What to Do When Things Are Going Well

by Pastor J.R. Cuervas

On an ever-so-relaxing morning in last June, I found myself on the porch of my uncle’s house in Kuna, Idaho—a rural farm town about 30 miles from Boise that I chose to visit for the purpose of rest.  Having asked my younger cousins (12 and 11 years old respectively) to join me for a time of devotions and games (20 minutes of Bible reading per game of othello), it occurred to me that contrary to the few months previous when I had to persevere through one of the most trying times of my life, I was now in a season when I felt like life could not be better—a season of absolute abundance and blessing.  Perhaps it was why, before the first game of Othello, the Holy Spirit brought me to a passage that I had previously read but had never spent a significant amount of time dwelling on—Joshua 23.

Joshua—now advanced in years—had gathered Israel together for a farewell address.  Having just conquered the promise land and having witnessed God’s incredible power in fighting for them through the defeat of enemy after enemy, Israel could not have been in a more blessed season of confidence and abundance.  What words would Joshua leave with his people?  Would he tell them to expand their territory?  To enjoy the milk and honey?  To relax and take it easy?  What would Joshua tell them?

“So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God.” (Joshua 23:11).  Of all the things he could have said to encourage them with, Joshua instead chose to give Israel a warning – a warning to carefully guard their hearts and an exhortation to continue loving God.  In a time where things could not have been better for Israel, Joshua told them to be careful lest they fall into spiritual idolatry (read the rest of the chapter to get the context).

In the Christian walk, times of abundant blessings can also be the most dangerous of times.  Many have become experts concerning what to do in times of trials; passages like James 1:2-4 and Romans 8:28-29 are engraved into our spiritual cerebrum.  During times of trials, our spiritual lives become vibrant.  Our Bible reading becomes more frequent; our prayer lives become more fervent.  Not to mention, our conversations with people become more biblically flavored.  Yet, have you considered what happens to your life during seasons of abundant blessings?  It’s the time when our hearts are most prone to both spiritual complacency and spiritual idolatry – finding comfort, security, and enjoyment in those blessings apart from God.  When school is going well, it is easy to place security in our grades.  When work is going well, it is easy to find worth in our income and social status.  When God provides us with solid relationships, it is easy to value our spiritual brothers and sisters more than Christ.  When God provides blessings that are intended to be enjoyed in the context of our devotion to God, our sinful hearts tend to try to find enjoyment in them in place of God.

Here in San Diego, we don’t have to hold underground church services.  We can read our Bibles and pray in public.  We are allowed to pursue college and post-graduate degrees, pursue careers in whatever field we choose, and live in nice homes.  While it is no sin to enjoy these blessings, be alert to the warning and exhortation in Scriptures to diligently guard our hearts to love God—both in devotion and affection—with all that we have.  Loving God does not simply happen spontaneously; it is not merely an emotional whim.  While it is a supernatural gift of the Spirit characteristic of the regenerate heart, it is still a character quality that we are commanded to cultivate with watchful diligence and discipline.  During seasons of abundance, the more frequently we should take the initiative in challenging ourselves as to whether or not we would love God without the external blessings.  Bible reading and meditation must be more frequent; prayer must be more fervent.  Time spent cultivating our relationship with God alone must be a priority.  Refreshing our minds with the purity of the gospel message is a necessity.  If not, we will indeed fall to spiritual idolatry.

Are keeping watch over the affections of your heart?  Are you absolutely sure that, as of right now (as John Piper likes to emphasize) you treasure Christ infinitely more than His gifts? Unfortunately for Israel, history shows that they did not heed Joshua’s warning.  They allowed themselves to slip and fall into idolatry.  During your time of abundance, will you do the same?

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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