Spiritual Prosperity

I have seen a meme stating that in the future when we have a bad day we will refer to it as a 2020. I will not be surprised if that becomes true! This has been a shocking and challenging year, with wave after wave of novel and unexpected challenges.

Many have speculated these events are signs that Christ’s return is approaching. I do not know if these are part of the prophesied “birth pains” (Matthew 24:8) signaling the beginning of the end of this world, but I do know that every day moves us closer to Jesus’ return!

I also know these challenges do not have to crush our spirits. Far more life
enables us to spiritually and emotionally prosper, even when we face circumstances
that devastate our finances, health, livelihood, comfort, and more. Consider this
perspective from the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk:

Fig trees may not grow figs, and there may be no grapes on the vines.
There may be no olives growing and no food growing in the fields.
There may be no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the barns.
But I will still be glad in the Lord; I will rejoice in God my Savior.
The Lord God is my strength.
He makes me like a deer that does not stumble so I can walk on the steep mountains. (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NCV)

All the resources listed in these verses — figs, grapes, olives, sheep, and cattle — were important for sustaining life in ancient Israel. The situation in these verses is dire. They reflect a shortage of food, drink, shelter, income, security, and prosperity. Even making the required sacrifices to remain in good standing with God would be very difficult under these conditions. Habakkuk is describing a situation that is overwhelmingly hopeless from a human perspective.

But he looks beyond the circumstances to focus on God’s character. God brings joy. God offers relationships. God makes us strong. God supplies what we need to successfully traverse difficult situations. Through God, we can prosper in any difficulty.

I have found that hard times reveal our mindset about God, whether we believe He is good or not good.

If we believe God is good, we trust that He is in control and has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 1:11). We understand He is faithful, kind, and working everything — even these hard circumstances — for our good (Romans 8:28-30). We know He loves us and is carrying us through this difficulty (Romans 8:35-39), giving us all that we need (Philippians 4:19). We are confident He would never ask us to sacrifice more than He has already sacrificed for us (John 15:13). We are certain that Jesus was God’s Son who died to pay the penalty for our sins, offering us an eternal relationship with God (John 3:16). We understand this earth and these difficulties are temporary, unlike our eternal home in Heaven (Revelation 21:1-4). While we long to be there, we believe God has prepared good deeds for us to do that will fulfill His plan (Ephesians 2:10). Believing God is good brings us hope, peace, and far more life, even in the midst of suffering and hardship.

If we believe God is not good, we think he is aloof and uninvolved in the affairs of earth. We may think He is laughing at us from Heaven as we try to navigate our way through the mine field of life He has set up for us. We question His love and feel very alone, doubting His motives, character, and promises. We think He asks too much of us and offers us little to nothing in return. We long for death as an escape from this misery and may be angry at God for making us remain in overwhelming situations when He has the power to rescue us. We might believe that Jesus died for our sins, but we often think God is punishing us for them as well. We believe we are trapped, hopeless, and helpless; we may see others enjoying far more life, but we do not think that is God’s will for us.

What determines which mindset we adopt? In part, the key is whether we interpret God’s Word through our circumstances or interpret our circumstances through God’s Word. We tend to believe what we have experienced. But our experiences do not reveal the whole picture. Paul writes,

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (I Corinthians 13:12)

When we look in a mirror, our view is limited. And sometimes it is cloudy or fuzzy. Similarly, our spiritual view during this life is limited and unclear. We cannot see the bigger picture or the intricate details of God’s plan. And we have an enemy, Satan, who feeds us false interpretations of what we can see. He wants us to doubt God and question His goodness; if he can keep us from seeing God clearly, he can keep us from far more life. But when we prayerfully analyze each situation where we believe God is not good, asking Him to help us see what is true and how His Word is right, we gain new understanding of ourselves, others, and God. We can replace our doubts with confidence that He is good and does good. Our faith prospers!

