In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Psalms 119: 14-16. (ESV).
We might casually read the above verses thinking "yes" or "amen" but what if we are put to the test? Do we really delight in the testimonies of the Lord as much as in all riches? Would our faith life be as vibrant and joyful if we were suddenly stripped of our homes and financial security? Would we interpret monetary misfortune as a punishment from God, or as a terrible injustice that we do not deserve, or as a pit of despair more deserved by the wicked than by us?
This is not so easy to answer. We often give thanks to God for our material well-being. We often interpret prosperity as a blessing. How do we handle it when we lose our jobs, our businesses go broke, our stocks go down and our gold is stolen?
We know that the teachings of the Lord Jesus indicate little sympathy for those who grumble about wealth or the lack thereof:
You lack one thing: go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. (Mark 10:21). And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (Matthew 5:40).
We know this well enough. Yet for some reason our groans of self-pity continue to reverberate through thick walls. Our earthly life and comfort and dignity all seem to demand certain levels of affluence.
Keep reading. Keep praying. Keep meditating. Consider Paul's "boast":
For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12).
Earthly wisdom, earthly comforts, and earthly appearances: things that seem important now will seem very unimportant when we stand before the judgment seat of God. A clear conscience, however, is a very valuable file to have packed away in our spiritual briefcases.
J.I. Packer has written extensively about the Puritans and their understanding of the biblical importance of conscience. He comments:
The healthy Christian is not necessarily the extrovert, ebullient Christian but the Christian who has a sense of God's presence stamped deep on his soul, who trembles at God's word, who lets it dwell in him richly by constant meditation upon it, and who tests and reforms his life daily in response to it. We can begin to assess our real state in God's sight by asking ourselves how much exercise of conscience along these lines goes into our own daily living. (Packer, J.I. A Quest for Godliness, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books) 1990. Page 116.
Theology would be so much easier if only we did not have daily living to contend with.
Is this hard, bitter medicine? We should tremble at God's word; does that mean we should be trembling at everything life throws at us? The answer to this latter question is a resounding and courageous "no," for Paul offers us a vision of the Christian life that is unpredictable but glorious, paradoxical but victorious:
We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as imposters and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:3-9).
Friends, let us pray that these words will always dwell richly in our hearts.
In faith and fellowship,
Patrick McKitrick (more...)