Christians around the world are looking for answers to the many challenges facing us. A virus that went global locked down cities and closed businesses, schools and churches. People have lost jobs and some of their personal rights. Wearing masks is part of the ‘new normal’ and may be with us for a long time. Parents and their children are determining how to move forward with attending schools and universities this Fall. Claims of racism are flying in all directions. There is rioting in the streets. Law and order are under attack. People are divided and despondent. What are God’s people to do in such a time as this?
Can Christians prosper in the ‘new normal?’
The simple answer is, Yes! However, Christian prosperity often includes suffering. Suffering? Really? How can we ‘prosper’ in the midst of suffering?
We learn how from our Master. He both suffered and prospered. How did He do it?
“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ But Jesus answered him, saying, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”Luke 4:1-4
Jesus was ‘tempted’ (tested) by Satan for 40 days in the wilderness. Jesus did not eat anything during that time, so that in itself was quite a challenge. Satan used the great hunger Jesus experienced in His human body to test the Lord. How did Jesus face the test? By quoting from God’s Word –
“Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”Deuteronomy 8:1-3
Whether you are facing a testing of 40 days or 40 years, realize that the solution is always the same — “man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
Jesus left Satan and the wilderness and headed toward the Cross. Why would He do that? How could the suffering Jesus faced on the Cross bring Him prosperity? The author of Hebrews answers that question for us —
“… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:2
- Jesus Suffered: The Son of God endured the cross, despised the shame
- Jesus Prospered: The Son of God, filled with great joy and anticipation, rose from the dead, ascended back to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God
Jesus knew that the great suffering He would face would bring great joy to Himself and millions of human beings who would spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Jesus lived out the truth exactly as He had answered Satan — “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” Jesus lived out His life on earth according to every Word of God.
Saturate Yourself In God’s Word
Think about what you think about during your day. How much of it is positive and how much is negative? If you spend a lot of time reading newspapers or watching newscasts, you may find that much of your ‘thought’ time is negative. Just look at the headlines. Almost every one is written to generate fear and divide people from each other. What Christians need to do is ‘saturate’ their minds with God’s Word rather than the words of people.
The Apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians who also lived in a world that was negative and scary at times. What did Paul tell them to do?
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”Philippians 4:8-9
Paul wanted Christians in ancient Philippi to focus on several things he knew would help them through tough times. Paul wrote them from a Roman prison, so the Philippians knew that Paul had seen some tough times. They had known Paul for many years and were familiar with his life. That’s why Paul wrote – “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Paul could use himself as an example of how a Christian should think.
Our focus should be the same now as then and “meditate on these things” —
- whatever things are true
- whatever things are noble
- whatever things are just
- whatever things are pure
- whatever things are lovely
- whatever things are of good report
- if there is any virtue
- if there is anything praiseworthy
Compare Paul’s list for Christians to what we see and hear from the world every day. How many of these things do you find on your news feeds and televisions today? How much from social media?
- good report?
Probably very little, if any. Whether it’s news, entertainment or social media, the world’s message is devoid of what Paul told Christians to ‘think’ about and put into their minds. The ‘world’ does not share our views as Christians. They get almost everything about the Bible and Christianity wrong. Here’s an example:
I recently heard two major cable network ‘news’ hosts talk about trying to put racial history in its proper context. One of them said this:
“Jesus Christ—if you believe in, if that’s who you believe in, Jesus Christ—admittedly was not perfect when he was here on this earth.”CNN, July 6, 2020
Really? Who ‘admitted’ that? Certainly not Jesus’ apostles who knew Him best and were inspired by God’s Spirit to write God’s truth. Certainly not the Church fathers who knew the apostles and what they believed and taught about Jesus? The other host shook his head in agreement, but neither gave any evidence for such an outlandish and false statement.
The host of a ‘news’ program made a truth claim concerning Jesus Christ that is evidently false and no one on the program or the network challenged him. It’s sad to note that the other host had just said something about the importance of reason and logic before the false claim was made. The world knows very little about reason and logic, which is why we shouldn’t spend much time listening to what they say. Jesus is the Logos, the true ‘logic’ of God.
Media bias and continual negativity are two of the reasons I recommend Christians minimize the time they spend watching news programs and reading news feeds or newspapers. What you find there can actually work against the mind, emotions and spirit of a person. It can eventually affect physical health as well.
Television networks, newspapers and magazines are notorious for making false claims about the Son of God just in time for Christmas and Easter each year. They roll out the same lies people have been telling about Jesus since the 1st century. The lies were debunked centuries ago, but the majority of people who hear them wouldn’t know that unless someone tells them the truth.
So, what about the news host’s claim that Jesus was not perfect when He was here on earth? I’ll answer the host the same way Jesus answered Satan — “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”
The news host wrote online that he grew up in a Christian home and attended church as a child, but gained ‘common sense’ when he attended college. He admitted to no longer being a member of any church, but wrote that he does “believe in a higher power.” Unless that ‘higher power’ is the Lord Jesus Christ, it raises serious concerns about the identity of the ‘higher’ power.
I don’t write these things to disparage the news host or any of today’s well-known media members. I was once an atheist host of a radio program and journalist in a major city, so I feel deeply for their spiritual need. My wish is for them to discover the same love and joy I’ve experienced in the amazing Grace of a merciful and forgiving God.
If Jesus was not perfect while He was on earth, then those of us who have placed our hope of salvation in Him are doomed to die in our sins. God demanded a perfect sacrifice and that’s exactly what Jesus did — He gave Himself, perfect as He was, is and will forever be, to redeem people from sin and death —
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”2 Corinthians 5:21
“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”1 Peter 1:17-21
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”1 Peter 2:21-25
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”Hebrews 4:14-16
“And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: ‘The Lord has sworn And will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’), by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.”Hebrews 7:20-28
Saturate yourself in God’s Word this week even as you spend less time listening to the world. Remember the precious words of Jesus —
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.”Mark 12:30
That commandment includes what we watch with our eyes, hear with our ears and think with our mind. Let us love God with our whole being every day of the week.
We will look at the importance of putting on our ‘Christian Hat’ in the next part of our special series. Please join us soon for part two!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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