Michael W. Smith sings in his song, “Our God is an awesome God/ He reigns from heaven above/ With wisdom, power, and love/ Our God is an awesome God.” But, why do we sometimes fail to see his awesomeness? Why do we try to orchestrate the events of our lives instead of leaving it to the Lord? The closer we get to God, the more we see his glory, and the more we glorify his name instead of taking credit for the great things He has done. A trial free life does not imply piety and a life filled with tribulation does not imply sin. God wants us to see his awesome character in the midst of difficulty. Recently, there was an article in the New York Times, “Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me,” in which the author, Kate Bowler, a Christian professor, had interviewed televangelists of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel is a religious belief among some Christians that material wealth is the will of God for them, and that faith, positive thoughts and speech, coupled with tithing will increase one’s financial prosperity. Proponents of this belief, say that one will be relieved of any sickness or disease if he positively believes that he will be healed. The positive confession, they believe, results in a life free of financial and physical hardship. As a result, material prosperity will flow. The author of this article, however opined, that she herself was diagnosed with cancer. She realized that prosperity is not related to piety. In the end, she admired them for their steadfast belief in rejecting illness and poverty, although she did not believe in all the tenets of the prosperity gospel. If we could simply recite a mantra and donate money, why would we need Jesus? Heartache and disease can find us even if we denounce it.
Job, in the Bible, was blameless and upright and eschewed evil. In spite of his piety, God allowed him to suffer great hardship. He lost everything he had and suffered miserably. After losing his children, his servants, and his livestock, he became despondent. Those around him both ridiculed him and blamed him for the tribulations he faced. Eliphaz, Job’s friend, says to him, “Is it any advantage to the Almighty if you are righteous? / Would it be any gain to him if you were perfect?/ Is it because you are so pious that he accuses you and brings judgment against you? / No it’s because of your wickness.” (Job 22:3-5). Moreover, his wife told him to curse God and die. Providentially, he did neither. Job asks, why do the wicked prosper? They spend their days in peace, yet are far from God. Job, further ruminates and says, “They think their prosperity is of their own doing, but I will have nothing to do with that kind of thinking.”( Job 21:16) Knowing God controls his destiny, Job acknowledges that God is testing him and that after his test, he will be refined as pure gold. After many conversations with God, he begins to see God’s awesome character. God reminds Job of His awesome ability, his omnipotence. Pondering God’s character, Job realizes that everything is within God’s control. Job acknowledges that he has now seen God with his own eyes, and that he has experienced God. Job, restored manifold, lived, in the end, a long prosperous life- only after enduring great suffering. Job, through his own mettle and God’s love, had the resolve to endure great hardship like a soldier.
Thus, if one of God’s choicest servants endured great suffering after having great material and spiritual wealth, then no Christian should expect to be exempt from suffering. Nothing is wrong with desiring material wealth, but its grip should not control us. Godliness next to contentment is great gain ( 1 Timothy 6:6). If we are in poverty or if we are sick, we should pray to God regularly with thanksgiving, and believe in faith that we will be delivered. We should pray that our deliverance depends on God, but act as if, it depends upon us (faith without works is dead James 2). If we do these things, then we will see God’s awesomeness in both the great and the small things of life.
“Let’s trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus! ” John H. Sammis says in his song published in 1887, ” When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word, / What a glory He sheds our way! / While we do His good will, He abides with us still,/ And with all who will trust and obey.”
Let’s pray God’s strength and recognize that prosperity comes in many forms, but it never implies a lack of suffering. For, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.”(psalm 119: 71-72) Suffering, however, should never be minimized, but should be taken to the Lord in prayer.
For further reflection read Job: 40, 41, and 42. Let it richly bless your soul. Remember, let’s be fishers of men!