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

Far More Community

I recently conversed with a woman who considers herself a follower of Jesus but not a Christian. She has met many “Christians” whose lives do not reflect Jesus. As a result, she views Christianity as a man-made system rather than a relationship with God. Sadly, she is not alone in this experience. At least in the US, the term “Christian” has multiple meanings, many of which are not God-glorifying.

The foundation of Christianity is an individual relationship with God. But God does not intend for His children to live in isolation from each other. He wants us to be interconnected as we pursue the common goals of becoming more like Him and sharing His message with others. This Bible passage describes the community of Christians immediately after Christ walked the earth.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:44-47a, NIV)

This depicts far more life. They sacrificed their own comfort to meet each other’s physical needs. They gathered to learn from God’s Word and celebrate Jesus’ work in their lives. They enjoyed meals together and shared God’s blessings. This led to a positive reputation in their city as people observed their lifestyle. They shared life and reflected Jesus in their interactions.

The Bible is full of examples of shared lives. Eve was created after God proclaimed it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). During the flood, God only names Noah as being righteous, yet he saved his whole family (Genesis 6). The Israelites traveled as a group (Exodus 12:37) and lived in communities based on their family line (Numbers 1:52). Forty-seven New Testament verses instruct Jesus’ followers how to relate to one another, with the majority specifying how to be united and love each other. As the following verses illustrate, we are stronger together.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)

We help each other grow. This is not always an easy process. As iron is sharpened, sparks are produced, but the result is a more useful tool. Our interactions with people may lead to sparks of conflict, but they ultimately create an opportunity for us to become more refined and Christ-like. As we navigate these moments, we challenge each other to grow and become all God created us to be.

In hard times we survive by being together. I have stood by two families as they faced crisis situations recently. The first was already connected to a community and immediately turned to them for physical and emotional support, knowing the requests would be a natural extension of existing relationships. They felt peace knowing the needs would be met and were comfortable asking because they had walked with others through hard times. The second family’s crisis led them to realize they were not connected and didn’t know where to turn for support. They felt alone and overwhelmed with all that faced them. When a community stepped up to care for them, it was uncomfortable at first. But as they experienced provision of their basic needs and emotional support, they were grateful. The experience has led them to look at life through a different lens and will probably result in them becoming more connected to a community.

Christ-followers are not the only people to live in community. People can band together around any number of shared goals or preferences. But Christian community has a uniqueness: our connection will continue for eternity! God does something special when His children share their lives on earth:

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35, NASB)

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4, NASB)

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13, NASB)

When we live a disconnected life, we miss opportunities to love and be loved. We miss opportunities to experience and reveal God’s power at work, to overcome human differences, and display a unity that is possible only through Christ. We miss opportunities to show God’s love in action as we supernaturally love others through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Far more life is a connected life. It is giving and receiving love in both the big moments and the everyday moments of life. It celebrates and mourns together. It works and plays together. It dreams and plans together. It works through differences together. The result is that we become greater than the sum of our parts; shared life is richer and more impactful than isolated life. We experience God in new ways and show a more complete picture of Him to everyone we encounter. We live far more life.

Sisters,
Are you living an isolated life or a connected life?
What hesitations do you have about connecting with other Christ-followers?
How have you been sharpened by others?
How have you experienced God’s love or provision through others?
You may have been hurt by others. Talk to God about those situations and ask Him to help you find a safe community to join.
Find far more life taking the next step in connecting with others this week.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Jennifer Marsh