Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life. (Ecc 7:14 NLT)
Prosperity means success, the good life, plenty, comfort, security, and well-being. The first part of King Solomon’s verse above is easy to understand, yet still we manage to forget how the Lord Jesus has blessed most of us here in the USA. To stir us to gratefulness, let’s compare ourselves with others around the world. Imagine shrinking global population to 100 people, with all existing ratios unchanged, and you observe the following:
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 held by only 6 people (all in the USA). 80 live in substandard housing; 70 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.1
How can we be cheerless when the Lord has provided for most of us so richly? Why compare ourselves with others who have more than we do, when Christ shows us billions around the globe who have less? The Lord has lavished abundant material and spiritual advantages on us. So let us give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for us in Jesus.2 Let’s be thankful, not just once a year on Thanksgiving Day, but all year round. Our Savior richly gives us all things to enjoy, not selfishly, but as occasions for glorifying Him and doing good to others. Christ desires and commands us to have a lifestyle of thanks-living which involves grateful attitudes and actions, behaviors and beliefs, character and conduct.
God rebuked Old Testament Israel because they did not serve Him with gladness after He showed them such abundant and undeserved kindness.3 What would He say to American Christians today? In the New Testament, the Lord groups ungratefulness with scandalous sins like idolatry and sexual immorality!4 God says that failure to honor Jesus and give Him thanks is a mark of pagans with foolish and darkened hearts.5 The whole Bible shows the crucial importance of actively giving thanks for ALL the blessings we receive from God’s generous hand. I need that reminder today. Maybe you do too.
Give Thanks for Hard Times Too
Christ says: I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.6 Happy hours and sunny days don’t last forever here on earth, so Jesus exhorts us to remember that merry and miserable moments both come from Him. The Hebrew word for hard times covers all negative situations: bad, sad, disagreeable, displeasing, distressing, hurtful, and painful things. Hard times are when we have something we don’t want (sickness, unemployment, loneliness) or don’t have what we do want (health, success, happiness). This wide range of meaning is what the Apostle James means when he says that we face trials of many kinds.7 The Lord calls us to face reality, not deny it; to accept what we can’t change it, not refuse it. Let us consider what God is trying to teach us through the trials we encounter, because unpleasant days come from our Heavenly Father’s hand for our spiritual good, as surely as pleasant ones. Most of us learn much more about God and ourselves in times of adversity.
To be continued…
Notes: 1 excerpt from www.kubik.org/lighter/100.htm. 2 1 Thes 5:18. 3 Deut 28:4. 4 2 Tim 3:1-5. 5 Rom 1:21. 6 Isaiah 45:7. 7 James 1:2.