Sometimes I look at others and think, They sure do seem to be prospering so much better than me. You know what I mean?
But prosperity in God’s economy isn’t always having more material wealth. I don’t care what those preaching a prosperity gospel have to say about it. Yes, God entrusts more money, more possessions, and more success to some, but it isn’t really the way to God’s heart.
Most of us are no different than God’s people during the time of Ruth.
Too much prosperity in our lives will rob us of a heart for God. The more we have the more we want. A lot of us are just selfish like that.
We have an enemy who wants us to believe there will always be one more thing we just have to have. He used this lie in the Garden when he tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit. He made it look like something she couldn’t live without when God had already given her everything beautiful under the sun. The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the only thing God told her she couldn’t eat.
Can you imagine? Having everything at your fingertips BUT. That. One. Thing.
When Elimelech took his family to Moab he took them to a prosperous land, but it’s physical beauty was marred by something deeper within. Behind all the flowing streams, abundant grain, healthy flocks, and lush terrain was a history of incest. They worshiped pagan gods and filled their lives with immoral living. They sacrificed their children on the altar. God refers to them twice in Scripture as “My wash pot.”
Moab was a place forbidden to God’s people because the Moabites had refused to help them when they were traveling through the wilderness after God delivered them from Egypt, yet Elimelech left behind The House of Bread and The Place of Praise (see Leaving Moab Behind, Part 1) to go live in the world’s wash pot.
One commentator I read said it was like calling Moab God’s “toilet bowl”. Not a pretty picture.
I had to think about that r-e-e-e-a-l good. It was as if God said Moab was a place to wash yourself in the dirt and sin of the world.
I don’t know about you, but that stinks.
I know how hard it is not to run ahead of God when life hands me some h-a-a-a-r-d stuff. I know how hard it is to keep from trying to fix my messes on my own. I know how hard it is to wait on God when He isn’t sending the rain or providing the answers or healing the land.
Elimelech only intended to stay in Moab for just a little while, but he ended up staying longer than he thought he would. He put down roots. He made friends. He embraced the culture. He sacrificed the spiritual health of his sons because he showed them how to love the world more than God. He filled himself with the music, entertainment, and wealth of the Moabite people. He satisfied himself with his possessions.
Elimelech enjoyed the prosperity.
God brought famine to Bethlehem-Judah because the people were spiritually poverished. I don’t care how physically prosperous one might be, if the heart isn’t right with God there will always be lack. There will always be thirst.
We may venture into Moab when times get tough because we’re prone to wander from the God we love, but we don’t leave famine behind.
We take it with us.
God never said His children would be free from pain and heartache, persecution and hardship, but He does promise to strengthen us and deliver us during difficult times if we stay within the boundaries of His protection.
God does NOT leave us during a famine!!! He doesn’t forget us. Famines don’t last forever. Physical nourishment isn’t really the cry of our heart, anyway. When we’re discontented and dissatisfied in Bethlehem-Judah, it’s not because God isn’t giving us what we need. It’s because we’re not letting God be enough for us right where we are.
I read the following quote somewhere a long time ago and made a mental note of it so I can’t really take credit for it, but it’s a powerful truth:
It’s always better to be hungry in the will of God than to be full outside the will of God.
We can’t doubt God’s goodness in times of hardship and famine.
He’s still good. All the time.
That’s a saying that won’t ever get old. Or worn out.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the goodness, but it’s still there. You can’t take goodness out of God. It’s Who He is.
James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
We’re the ones with shifting shadows. Pledging our lives and giving our hearts and vowing to surrender all when things are going good, but when life hits like a ton of bricks we want to run for the hills.
We want to run to Moab.
That phrase in James 1:17, coming down, is a present active participle. It means that God’s good gifts keep coming down, all the time, even when we don’t see them.
You know…I wonder sometimes what my life would be like if God had given me the miracle of a new eye. That’s what I wanted when I was a younger me. I used to cry myself to sleep at nights because I didn’t get it. There was a time when I thought the only way God could be glorified in my life would be to give me a supernatural, divine healing. I wanted a new eye.
When I didn’t get ‘the desire of my heart’, Moab looked pretty good to me. I went some places I never thought I’d go. I did some things I never thought I’d do. I said some things I never thought I’d say.
And I was absolutely miserable.
I can honestly tell you today that I would rather live life on this earth without my eye and know Jesus like I know Him than to have perfect sight and be far from Him.
I don’t understand all the ways of God, but I’ve learned that in His goodness He knows what I need and He knew the loss of my eye would help me understand His grace in a way I might not have with it.
Do you get that?
When we become dissatisfied with God’s best for us we experience famine in our lives. Instead of venturing into Moab, though, we need to stay in The House of Bread and The Place of Praise clinging to God with our whole hearts.
I know sometimes it seems our life is one big mess. We all have seasons where things seem uncertain. We wonder what in the world God is doing. Our dreams have been washed down the drain. Our plans have dried up like a fig tree. Our wealth has been stolen out from under our feet. Our health has been attacked with a raging cancer.
We wonder…we wonder…we wonder…
God, are you there?!?
But, you know…I’ve come to this place in my life where I’ve learned how to feed my hunger in The House of Bread. I’ve learned how to find my joy in The Place of Praise.
Sometimes, all I know to do is tell God how much I need Him.
Sometimes, all I know to do is tell God He is worthy.
Worthy of my worship. Worthy of my praise. Just plain worthy.
That’s it. That’s the One.Thing.
That’s the one thing at your fingertips that will give you enough of what you need.
I remember when I came to the end of myself in Moab and, like Naomi, I was ready to go home.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God, my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” Habbakuk 3:17-19
When you still have your praise even though the grapes have dried up and the olives have fallen from the tree…when you still worship even though the crops have failed and the fields are stripped of harvest…when you still lift your face to the heavens even though the sheep have wandered off and the cattle have been raided…you, my friend, will have the strength to stand.
Because God will lift you up. He will provide. He will meet your need.
He is good. He is faithful.
And He will do it.