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Prosperity and Adversity

February 21st, 2020

God’s Will Is Unchanging.

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health,

just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 NKJ.

My thoughts today are about, “Prosperity and Adversity.”

From a college class in English Literature, I recall a quote from Rudyard Kipling. Across these subsequent years of life, I have only begun to understand his words.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same . . Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son.”
“IF” – Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936

As a young man, I questioned my Dad about a friend just a few years older than me who aspired to ministry. He had such a heart for God and his natural gifts and spiritual passion were well suited for success in ministry. He was articulate, personable, likable, enthusiastic, encouraging, energetic, and talented.

I well remember my friend’s words to me. As he viewed his future, he explained, “My goal is to make a million dollars by the time I am thirty; then I will become a minister.” Sadly, he accomplished his first goal but never found time for the latter one. A noble intention. A bold confidence. A misplaced priority.

Meanwhile, in His construction business, he experienced rapid and unanticipated success and. With his growing business and wealth, his priorities, time, and attention shifted, and his plans for ministry were ultimately rescheduled for later. The first part of his goal was met and even exceeded, yet his ministry intentions were never attempted or realized in his lifetime.

Almost sixty years later, I still remember my Dad’s insightful explanation of my friend’s dilemma, ”More people can endure adversity than those who can successfully handle prosperity.” I have observed that my Dad was accurate. My friend failed to handle his prosperity. He failed to recognize his adversity. I didn’t fully understand it then, but across decades as a pastor, I have learned the wisdom and accuracy of my father’s summary. Success is alluring. Wealth is deceptive. God’s will is unchanging.

In His masterful and practical Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned, “The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word and [a person] becomes unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22 NKJV. You are wise to learn how to manage both prosperity and adversity. Both present differing hazards. In the best of times, you may easily forget your need of God’s daily provision. In the worst of times, you can incorrectly assume God cannot or will not meet your needs. Both are inaccurate. Neither is true.

Much like my friend, King Uzziah enjoyed great success during his fifty-two-year reign. The Bible says of him, “As long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.” 2 Chronicles 26:5 NKJ. Think of that description for a moment. He fortified and beautified Jerusalem. His armies were victorious. His land was fruitful. His people were prosperous. God was faithful.

Then, ominously, the Bible says, “So his fame spread far and wide, for Uzziah was marvelously helped [by God] until he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God.” 2 Chronicles 26:15-16 NKJ.

No one of us is so self-sufficient that we have no need of God. Without humility and gratitude, prosperity lacks or becomes personally destructive. For me, Uzziah illustrates the practical wisdom of my Dad’s counsel, ”More people can endure adversity than those who can successfully manage prosperity.” Rest in this truth, “God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV.

Today, I pray for you, “to prosper in all things just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 NKJ.

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Devotionals

Life is Best When God is First

February 11th, 2020

KEEP FIRST THINGS FIRST

 “I alone know the plans I have for you . . . to bring about the future you hope for. ” Jeremiah 29:11 Good News Translation.

My thoughts today are that, “Life Is Best When God Is First.”

As most teens, I struggled with establishing priorities. I assumed a priority was what I wanted to do when I wished to do so. As you might imagine, my Dad was very persuasive otherwise. And soon, he persuaded me as well. As a teenager, I frequently heard his simple reminder, “keep first things first.”

Priorities help achieve success. Jesus set the Kingdom of God as His, and our, priority. “Seek first [His] Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV. I have observed that when you do the important things first you do them better.

Priorities simplify planning. When you fail to plan, you unintentionally plan to fail. Success is achievable daily with a plan that is clear and manageable. Without adequate forethought and planning, you will not accomplish success. A plan is like GPS. You first decide on your desired destination. Then a route is formulated as the best way from where you are to where you need to be. That applies to everyday life.

Some years ago, a simple and practical business strategy became popular, “Plan your  work; work your plan.” A life lived without a plan does not work well. And any plan that is not clear and manageable on some daily basis will not lead to success .

Solomon’s words remain wise counsel in any circumstance. “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 NLT. When you plan, you visualize the priority and time required for the matters needing your effort.

