'Christ in You...'
by Dale Krebbs
"Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (1 Timothy 6:1-10 ESV)).
What would be the greatest test you could encounter as a Christian? Most of us do not want to think much about such things, and that is understandable. There are all manner of possibilities, largely dependent upon our circumstances, our station in life, etc. Regardless of the possibilities, I believe the greatest test that we could be allowed by God to enter into would not be what most would expect. In fact, most of us would consider this test a blessing, not a test of our faith. And therein lies the seed that can make it a "trial of our faith", our greatest test. This "test" is like the ancient Trojan Horse for a Christian’s life - or anyone’s life. It looks friendly on the outside, like an ally. But what is inside can be extremely dangerous.
There isn't much quarreling over this word - except perhaps over the best way to ATTAIN it! This is the siren song, the watch word, the heart beat of the world economic system. It sends thrills (or chills) through the hearts and minds of nameless millions. Money, Power, Pleasures! There is a current preoccupation with "pleasure" in America today, and I would suppose with most of the world differing only in intensity. It is apparently to be so, all the way into the time of the end and the Great Tribulation (Revelation 18;13:16-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-11; Daniel 11:36-45). This is what we hear day in and day out. As a political slogan said a few years ago, "Its the economy, stupid..."! So it was. So it is. Sometimes I feel it is all the world thinks about - portents of things to come...
Could you pass this test? Could you (or have you) survived this test of faith, the test of prosperity? Are you sure...? There is a truism that I heard often when I was growing up that went something like this: "Most people can not handle being rich...of course, most don’t have to!". Of course, being "rich" is a relative term - the definition is always changing. Rich and prosperous are not necessarily synonyms. Americans - in general - are "rich" by most of the world’s standards (in general). Most people know, or believe they know when they are prospering depending on their starting rung of the ladder. Some call it getting ahead (ahead of the bills, the bank, the neighbors, etc., etc.). And some just simplify it as a famous labor union leader did some fifty years ago. When asked what labor wanted that year, he just smiled and said, "MORE!". I suppose that about says it all...Prosperity for some could be more specific. However, "more" would probably cover it. The word "prosperity" could be a euphemism for "more", and visa versa. But what oils the whole machine is of course - MONEY.
There is nothing wrong with money per se. In the scripture above you notice that it is the LOVE of money that is condemned. Money itself (if I can call it a "self"- some seem to have that type of relationship with money), is neutral - at the most, it is a tool, a facilitator. At its least, it is a piece of paper. It is most generally equated with prosperity, although there are other types of "prosperity" depending on a person’s bent. As with all tools, it can be used right or wrong. Money just happens to be more predisposed to wrong, unfortunately. It even hinders the Gospel and can prevent real spiritual growth: "... for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22). Depending upon the temperament, personality, background, and a host of variables, something happens when prosperity knocks on the door. Just what that "something" is seems to be fluid and defies definition or even description at times. But SOMETHING does happen. That "something" is change...
In short, money CHANGES PEOPLE! - and not always for the better.
Also, the DESIRE for money changes people - and organizations. When the element of money is plugged into an equation, whether that of an organization, a church, or a marriage, etc., the thrust of the original purpose, and the whole dynamic is corrupted - sometimes blatantly, sometimes quietly. A once well know evangelistic Christian leader, after the loss of reputation and wealth, said that he had considered it all God's reward for his service - the confirmation of favor with God. But God removed both reputation and wealth. The rich of the world can afford to insulate themselves from the embarrassment and reminders of the presence of the less prosperous around them. They can then be benevolent and charitable from a distance, while their practices indirectly undermine the poor. They can also insist that things be done their way...(James 5:1-6; Luke 6:24; Mark 10:25)). The way of this world. The amount of money and prosperity does not track proportionately with the undesirable change that occurs. At times, only a modest increase is enough to take a Christian’s mind off his or her calling, lead them unto another path, and virtually destroy their spiritual life. But prosperity as such is not wrong. Most of the Patriarchs were prosperous, as were other Godly servants of the Bible. The real enemy is not prosperity and money...
"We have met the enemy - and HE IS US!"
God, having seen and foreseen this, has much to say about prosperity, wealth, money, and the "things" they facilitate. Although there are perhaps some Christians reading this who are wealthy, at least by some standard, what is the likelihood that very many of us are, or will be, rich? "Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom...?" (James 2:5 ESV) In general, we as Christians are not called to be wise by this world’s measurement, or wealthy, or even "prosperous" according to the world - that is just not our calling! There are exceptions, but those are not the rule. "For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth" (1 Corinthians 1:26).
