For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.—Psalm 84:11–12
One of life’s hardest lessons is learning to trust the Lord with the smallest details of our lives. It’s a lesson that can take years to accomplish, if it’s ever fully achieved at all. As human beings, we want to be in control over our own lives and we’ll go to great lengths to protect and preserve that control. But the reality is that there is very little that we can truly control. There are so many external influences that impact the direction our lives take that it’s literally impossible for us to control anything except the free will choices we make on a daily basis. Choices such as what to wear, what to eat or to sin or not to sin. Sin is always a choice.
And while our own personal choices can make for a good or bad life, it’s the external influences that can really send us reeling. Take the recession for example; which I’m not convinced is over. Did anyone of us have any control over the circumstances that caused the recession? Did the recession impact all of us in some way? How many of us lost our jobs? What about mandatory health care insurance? Or gun control? Or some of the other hot political issues of the day? Do we have any control over the way these issues may impact our lives some day? No, we don’t!
Our lack of control over the circumstances that impact our lives isn’t just isolated to the political arena. What about the weather and other natural disasters? I live in a tornado area. I had to spend over $2,000 last year to remove downed tees and repair property damage because of the wind. Insurance wouldn’t cover it because the house wasn’t damaged. Could I control the circumstances that caused the damage? Absolutely not! All I could do was watch and pray as I observed the trees start to topple and cascade across our yard. It was completely out of my control.
I lost my last full time job in information technology because of the recession at the end of 2009. Despite my numerous computer skills and talents and applying for several thousand jobs that I am qualified to do, I have not been able to find another full time job since. Did I have any control over the job loss? No, none whatsoever! Do I have any control over the hiring decisions that have kept me out of work? No, none whatsoever! Did these decisions impact my life and those of my family? Absolutely!
Over the last several years we’ve watched our bank accounts erode to almost nothing. We’ve been reduced to a 1-car family and have to carefully coordinate our activities. We’ve cut our living expenses to the minimum and done everything within our control to do what we can to survive through these tough economic times. We’ve fervently prayed as we asked God to provide for our bills, which He has always done—sometimes miraculously. But we still have questions that eat away at us. Will God provide me with another full time job? He gave my wife a job just as the unemployment got cut off last December. Will we eventually lose our house because we can’t afford to pay the mortgage? Does He still want us to live in the Triangle area? What is God’s will for our future? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but there is One who does. That is God and God alone.
When things are going great in our lives, when we’re making good money, eating good food and enjoying the finer things in life, we often forget that God is the One who is truly in control and the provider of the things that we’re enjoying. Instead, we reflect on our own self-satisfaction and ambition over the great job we’re doing and the material things we’ve accumulated, just like the rich man in Luke 12:16-21.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.—Luke 12:16–21
What does it mean to be “rich toward God?” From this parable it’s obviously the key to true happiness. Money, power and material things—the things that many of us think can make us rich in this life—are all temporal, meaning that they exist only in this world. But if we’ve trusted Jesus as our Savior, we have a life that extends way beyond this world. It extends throughout eternity. Sure, we can accumulate these things and think that we’re happy and in control of our lives. And when we have enough or more than enough, as the rich man in this parable, then we can retire in style. But then we discover that the final event that we have no control over visits us. We die and all that we had now belongs to someone else. This is what happened to the rich man. His problem is that he didn’t include God in his plans.
To be rich toward God, means that we’ve learned to place our trust in Him and in Him alone to control the circumstances of our lives. It means that we’ve learned to focus on putting God above our material things. It means that we’ve learned to love people above our pleasures. And it means that we look towards eternity as our true retirement home. Sometimes it takes losing everything, or almost everything, before our vision sharpens enough to see the truth of our weakness. Apart from Christ, we are nothing but dust. It is only by placing our trust in Him, that we can begin to experience true happiness.