Prosperity and Adversity

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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