When you neglect those moments to think through a day’s responsibilities, you still find yourself busy but less productive. When your day lacks a plan, energy is misspent. Effort is misapplied. Attention is distracted. Time is mismanaged. And important things are replaced by alternatives that seem easier and more enjoyable.

Priorities are necessary to be productive. Now, let’s look at this on a larger scale with more eternal consequence. This principle especially applies to your spiritual life, as well as your daily life. Those two are inseparable. You will be more successful at the latter, when you succeed at the former. You cannot compartmentalize life where you sometime retain operational control, while in others you expect God to direct and provide. Jesus is Lord of all. Or He is not Lord at all. 

I am grateful for my Dad’s reminders, “Allen, keep first things first!” It’s very simple really. First, you work, then you play. First, you save, then you spend. First, you seek God’s plan, and then you follow. You and your well-being have been in God’s plans from the beginning and will continue to be. Read Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT.

Life is best when God is first. God has the redemptive and definitive plan for your life. Scripture is consistent. “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11 GNT. Through prayer and Scripture, let God plan your work. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT.

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.” Psalm 18:30 NIV. That being true, then devote yourself to knowing and following His plan. That is called obedience, a priority to God and a necessity for your success.

Obedience will supply you with the necessary focus and ability you do not otherwise possess. Obedience will produce opportunities you neither earned nor expected. And obedience will yield achievement you do not imagine. God’s direction is always accurate; His timing is always exact; His results are always gracious and generous.

My prayer for you today is to desire and discover God’s purpose in all you do.

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Devotionals

Learning to Listen

January 30th, 2020

Hearing and listening are dissimilar.

 “Do not merely listen to the Word . . Do what it says.” James 1:22 NIV.

My thoughts today are about, “learning to listen.”

When I was a talkative young teen, my Dad lovingly said, “Allen, do you think there may be a reason that God gave you two ears and only one mouth?” What a wise and practical dad. I was left with no rebuttal, and wise enough not to offer one.

Hearing is a natural and valuable ability. Listening is a chosen response and fitting prelude to obedience. What parent has not questioned a distracted child with the  words, “Did you hear me?” Your assumption is this. If the child hears their parent, they should respond with acknowledgement and prompt obedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience in disguise. That is harmful in human relationships, but especially damaging in your relationship with God.

Children learn to talk in the early months of their life. For many of us, it was quite a few more years before we learned the essential practice of listening. My parents would have testified to that fact. Hearing is a natural capability. Listening becomes a practiced skill. And that is a skill worth perfecting. Listening is the entry to learning.

The Old Testament introduces a young boy, Samuel, who would become one of Israel’s greater prophets and counselor to King David. Samuel was a young boy serving in the Temple. He is introduced at a time in Israel’s history described as, “Word from the Lord was rare in those days, and visions infrequent.” 1 Samuel 3:1 NAS.

While asleep in the Temple, the young Samuel heard his name called, and assumed it must be the elderly Eli, national leader and revered prophet, calling for him. Again, and again, the Lord called to Samuel and each time he ran to Eli. Finally, Eli advised young Samuel that if he heard the voice again, he was to simply respond, “speak Lord, your servant hears.”

Listening is an art to be practiced and a skill worth perfecting. Hearing assumes obedience will follow. What a model for your spiritual life. Hearing and listening are dissimilar. There may be little wrong with your hearing, but a lot can be lacking with your listening. Improve that skill. Success awaits your learning to discriminate in what you hear and learn to listen well when you do so. Solomon advised, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” Proverbs 19:20 NIV. That is Godly counsel still today. When my Dad would ask, “Allen, did you hear me,” I knew he was checking my obedience not my hearing. Listening is an art to be practiced and a skill worth perfecting. Read James 1:22 NIV.

A Godly and elderly man in the leadership of our church once explained to me, “Pastor, I do not hear as well as I once did, so I am learning to listen better.” Those are the words of a wise man. Though spoken years ago, his words continue to challenge me. I want that to be truer in my relationship with God, and in practical ways with my daily interactions with family and friends.

My prayer for you today is to listen well to what is worth hearing.

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Devotionals

Grace is Enough

January 17th, 2020

Life is not fair, but God is.