WHY has God made this so? Notice:
"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:27-31 ESV). God in His infinite wisdom almost always chooses those the world considers weak, foolish, unpopular, and often the POOR, to make foolish those who pride themselves as being wise because of their prosperity. We have a wisdom and a wealth, and a prosperity that will some day confound the world. God is pleased to cut off pride and arrogance by using the very ones, seemingly to the world, that are the least likely to do it, which brings glory to God in doing it! Inordinate prosperity often results in pride which is a great danger. Pride is where sin first surfaced in the creation (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:12-17). Every sin can be traced back to the one word: PRIDE! Where is the sin? Follow the PRIDE trail, and then the money trail!
Perhaps the least obvious danger in becoming prosperous is that it can destroy CONTENTMENT! We are inclined to think the opposite. This ideal condition of soul is in very short supply today. So many of us are so discontented! Most will agree that contentment is a desirable attribute or state of mind, but when advised as to HOW to get there they stumble. Some of the stumbling blocks are Pride (again), Greed, "Keep up with the Jones" syndrome, etc., etc., etc. WHY is there so precious little real contentment...?
There cannot be contentment where there is no thankfulness, and there cannot be thankfulness where there is no contentment!
"Its like a horse and carriage, and love and marriage. You can’t have one without the other"! (Well, I know...but this is the way it should be). Many of us have been brainwashed into buying into the idea that something MUST be a certain way. We MUST have a certain number of possessions. We MUST HAVE two or more automobiles, a certain number of bedrooms in our homes, so many status idols, a certain income, so many toys. The list is almost endless.
These things ought not to be so! - discontentment can ruin your mind (literally), your peace with family, neighbors, your health - and most important of all, your peace with God! (John 14:27) It can also CAUSE YOU TO LOOSE THE PROSPERITY YOU MAY ALREADY HAVE! How?...Why? - because God may take away your false gods before He will allow you to achieve a so-called "prosperity" which would cut you off from His real blessings and protection. Sometimes we as Christians do not understand when we are "well off". We can forget where we are from, where we are going, and what we are for. We become so focused on "more"and "better", that we believe these things are "out there". Somewhere. We begin to ignore the "now". But yesterday is gone; "out there" may not arrive!. There is only NOW - where you are, with what you have, with whom you have it. Actually, there is ONLY this split second (James 4:13-16). Nothing is certain! So contentment is the only reasonable condition. But, contentment must be learned! Sometimes, this can be one reason God does not allow us "more". We have not learned to appreciate what He has already given us. (There is thankfulness again.....)
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11-13). Since contentment - and thankfulness as well - must be learned, there is a principle which, with God’s help, will help you pass your "greatest test". It will work whether you feel that you have little or much prosperity. Write this down, print it out, put it on your refrigerator, your car visor - somewhere!
NOT MY UNCERTAIN WAY - BUT YOUR CERTAIN WAY!
If you can come to this point, regardless of the circumstances you are in, and you are able to GIVE UP your requirements for your definition of certainty in your life, you can pass the test. Now you are open and receptive to receive what God has for you. You now have no preconditions, no personal definitions of what prosperity is, or what His will must be for you - just let Him have His way with you! Now your definition of PROSPERITY can be defined by Him (Matthew 6:24-34). Now you are truly FREE...free in the grace and certainty of Christ's will for your life!
If you have done this, you are now in line to receive a very, very rich inheritance from a very prosperous Relative of yours - your heavenly Father and mine! Not only will we have received the GIFT of eternal life, but we will also inherit a KINGDOM! (Matthew 25:34) This kingdom will thrive and PROSPER for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). This is described in many prophecies. But we must be faithful in the small things now (Luke 15:11), whether we ever have much, or just "small things" in the way of prosperity. It is not about how much we "prosper" now. It is about what we have done with what WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN to do with. Comparisons with others is never valid, because we are all being trained for different positions. We have all been given different "prosperity" to work with. We are all different - so competitiveness should never enter in. No jealousy. No envy. Never look in comparison at what others are doing, or WHAT OTHERS HAVE. You see, Christ's rule will be like nothing we have ever seen! We will all be prosperous and content, and yet joyous and enthusiastic beyond our wildest imagination, as rulers and teachers, as sons and daughters of God, and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, serving others! And then it will extend into all eternity, ages without end...!
Will you be there?...you know the Way. Jesus Christ WANTS you there...the Father WANTS you there. They want to give to you, for eternity, part of what has been theirs for eternity (Revelation 21:7).
I look forward to seeing you at the reading of the Will...
I pray we will both be there - Amen!
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