As we were gobbling and perusing the menu, I noticed the following verse printed on the menu - When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 [NLT] I guess the rapid rate at which we gobbled up the plantain chips brought the owner over and we got to talking.
I mentioned that this was one of my favorite verses and he proceeded to share his story with us: He grew up in a South American country where his parents were missionaries. He had a fishery business and was very successful and wealthy. He used his wealth to fight for people who were being taken advantage of, but the government was not pleased and all of his assets were seized by the government. He had nothing and had to leave the country. He ended up in Arizona with a relative and was able to start the restaurant and has seen the faithfulness of God. But what he said that struck me was, "I was doing everything right, yet God allowed everything to be taken away from me. And I have seen how God was with me in the fire and I was not burned." He implied that he needed to be humbled and going through loss and restoration was indeed humbling.
For the past month or more there's been a constant theme in the messages I've heard from various pulpits - God wants to bless us, blessings encompass more than money, Christians are confused about how to approach wealth especially if you don't have it, and there is a responsibility that comes along with blessings including wealth.
Luke 12:13-21 tells the parable of the rich fool. The fool is identified as rich - we don't know how he came about his wealth - whether by birth, work, or any other attribute but he was rich and clearly his priorities revolved around his wealth over anything else. In the parable God gave a warning to the rich fool - Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:15 [NLT]
We get comfortable with our blessings and sometimes think that nothing bad will happen to us because we're blessed. But maybe God wants to test us to see where our heart lies - like Job, like the restaurant owner we met. In Luke 18 God told the rich ruler it's hard for the rich to enter into heaven; it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter into heaven. Which simply means we can get attached to our possessions and it is much easier for the rich to do so since they have more possessions. They may even think it's because of what they've done instead what God has allowed for them.
Being rich materially requires constant submission to the Holy Spirit so our hearts and attitudes are always right. Don't you love getting to know a person and then realizing that they are wealthy beyond anything you can imagine? I do. These people don't broadcast their wealth materially, nor are they pompous. But in getting to know them you see that they are generous with their time and resources and then as an added bonus you see their material blessings. Being wealthy with material goods is like an added bonus which means as a Christian you are already blessed.
Live like Christ wants you to live. Affluence lends itself to generosity, but we're not all affluent and yet we can still be a blessing to others. The church in Macedonia was very poor, but they were filled with abundant joy which overflowed in rich generosity. Their priority was how they could best serve the Lord unconditionally. In so doing they gave more than they had so that they could help those who needed their help. So great was their desire to serve Christ that they would not allow their economic situation to keep them from being involved in the Lord's work (Waldrop 1984:38).
Sometimes the wealth comes in visible portions while here on earth, sometimes invisible, but we are all blessed in some way. More exciting than that is when we get to heaven we will all know the abundance of the Lord in his fullness. No longer encumbered with this world's cares and responsibility and in a place that is more lavish than we can imagine, it's where we belong. It's why we are so dissatisfied at times with our earthly blessings and desire more.
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? Luke 16:8-10[NLT]
None of this negates financial planning, making wise financial choices, etc. but for a Christian, it's about your most important priority - being rich towards God so that we can be a blessing to others. Let's not get hung up on material wealth but recognize our blessings because of what Christ has done for us. Let's use what he has done for us as a springboard to reap greater blessings for the Kingdom.
Are you a blessing to others? Are you rich towards God?