“My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

My thoughts and comments today are that, “grace is enough.”

Sooner or later, every parent hears the anguish over something their child views to be unfair. Maybe we parents have felt that as well because someone, or the world in general, seems to have been less than fair.

Across more than fifty years of ministry, I have heard a lot of good people question  moments that seemed unfair. Jesus knows and understands. In pain on the cross, even Jesus cried out to His Father, “Why have You forsaken Me?” Nothing was fair about Calvary. On the cross, a sinless Savior suffered and died for your sin and mine.

”Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 NIV. Consider this. Did anyone promise you an easy life? People experience trouble they neither caused nor deserved. Difficulties observe no respect of persons.

Talk about unfair. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18 NIV. God makes struggles redemptive. As a young teen, My Dad taught me a simple truth about the character of God. When I complained that something or someone was not fair, my dad simply assured me that, “Life is not always fair, but God is always just!” My Dad was right; God’s Word and righteous character are sure and true.

Perplexing circumstances neither invalidate the righteous character of God nor the truth of His promises. Jesus spoke plainly, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 6:33 NIV. Here is the simple truth. Life will not always be easy nor always seem fair. Of course, you and I would prefer ease and comfort. But growth and strength occur amid challenges. Steadfastness of faith produces growth in Godliness.

Truth creates enlargement. What you learn from God’s Word and His righteous character builds assurance. Life can be more difficult because of choices you or someone else have made that turn matters in directions God would not have chosen for you. Because of the fallen nature of the world around you, bad stuff can happen even to good and Godly people.

The painful question at such times is, “Where is God?” Read the Psalms. David wrote  honestly about the distresses common to all. Every time David experienced distress he discovered a new measure of God’s loving sufficiency. God’s love, grace, and power are never diminished by current happenstance. Things of the moment are not always as God designed or desires them to be.

But believe this, “We know that to those who love God, who are called according to His plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.” Matthew 8:28 JBPhillips. Look for that pattern for good. In such moments look to God and His Word and embrace His good will. “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 NIV. His will is good, and good for you.

Even in uncertainty, God will give you peace. His grace can give you needed relief with room to breathe and believe again. His power will push back the realities that press too tightly upon you. Our Mighty God will provide time and place where you will regroup and recover.

Life is not fair, but God is righteous and just. Life is not easy, but God’s grace is ample.  Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV. Paul prayed for every follower of Jesus, ”That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him . .  strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power.” Read Colossians 1:9-11 NKJ. His grace is more than ample.

My prayer for you today is that you will be strengthened in God’s Word.

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Devotionals

Blessings on Christmas Day

December 25th, 2019

A simple greeting on Christmas Day

Thank you for being a reader of EveryDay Life. Instead of writing a devotional as usual, I just want to say, ” Thank you and enjoy a Blessed Christmas and New Year,” to all who read and who share EveryDay Life with your family and friends. Thank you for sharing this journey with me. Thank you for welcoming me into your heart and life. When our oldest granddaughter was entering university, I had been her only pastor and I wanted to keep sharing God’s Word and Godly principles into her life. Friends and friends of friends began to ask to receive what I was writing, and with the help of others who had technical skills I lacked, EveryDay Life was born. I still write first to my granddaughter, now the mother of three school age children. With her blessings, thousands of people now read EveryDay. You are gracious and the Holy Spirit is faithful to bring God’s  Word in practical application.  Here are a few thoughts for today . .

Christmas is only fully Christmas when you share its joy. 

A  joy-filled message is not credible when coming from a joyless messenger. You can’t share something you don’t have, and you can’t keep something that you won’t share. That states a spiritual principle that also applies to inexpressible and glorious joy, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV. When you give joy, you gain joy.

Share the joy of Christmas every day and to every person, in every imaginable way. Celebrate with abandon and without apology. Invite, include, involve, converse, welcome, laugh, love, express life, and be real. Celebrate Jesus joyously. Incarnate the joy of the timeless message so an unbelieving world cannot resist. Christmas is the celebration of the truth that, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father,  full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NKJV.

Blessings on this Christmas day and as we enter a New Year, Pastor Allen and Gayle Randolph

 

Devotionals