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In Plenty and In Want, Give Thanks to the Lord

“Beware of the smooth places where you are walking. But if the road is rough, thank God” (Charles Spurgeon).

In Deuteronomy 8:10-18 Moses speaks to the Hebrews before they enter the land of Canaan with words of encouragement and warning. He encourages them to remember the Lord by keeping His commandments, rules and statues. He reminds them that the Lord will bring His blessing upon them as they enter “the good land He has given.” Moses encourages the people to build houses and live in them and to see their flocks and herds multiply. But herein lies the warning. When “your silver and gold are multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,” don’t forget the Lord your God. “Beware, lest you say in your heart, `My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).

Peace and prosperity are roads upon which all of us wish to travel. But they are roads beset with their own form of danger. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matthew 7:13). In our humanness we tend to eye those with financial success, luxurious houses and expensive cars with envy. We see their path as smooth and filled with ease and comfort. Those who have attained higher levels of financial success, however, would be the first to admit that their path is filled with many a pothole and sharp, dangerous curves through mountainous terrain. What appears to be a blessing to one person can actually be a curse to another.

That is why the Lord gives us the same warning He gave the Israelites: “Beware, lest you say in your heart, `My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth.” Our dependency is upon the Lord. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He owns the hills as well!

As the Apostle Paul reminds us, we are to be content no matter what our circumstances. We can learn the secret of being content when we are brought low and when we abound. “[We] can do all things through [Christ] who gives us strength” (Philippians 4:13). If we eye our fortunes as the result of our might, power and intellect, and we fail to acknowledge the hand of the Lord God Almighty, He will swiftly and severely bring His discipline upon us. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

If, however, you find yourself in a season of misfortune, and you, too, take your eyes off the Lord, you are withdrawing from the very One who will grant you His supernatural strength to endure your current struggle. It all comes down to how we view our lives. Are we “self-made” or “God-made”? If we are self-made, then we will not experience the joy of the Lord in our blessings, and when we fail and find ourselves “un-made,” we will not experience the hand of the Lord bringing comfort in our struggle. Rely upon the Lord. Put your hope and trust in Him. If you are in a season of plenty, give thanks, and fail not to acknowledge His provision. If you are in a season of affliction, give thanks, hard though it may be, for in those moments you will sense a depth of God's love beyond measure.

Spurgeon wrote, “If God always rocked us in the cradle of prosperity; if we were always bounced on fortune’s knee; if there were no stains on the alabaster pillar; if there were no clouds in the sky; if there were no bitter drops in the wine of this life; if there were no such things, we would be intoxicated with pleasure. We would dream that `we stand.' And stand we would, but on a pinnacle, like the sailor asleep atop the mast, in jeopardy every moment. We bless God for our afflictions. We thank Him for our changes. We extol His name for loss of property. We feel that if He had not chastened, we would have become too secure and self-confident. Continued prosperity is a fiery trial. Afflictions, though they seem severe, in mercy often are sent."

And so we pray, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, `Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).


To Keep Your Balance, You Must Keep Moving

Albert Einstein once wrote, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." Pretty good advice. We have a dear woman in our church who is 95 years old, and she continues to mow her grass. I think she has given up shoveling snow, but when the weather is nice and the grass needs cutting, you’ll find her on her riding mower taking care of business. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

We have a man in our church, whom many of you reading this know, who retired at age eighty this past September. He still conducts most of the funerals at E91, actively teaches, does home communion, and visits the sick in the hospitals. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

When I served a church in Owensboro, KY, I often met with a business owner who was 92. His wife died, and a few years later he wanted my advice on some pre-marital counseling—for him and his new lady friend. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

At the age of eighty, Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt. Joshua was given the charge of leading the conquest of the land of Canaan during the last thirty years of his live (and he lived until he was 110). Caleb, Joshua’s fellow “spy,” was 85 years old when he said, “I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me…and I shall drive [the Anakim] out just as the Lord said” (Joshua 14:10-12). Some biblical scholars believe Daniel was well over eighty when he was thrown into a den of lions. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

Although I’m only about half way to the esteemed age of most of the aforementioned, I’m beginning to see how difficult it is to keep on moving. As the Steve Miller Band song goes, “Time keeps on slippin’.” Every person is different, and we all see life through our own unique filters of how God has shaped us, but are there some common themes on how to keep our balance and keep moving? Here are but a few suggestions:

  • Always believe that your best days are yet to come. For Christians, that statement is prima facie based on our biblical conviction that “there is laid up for [us] the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to [us] on that Day, and not only to [us] but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). We keep on moving, because we have a course set and destination in sight. The road may be long, and the pathway hard, but journey’s end will be worth it all.

  • Find your “herd.” There is a reason why gazelle, deer, antelope, zebra, and other such animals travel in herds. Alone, they don’t stand a chance. Together, they find protection, safety, and strength. Joshua had Caleb. Moses had Aaron. Daniel had Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. We need others to help us see what we don’t in order to find our balance and keep moving. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).

  • Keep the main thing, the main thing. We are so easily distracted. We live in an attention-deficit-disorder society that keeps us chasing endlessly after the newest gadgets, the latest celebrity gossip, and the next person voted off the island. Distractions are Satan’s ploy to get us sidetracked on lesser things. When we get sidetracked, we end up standing around, because we’re no longer sure which way to go, and we begin to lose our balance.

I don’t know if I’ll make it to eighty, ninety, or (God forbid) Joshua’s ripe old age of 110. But however many years the good Lord gives me, may I remember to “number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). I pray that you, too, will keep on moving with your eyes on Jesus who truly is the Main Thing.

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