Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life. (Ecclesiastes 7:14 NLT)
Excerpts from class notes also used in prison ministry and counseling. If you missed the last post, you can go back and read Enjoy Prosperity (Part 1).
A Key to Facing Hard Times
Hebrews 12:11 says: It is never fun to be corrected. In fact, at the time it is always painful. But if we learn to obey by being corrected, we will do right and live at peace (CEV) Jesus wants us to profit from hard times so that we start living the right way. He sends adversity to improve and develop our Christian virtues and root out our vices. Paul suffered beatings, imprisonments, attacks, deprivations, and long waits and says, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”1 Paul’s perspective helps us look up to Christ our Elder Brother with confidence, joy, and love, realizing that our security is wrapped up in Him, not our shifting circumstances. Jesus’ followers are His excellent ones, He delights in us, and nothing can separate us from His love.2 Hard times make us re-remember Christ.
Christians who have gone before us also found that trusting and obeying Christ in hard times was tough. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) founded the China Inland Mission. Soon after his wife gave birth to their daughter, both mother and baby died. Taylor wrote, “I feel stunned, utterly crushed, only partially conscious. But my Heavenly Father has ordered it, so I know it is—it must be—best. I thank Him. My heart is breaking, but my God gives me peace and happiness even in my days of darkest sorrow.” Taylor trained himself to live by Scripture facts, not by his feelings. We should learn to cry out to God when we feel weary, worn, sad, angry, and anxious and not let our emotions rule us. We must choose to worship Jesus even when we suffer disasters and distresses.3
Remember That Nothing Is Certain in this Life.
Our Scripture verse in Ecclesiastes reminds us that prosperous and painful times both come from the Lord and little is guaranteed in this life. That’s the constant refrain in Ecclesiastes. We can’t be sure what the future holds; we can only trust Christ who holds our future. Rather than fearing the dark, we must walk in Jesus’ light, watching and waiting for His return. Corrie Ten Boom counsels, “Trust your unknown days ahead to the Lord you know.” Jesus is the Judge of all the earth who always does what is right. When He returns, He will make us see how He has handled all things perfectly. Our Savior works to accomplish His goals, in His way, in His time, by His means, not ours. In the end, we will see that “He has done all things well.”4 Puritan pastor John Flavel observes, “Some of God’s providences, like Hebrew letters, must be read backwards,” meaning that often we can see Jesus’ plans and purposes only as we look back over our personal history.
This week, I’m remembering a Christian lady who died in the Lord and has gone home to Heaven. Things were uncertain and unpleasant in her life, but now Janice has entered into the certainties of eternal life. She has departed and gone to be with Christ, which is far better. She has received her heavenly prize and now stands before God’s throne serving Jesus. Now Janice can see more clearly how to give thanks for the Lord’s providential care and grace that prepared her heavenly rest and brought her to Jesus with everlasting joy. The Savior promises to do the same for all of us who trust Him and follow Him!
And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-11)
Notes: 1 2 Cor 1:9. 2 Psalm 16:3; Rom 8:39. 3 Job 1:21. 4 Mark 7:37.