Thursday, January 27, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you."

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 151

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

John Calvin on How to Think About Success

The Desiring God blog poses questions about success and draws answers from the wisdom of reformer John Calvin. On how to battle the sinful pursuit of success and power, here is what John Calvin says -

"Therefore, to avoid similar entanglements, the course which Christian men must follow is this: first, they must not long for, or hope for, or think of any kind of prosperity apart from the blessing of God; on it they must cast themselves, and there safely and confidently recline."

This is, to say the least, an uncommon mindset in corporate America. Yet, I'm intrigued by the radical call to disavow and disassociate oneself with any notion of prosperity that is apart from the blessing of God. It disposes of the false notion that success is naturally indicative of God's blessing. It beckons us to pursue God's blessing first and foremost, regardless of whether it results in material wealth or success. Calvin's exhortation is not unlike Jesus' instruction in Matthew 6 to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you".

What about the Christian worker who encounters a lack of success? Does Calvin have anything to say to him/her in the midst of failure?

"Lastly, if our success is not equal to our wish and hope, we shall, however, be kept from impatience and detestation of our condition, whatever it be, knowing that so to feel were to murmur against God, at whose pleasure riches and poverty, contempt and honours, are dispensed."

All of us are subject to failure in this world. Part of this is circumstantial - we live in an imperfect, fallen world where sin abounds. Laziness, office politics, sinful judgments and contentious meetings are all evidences of this. Yet, another part is by design - we are limited beings - limited in talents, time and resources. Sometimes, we fail because of our sin, sometimes as a result of our limitations. The possibility of failure is a reminder that we need God all the time - not only in the difficult, unbearable moments of life but also in the small, mundane moments as well. Calvin reminds us of the importance of thinking rightly about God's sovereign will over our lives. To despise our lack of success or troubled condition is to murmur against God. It is to bring a charge against the one who "changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others" (Daniel 2:21)

Success - how we think about it, pursue it and respond when we don't have it - says so much about what we truly believe.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Christians are called to be exiles from the world, however personally painful that exile may be. they are supposed to be aliens to the world's darkness as they seek another city, "whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10)."

David F. Wells
, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams, p.41

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Prayer of the Wise: Don't Give Me Too Much

How much is too much when it comes to wealth? Even though most of us have more than what we need to sustain a basic lifestyle, we are typically clamoring for better than what we have right now. It's unthinkable that we would pray to God to limit his blessing to us but it's exactly what we discover in Proverbs 30:7-9. Two things are asked for. The first is the protection from falsehoods but it's the second part of the request that I find most intriguing - "give me neither poverty or riches".

“Two things I ask of you, LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God"

This is presented to us as the prayer of a wise man, yet I would venture that most (if not all) of us have never even considered praying such a prayer - "give me neither poverty or riches, but give me only my daily bread". We would never consider to ask God to only give us what we need for today and no more - no "rainy day" fund, no nest egg for retirement, no set-aside for dream vacation, etc... Popular preacher Francis Chan elaborates on Proverbs 30:7-9 in this short, provocative video.

Is this a blueprint for how we ought to pray and live? How does this mesh with the conventional wisdom of saving and planning? Would you have the courage to pray this prayer and how would you respond if God actually answered?

It's easy to get lost in the myriad of questions that arise but don't lose sight of the God-centered motivation of this prayer request. It's all about God - not having too little so as to avoid the temptations that come with being impoverished - yet, not having too much such that God is no longer desired and possibly forgotten. This passage is about treasuring God and the worth of His name and not letting anything get in its way. Perhaps that's the kind of motivation we might be wise to incorporate into our prayers.