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Surviving Prosperity

While it is easy to recognize the test of adversity, it is more challenging to label prosperity as a test.  In adversity, one must cling to the Lord despite the loss of earthly blessings; in prosperity, one must anchor oneself into the Giver rather than the abundance of gifts. In seasons of adversity,  every lesser rival to the Lord is shown to be a vain, empty idol; however, in prosperity, a multitude of plenty fights to obscure our trust in the Lord.

I tend to thrive spiritually in the dry riverbeds of loss and pain; yet, I struggle to keep my gaze fixed upon the Lord in the floodplains of His favor. In fact, as I reflected over the past year, I found myself blushing inwardly and outwardly at the abundance of the Lord’s undeserved blessings in our lives. We bought a new house, continued in callings we love, began swimmingly  at a new school and have experienced countless streams of the Lord’s favor.

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In the floodplains of His favor, we are invited to invest seasons of prosperity by climbing up the sunbeam, building for the future, and inviting others into blessing.

Climb up the sunbeam

In order to survive and invest seasons of prosperity, we must do the hard work of distinguishing between the gift and the Giver. The riches are not the end game of seasons of seemingly endless blessing. Rather, the ultimate goal ought to be a deeper knowledge of the King whose character it is to share His abundance freely.

If riches increase, set not your heart upon them. Psalm 62:10.

In Letters to Malcolm, C.S. Lewis aptly describes the arduous work of moving beyond gift to the nature of the Giver.

“Gratitude exclaims… ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.”

God’s radiant nature naturally emits sunbeams of His grace; rather than merely lazing in the warmth of such rays, we are invited to climb up the sunbeams back to the Sun from whom every good and perfect gifts comes (James 1:17).

Build for the future

Every time the Lord sees fit to bless our family with relative calm and peace, my mind runs to King Asa.  After a series of horrible kings, God moves Asa’s heart to restore God to His rightful place among the people of God. After his tearing down countless shrines to false gods, God blesses Asa’s obedience with a season of unheard of peace and prosperity.  After scores of years marred with warring parties and raids on every side, the land rested. But Asa did not.

In his days the land had rest for ten years. And Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God…And the kingdom had rest under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had not war in those years, for the  Lord gave him peace. And he said to Judah,  “Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers and gates and  bars.” 2 Chronicles 14: 2 & 5-7. 

While seasons of adversity are marked by an effort to maintain, seasons of prosperity ought be marked by efforts to advance. Just as Asa invested his decade of peace to strengthen and grow his cities, we are invited by the Lord to strengthen our own souls, households and spheres of influence. In seasons of plenty, we have a chance to buttress our lives by digging more deeply into theology. For seasons of adversity will return, and we want to be physically, spiritually and relationally ready to not only survive them, but even to thrive in them.

Invite others into blessing

God made clear the intention of His blessings to His people many millennia ago, as early as His call to Abram.

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great,  so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you, I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12: 2-3. 

God blesses us that we might bless others, even those beyond the fold of faith.

As those who have lived a support-based existence for decades, we have been splattered, splashed and showered by the blessings of others. While it is humbling to be on the receiving end of the seasons of plenty of others, it is an incredible gift to see the body of  Christ shunt its blessings abroad to the left and the right.

While financial applications are easy to envision, other avenues of application may require more creativity. If God has blessed you with a season of rest and stillness, invest it by stepping in to serve those who are currently being whipped by the whirlwind. If God has given you a platform, use it to build steps downward that others might be developed to join you there.

May we be able to say with Job, in both seasons of prosperity and adversity, “The Lord gave,  and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

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