problem. Or, if the tithing is in order then maybe they just need to give more to "open the windows of heaven" upon their lives. If there are family problems or personal issues, then maybe there is a generational curse that needs to be broken "in the Name of Jesus". Believe me, friends, I am not discounting these as possibilities. However, I believe that some churches seek to explain too much through a formulaic approach. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. We would do well to remember the words of Jesus, that God "... causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous". (Matthew 5:45) The world in which we live is affected by both sin and righteousness, and seemingly it is beset by certain arbitrary outcomes. However, we know that as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, He causes all things to work together for God for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We often just need a spiritual adjustment regarding our perspective to understand what is happening in regard to our lives and those whom we love.

Job is the classic biblical example of someone suffering under seemingly unjust circumstances. We are told throughout the Book of Job that the defendant, Job, is being treated unjustly and has been ruined without cause. The patriarch's friends defend the formulaic belief that supports the reciprocity theory -- if a person does good, they will receive good, if bad then bad things will come their way. It is not until the final few chapters do we learn that God is working behind the scenes in what would appear arbitrary ways. However, He was there all along, causing good things to spring forth through adversity that appeared to be misplaced upon Job. Calamity and adversity became the means by which God justified Job before men and angels. His testing became Job's testimony of how God would not only take away prosperity, but how he would then restore. As the Sovereign Lord, He had every right to deal with this saint of old in this manner, as he likewise has with anyone he desires. Too often, we seek to discern God's dealings with others, even as Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad tried with Job. However, we may too often revert to the "formula" that is not iron-clad, leveraging the spirit of suspicion rather than true discernment from God's Spirit.

There are those select few, like Job, who understand that God is sovereign and He does as He will, working everything for His glory. Then, there are countless others who look at the adversity that God may allow and they react much differently. The children of Israel were chronic complainers with a catalog of murmurings those 40 years while wandering in the wildernesses of Sinai and Kadesh-Barnea. We are told in the Book of Numbers that the Israelites "complained of adversity" in God's hearing which ignited God's anger toward His chosen people. Numbers 11:1 states:

Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

What was the difference between Job and the nation of Israel? Did they not both complain to God regarding their adversity? Scripture tells us that the difference was heart attitude. We know that Job believed God and trusted God, without seeing Him. The Israelites doubted God continually, but saw His goodness and miracles for 40 years. We are told that Job was righteous in God's eyes -- upright, fearing God, and turning from evil. (Job 1:8) Yet God still inflicted him with adversity as a righteous man. However, the Lord God threatened repeatedly to destroy the Israelites and to make a great nation from the man, Moses. (Exodus 32:10; Deuteronomy 9:14; Numbers 14:12) This was all because they refused to believe and trust in the One who continually provided for them in the wilderness. So, we can look at both examples and surmise, from human standards, that God's dealing with the wandering Israelites was just. However, without reading the final chapters of Job, we are led to believe that God deals unjustly on certain occasions with select individuals. We see from Job's restoration, that this was not the case at all.

It is easy to judge another when they are going through a personal, financial, or family problem. It's quite easy to make a religious judgment over someone who is entering bankruptcy. Some might say, "If only they would rebuke the devourer off their life, then God would be able to open the windows of heaven and all would be good!" As I stated previously, this can indeed be the case for some select individuals. However, to create an equation that says to do this and to do that and it will result in blessing is unscriptural in view of all of God's word. Adversity is sometimes meant to be embraced as well as the prosperity that God so graciously gives. We can thrive in one as well as the other. The Apostle Paul, we are told, learned the "secret" of living with much and living with very little. (Philippians 4:12) Should we think that we are above the likes of Job or even that of Paul? Or, do we feel a sense of entitlement as the children of Israel who perished because of their unbelief? We must all take what is our allotment, always seeking God's best no matter how that might manifest itself. While we should always prepare for God's blessings and the good things He desires to give, we must also not flinch when these blessings sometimes depart for no good reason. We should be able to echo Job's proclamation regarding God's sovereignty ...

He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked I shall return there
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD."
- Job 1:21

Lord God Almighty, No matter our lot, teach us to say, "It is well, with my soul". May we always cling to you through prosperity and adversity. Cause us to be those who thrive no matter how the circumstances might turn. Give us hearts so in love with You that we trust you implicitly. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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