Adversity and Prosperity

November 16, 2012

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other”   (Ecclesiastes7:14)

Many devout people are confused about prosperity.  Some preach and teach a prosperity theology that is pure heresy.  It could only receive a hearing in a place like America.  It will not receive a hearing in places where devout people suffer poverty and persecution because they believe.  Others believe we should feel guilty when we experience prosperity.

Solomon writes that in the day of prosperity we should rejoice and know that our God has given us all things richly to enjoy.  And he informs us that in the day of adversity we should consider the profound reality that God has made the one as well as the other.  A truth that means much to me is that God is our personal Mentor and He does His most effective mentoring when things are difficult for us.

Now that I am old I spend time looking back over a long life.  As I reflect on my relationship with God over more than eight decades I realize that my times of spiritual growth have been times of adversity and my times of spiritual regression and stagnation have been times of prosperity.

Paul wrote that he knew how to be abased and he knew how to abound.  He presented a challenge to us.  That challenge is that it takes more grace and wisdom to know how to abound than it takes to know how to be abased.

If you are enjoying prosperity I hope you do not feel guilty but rejoice.  If you are experiencing adversity let it be a time of effective mentoring from God and a time of growth for you.


Another Beautiful Word

August 31, 2012

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8)

The mercy of God withholds what we deserve and the grace of God lavishes on us countless blessings we do not deserve.  As we appreciate what the mercy of God withholds and the grace of God bestows when we believe the Gospel, we should be filled with grateful worship of our gracious and merciful God.

When Jesus gave His Great Commission He instructed the disciples to wait until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them before they obeyed His Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1: 4, 5).  After that happened to them on the Day of Pentecost, we read:  “Great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33).  This use of the word “grace” means there is such a thing as the anointing, or the energizing unction of the Holy Spirit upon us as we serve Christ.  I am using the word in that sense when I tell people that His grace outweighs my challenges.

Paul was declaring this dimension of grace when he wrote: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you so that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).  This is the most emphatic verse in the New Testament regarding the anointing and energizing grace of God.

Check out the superlatives he uses in this verse: All grace – abounding grace – each and every one of you  – he repeats all of you – all sufficiency – in all things – abounding unto every good work – always!  According to Paul we should all be able to make the claim that His grace outweighs our challenges!

Do you believe the grace of God can outweigh your challenges today?


A Marvelous Salutation

February 24, 2012

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”       (Romans 1:7; 16:24)

The great Apostle Paul begins his letter to the believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.”  He then closes his letter with the prayer that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them.

Paul dictated all his letters but one to a stenographer.  At the close of each of his letters he took the writing instrument from the scribe and in his own hand wrote these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Paul greets and leaves believers with a wish and a prayer for grace.  This is because grace is the dynamic of God that saves us.  We can define grace if we turn this five letter word into an acrostic and use each letter of the word to spell out:

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”

But grace is not only the way God saves us.  The grace of God is the dynamic we desperately need to live for Christ.

In the second verse of the fifth chapter of this same letter Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, into the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.

Paul begins this letter and closes all his letters the way he does because he knows it is absolutely critical that we access the grace God has made available to us if we are to live our life for Him in this world.

Since grace is always our greatest need, consider meeting and leaving your fellow believers with a wish and a prayer for grace.


A Great Dynamic

February 10, 2012

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.”     (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The mercy of God withholds from us what we deserve and the grace of God bestows on us all kinds of wonderful blessings we do not deserve.  Grace is also the dynamic we must receive from God to do what He calls and leads us to do.  This is the most superlative verse about grace in the Bible.

It tells us that God is able to make all grace, not just some grace, abound toward us and not just trickle in our direction.  Then we may have all sufficiency, not just some sufficiency in all things, not just some things.  We are then equipped to abound, not just do our duty, as we do every good work He leads us to do, and not just the works we like to do, ALWAYS!

Twice in this verse Paul emphasizes the reality that this grace is for you – not just for the pastor or the missionary – but you!  Is this grace a reality in your journey of faith?

I once heard Dr. A. W. Tozer preach on this verse.  After he read the verse there was an eloquent pause and then he said, “Sometimes you cannot help but allow the thought that God oversold the product in the New Testament!” He then preached a powerful message challenging us to believe that God has not oversold His grace but we need to learn how to access His grace.

The hymn writer wrote, “The favor He shows and the joy He bestows are for those who will trust and obey…”

That is a good place to start.


A Christmas Epiphany

December 20, 2011

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ …”  (Titus 2:11-13)

In these words of Paul to one of his pastors he is giving us a wonderful theological description of Christmas.  Paul writes of the appearing (epiphany) of the grace of God that brings salvation.  That is what happened on that first Christmas Eve.  He then writes of the glorious appearing (epiphany) of Jesus Christ in the Christmas that shall be.  He also calls that epiphany “the blessed hope.”

Then he writes of a third epiphany that shows us the purpose of that first Christmas Eve.  It also shows us our motivation for looking forward to the blessed hope of that epiphany to come.  He is writing of the appearing (epiphany) of God right now to this present age through the righteous and godly living of people who believe in all three of these epiphanies.

He goes on to write of God’s purpose in all this by explaining that God wanted to redeem for Himself a unique people who would be His own peculiar – in the sense of unique – people in this world.  This describes and summarizes the Christmas that was, that shall be, and that is right now.

The people who were involved in the Christmas that was were mostly holy and godly people.  Paul is writing here that those who are involved in the Christmas that is right now are people who are living soberly, righteously and godly lives.  Are you one of those peculiar people who are the epiphany that is?  By faith you can be.

 


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