Jul 18, 2010

Living the Christian Life in Hard Times

Jack KelleyBy Jack Kelley

There’s no doubt we’re living in some of the most difficult times of our generation. If experts are correct it’s been 2 ½ years since this recession officially began, and many workers have already exhausted their jobless benefits. But others are just now being laid off and according to projections another million families will lose their homes in the coming months, so it’s not over yet. It’s a sobering thought, but the Bible offers some sure fire advice on living in hard times. Let’s take a look.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:25, 31-33)
Right from the start let’s be sure we understand that the opposite of this promise is also true. If you’re not seeking His kingdom and His righteousness you shouldn’t expect His provision. Here’s what Paul said about believers still following the ways of the world.
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.(1 Cor. 5:11).
In the verses surrounding this one Paul made it clear he wasn’t talking about unbelievers here. He said it wasn’t any of his business to judge those outside the Church. God will see to them. Neither did he say anything about these brothers losing their salvation because of their behavior. His point was their unconfessed sins have put them out of fellowship with God which has deprived them of His blessings, one of which is the support that comes from associating with other believers.

So, how do we make sure we’re seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness so we be confident of His blessing? Let’s find out.

First Seek His Kingdom
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
Good advice, and Paul’s words prove that we have a choice when it comes to our behavior, but how do we exercise our choice?
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.(Ephesians 4:22-32)

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:8-10)
We seek the Lord’s Kingdom by choosing to put off the ways of the world and allowing ourselves to be conformed to His likeness. This is not working to earn our salvation, or to keep it. It’s following the Holy Spirit’s guidance, letting Him renew us to be more like Jesus, in gratitude for the salvation he’s given us. Remember, these verses were written to believers, admonishing us to modify our behavior so we act like the new creations we already are (2 Cor. 5:17), members of God’s royal family.

Pity the Holy Spirit, who’s been sealed within us and therefore has to endure first hand exposure to all our tawdry behavior. It’s bad enough that we grieve Him by accident. Let’s not do it on purpose.

And His Righteousness
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.(Romans 3:19-24)
If you start thinking you’re better than others just because you behave better than they do, you’re not seeking God’s righteousness, you’re seeking your own. God’s righteousness can come only through faith in His Son, and makes us humble, not proud. Your behavior is for the purpose of pleasing the One who has done so much for you, not elevating your self in your own sight.

And All These Things Will Be Provided

How does He provide all our needs? Usually He doesn’t pour them down on us directly. But He does provide opportunities for us to receive them through the work we do. How do we know? Because He had Paul say this.
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Tim 5:8)
And in 2 Thes. 3:10 Paul said,
“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
Notice it says “will not work” not “can not work.” If you can’t work because you’re disabled, the Church should help. If you’re a widow with a small baby, the Church should help. But if you’re just waiting for something to happen when you could be spending your time productively, or wasting your money on beer and cigarettes instead of buying food for your family, that’s a different story.

Remember how the Lord gave the people Manna (bread from heaven) in the wilderness?
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. (Exodus 16:4)
He could have put it directly into their mouths, like feeding a baby. Instead he made them go out and gather it for themselves. If you can work, the Lord will provide an opportunity for you to do so, as long as you’re seeking His kingdom and His righteousness.

I Already Am Working

If you are working you should help those who aren’t. Give what you can to those in need, and the Lord will give you more. It’s the best way to make sure you’ll always have enough.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.(Luke 6:38)
It sounds counter intuitive to us, but generosity is the cause of prosperity, not the effect of it.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:6,8)

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
Giving is evidence of our faith. It shows we know God has abundant resources and we trust Him to share them with us according to our needs . Hoarding is a sign we don’t trust Him to give us more, so we hold on to everything we get. (By the way, putting aside any extra we have for the purpose of helping others as the need arises is not hoarding, it’s giving.)
Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:15-17)
Or, as one of my earliest mentors used to tell me, “If what you believe doesn’t result in action, it’s doubtful you really believe it.”

A Final Thought

Above all remember that it doesn’t matter what things look like. Don’t be discouraged by what you see.
We live by faith not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:18)
We can’t see what’s coming, but the Lord knows how things will work out and He’s promised to take care of all our needs as long as we remain faithful to Him. What we see today is just temporary, but the promises of God are eternal.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4 -7)

Related Links
Unemployment benefits expected to be reinstated with $34 billion bill - The Hill
What does the Bible say about the prosperity gospel? - GotQuestions.org
Recovery Summer? Fed Says Recovery May Be 6 Years Off - Hotair.com
Christian Giving - OnePlace.com (Ligon Duncan)
Children's Stories of the Bible The Adult Version - Jack Kelley (Book)