I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
At Risk for a Fall
It seems that the greatest risks of falling are right after great successes. Take Elijah for example. Right after God sent fire down from heaven and he had defeated 850 false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:22-40), he ran for his life from Jezebel (1 King 19:1-3). When David had assumed control over much of Judea and was stronger than ever, he counted his troops, which angered God, even though Joab tried to talk him out of it. God may have seen that as David seeing himself as responsible for having such power and not God (2 Sam. 24:1-13). How we handle success shows whether we will give glory and credit to God and ascribe to Him our success or take it to ourselves. I believe it’s harder to handle success than being in low times in the Christian life because pride can enter in, and God resists the proud (James 4:6).
Only Way But Up
When you get so far down, there is only one way we can look, and that is up–to God. Sometimes God allows us to experience hard times to humble us, to make us more prayerful, or to have us rely on Him more. Paul knew what it felt like to be hungry, thirsty, in rags, homeless, and treated with brutality (1 Cor. 4:11). But how did Paul handle this? He knew that these circumstances would keep him humble and in a constant state of prayer. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Paul handled the highs and the lows in a godly way and kept his perspective on the eternal things.
Never Too High, Never Too Low
I know a Christian who never gets too high when things go well and never gets too low when things go badly. He knows that it all works out for his best (Rom. 8:28) and won’t ever be able to compare with the coming day of glory (Rom. 8:18). Paul knew both and learned to abide in plenty and in want, to abound, and to have nothing. That’s a disciple that is only possible by the Holy Spirit’s help. We are no match for spiritual attacks or when our pride swells when we have great success, so the key might be to stay on an even keel, like my friend. Never get too high because you’re vulnerable for a fall. Never get too low because it’ll be hard getting back up.
A Closing Prayer
Father, You are sovereign over all things that happen in my life. Please forgive me when things go well and I rob glory from You and for the times when I get too low and feel distant from You. I thank You for both the abounding times and the times of want, and in Jesus’ name I pray.
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