Monday, January 08, 2007

The Test of Prosperity


If you've found yourself thinking - "no worries, life is good", here is something to sober you up. From Randy Alcorn's bestseller Money, Possessions and Eternity, comes the following quote -

“In my experience, 95% of the believers who face the test of persecution pass it, while 95% who face the test of prosperity fail it.”

In the past, I've posted on how to face adversity at work...actually twice. Perhaps, the greater challenge for most of us is actually learning how to live with the abundance of blessings. Even you don't feel like you're prosperous, simply living in the United States qualifies you as among the "rich" in this world. Here's another way of looking at this - reading this post on your own computer means you probably have access to wealth that is uncommon to many in Third World countries.

Although we often equate prosperity with material wealth, prosperity isn't just about money. For some, being prosperous may be primarily about enjoying good health or comfort. For others, it may take the form of recognition or acknowledgment of success. However, regardless of the specific form, all prosperity is accompanied with a testing of our hearts.

Here's the problem - we are too easily overtaken by our own desires to delight in the gift, rather than the Giver. We place our hope in the abundance of our wealth, rather than in God who gives the power to get wealth. We love too much the recognition for our accomplishments rather than prefer the commendation from God. I know this because it's what I do.

Here are a few questions I'm asking myself as I'm thinking and praying through this at the start of 2007.

1. What does it mean to pass the test of prosperity?

I'm intruigued to understand what that looks like for someone living amidst such abundance. I wonder if passing this test can be measured by externals such as a modest standard of living, eschewing designer labels and levels of charitable giving. Or is it more of an attitude of our hearts?

2. In the midst of prosperity, am I keeping the cross of Christ central in my thoughts?

The cross of Christ offers me a perspective I desperately need. Meditating on the cross reminds me that the greatest blessing I enjoy isn't measured by dollars or accolades but in the eternal life I've inherited, purchased by the currency of his Son's sacrifice. It's somewhat counter-intuitive but in some ways, I need greater awareness of the gospel when "life is good".

3. Am I actively aware that blessings from God are meant to point us to God?

Pleasures and blessings from God are mere props to showcase the God we serve. C.S. Lewis makes this point -

“I have tried since that moment to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I mean something different…. Gratitude exclaims very properly: ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says: ‘What must be the character of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.”

4. Do I recognize the temporal nature of all prosperity and pleasure we enjoy in this life?

Our enjoyment of prosperity and pleasure is tempered by our experience in a fallen world. Regardless of how great the wealth we accumulate or how lavish the accolades we receive, these riches will not satisfy our souls nor will the delight in them last. They are temporal and fleeting. Furthermore, our indwelling sin makes the wise Christian handle prosperity with some caution. We understand the admonitions from scripture to guard our hearts from the love of money and the love of praise.


Perhaps like me, you could use some help passing this test of prosperity - I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions.

6 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

I love the artwork here... puts me in a prosperous mood! (prosperous in creativity... something that seems to be on my mind this morning)

andre said...

LL

Thanks - your blog has inspired me to make Every Square Inch posts more visually appealing in 2007.

BTW, since you're in a creative, prosperous mood, would you take a stab at the first question - What does it look like to pass the test of prosperity?

phil said...

Andre - Check out this paper by Keller. It's been helpful as I seek to honor God in the area of finances.

andre said...

Phil

Thanks for the link - I'll look up Keller's paper.

Andre

L.L. Barkat said...

I always liked Paul's take on the situation... "I have learned to be content in plenty and in want." This, I think, is passing the prosperity test. As well as a generous spirit in either case.

andre said...

LL,

You are right! Thanks for drawing attention to contentment as a lost virtue. In a world of "more" - do more, get more, need more, spend more...contentment is overlooked.

Generosity too is another measure of passing the test of prosperity.