I am thankful that Habakkuk interpreted his circumstances through God’s Word and reminds us to do the same. I am thankful that I can experience spiritual prosperity — far more life — whatever happens in 2020…and beyond.

Sisters,
What makes you think of a situation as bad?
What is your spiritual and emotional response to bad situations?
Think of a recent difficulty you encountered. Did you believe God was good or not good?
Ask God to help you clearly see the truth about Himself, yourself, and others in that difficulty.
Thank God that you can experience far more life no matter what happens!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Growing Trust

In order to rest, to find peace, to experience far more life we need to trust God.  But to trust God we need to know Him. How do we get to know God? Just like we get to know people: spending time together; learning about His character; seeing Him in action; talking to Him; and listening to His words.

The Israelites of the Old Testament faced a similar challenge. While they lived in Egypt, many had adopted the local culture and religion; they worshipped multiple gods who had many of the same faults as humans. During their rescue the Israelites saw God’s powerful miracles. He caused plagues to fall on the Egyptians but not them. He parted the Red Sea and allowed them to pass through on dry ground. He provided water in the wilderness and rained manna from heaven to feed them. He even provided meat when they complained. Despite seeing God in action, they did not know His character well enough to fully trust Him. So when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments He also revealed and described Himself:

Then the Lord passed by in front of [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:5-7, NASB)

What a list! Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in lovingkindness. Abounding in truth. Forgiving premeditated sin, willful disobedience, and simple failure to do the right thing. Punishing the guilty but allowing consequences of sin to impact future generations. We have the benefit of being able to read the Bible, which is filled with accounts of God demonstrating these qualities as humans follow, ignore, and outright rebel against Him. Our trust for God grows as we get to know Him by reading the consistency of His actions throughout history.

The New Testament reveals another aspect of God’s character: His sacrificial love for humankind.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 4:9-10, NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)

I don’t know about you, but there are few people I love enough to die for. There are fewer for whom I would ask my children to die. Yet this is the love God has for us: He sent His son to die for us when we didn’t even care about Him.  This is mind-blowing!

And His love doesn’t stop there. He also gives us far more life.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32, NIV)

I think one of the problems we face in knowing and trusting God is not recognizing what He has given us.  What if every sunrise spelled out, “I, God, gave you this day and all that you need to thrive in it” across the sky? What if “Provided by God” was stamped on every food we ate?  What if every good thing that happened came with a note explaining, “I did this for you. Love, God”? What if every tear we cried proclaimed, “I, God, love you and promise to bring good from this hurt”? What if every sunset announced, “You are one day closer to joining Me in Heaven, permanently removed from the hurts and evil of this world”?  What if He responded to our prayers by saying, “Here is My answer for you”?

His reminders aren’t as blatant as my examples, but they exist. God is not invisible or hiding from us. He wants us to know him.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)

Evidence of God is everywhere! He created the largest galaxy and the smallest atom. The simplest bacteria and the complex human brain. He created the strong nuclear force and the gentlest love. Every beautiful thing. Every natural phenomenon. Every kind of plant and animal. He put into motion every system and process human scientists have discovered — as well as those they have not yet discovered. He did all this and more so we could know Him! He has given us ample evidence that He alone is worthy of our trust.

A friend coined the term “love gifts” to describe the times she sees evidence of God’s love for her. Maybe it’s an especially beautiful sunset she gets to witness at the end of a hard day. Or an unexpected note from a friend sharing just the verse she needed to hear. Or an answer to prayer about a situation that was weighing her down. These “love gifts” remind her that God is present and active in her life. That He is good. That He loves her. They help her know and trust Him more.  They show her far more life.  We, too, see far more life as we look for God’s love gifts and grow in knowing and trusting Him.

Sisters,
Do you trust God enough to experience far more life?
Do you regularly spend time with God to grow your trust?
What aspects of God’s character have you witnessed firsthand? 
How have you seen His invisible qualities in creation?
Be on the lookout for His “love gifts” this week and thank Him for each one you find.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso