by Rayola Kelley
We are embarking into the fall season. Fall is my favorite time of the year. It represents a time of putting all of the demands and activities of spring and summer in a place of rest. This implies cleaning up the old to ensure the new will once again come forth and flourish.
Autumn also points to a time of enjoying the many fruits of our labors. There is no better celebration to remind us of this than Thanksgiving. As Christians, we have an overflowing of blessings we should be thankful for. As Americans, we can surely be thankful for the abundances we have experienced as a nation.
As I have considered the blessing of abundance, I have also realized that abundance brings with it great testings and grievous traps. Since we will be considering our blessings this month, it will serve us well if we realize the seriousness behind being a blessed people and nation.
First of all, let us consider the responsibility of being a nation of abundance. Obviously, God has exalted and blessed America. But, with these many blessings come grave responsibilities. The reason God blessed Israel was for the purpose of blessing others (Deuteronomy 15:1-11). Granted, we can sometimes see Americans giving, but we must remember that this does not mean we are a benevolent people. It simply means we have the luxury and means to give. Take away these two elements from our American lifestyle, and see if giving would be evident in times of disaster.
As you can conclude, possessing an attitude of benevolence and having the luxury of giving can prove to be poles apart. Benevolence is always in operation, while the luxury of giving must be stirred up by some great crisis. It is at the point of disaster that people will be stirred up to give. However, once they give, they go back to life as usual, feeling slightly better about themselves and life for doing so. Such sudden flames simply prove to be temporary flickers in the midst of great devastation.
On the other hand, benevolence is always in the flow of giving. In some cases it can give out of its need; therefore, proving to be sacrificial.
Let us now consider the traps of abundance. The first trap of being surrounded by abundance is that it causes a false sense of security for most people. People forget that all abundance finds its point in some form of sacrifice. Many have sacrificed to ensure the blessing of this nation. Once the aspect of sacrifice is forgotten, then people develop self-sufficiency towards the matters of life.
The attitude that comes out of such a breeding ground is that people think they deserve abundance. Once people perceive that they deserve the best life has to offer them, they lose the initiative to pay the necessary price to not only ensure that they earn the best, but they have the responsibility of maintaining the quality or character of it.
Once people lose the willingness to sacrifice, then abundance becomes a curse and eventually a point of judgment. Abundance becomes a curse as people begin to heap the blessings upon their own lust. Such lust begins to consume the individual in a cesspool of vanity. Life loses all meaning, and idleness becomes the playground for all wicked imaginations and practices to escalate into the vacuum that will always be created by the useless pursuits of men.
Such an environment can be clearly observed in Sodom and Gomorrah (Ezekiel 16:48-50). At this point, there is nothing left over to give those who are struggling with oppression. In fact, the poor are fortunate to even receive a few crumbs. In this state, people clearly become poor in their selfish attitudes and practices.
The next trap of abundance often leads to judgment. Now that you have abundance, what will you do with it? We have already considered those who heap abundance upon themselves. But, consider those who become obsessed in maintaining such abundance to ensure their well-being. This is where people put their reliance in what they can see, rather than the unseen (John 20:27-29; Hebrews 11:1).
Such reliance is idolatry. However, how many people are failing to see how fragile our country and economy really is? In a sense, it is a house of cards built upon a mound of paper that has no meaning or real substance to it. This idolatry has caused many to live in fantasy, denial or delusion about their life. They cannot discern the times they are living in. Although they may be struggling to maintain the fragile balance of their lifestyles, eventually it will collapse because there is no sure foundation.
We are reminded of the warning of Jesus who instructed us to build our lives upon the Rock, upon Him and His truth. The Rock will not collapse from underneath us regardless of the circumstances (Matthew 7:24-27).
Another trap of abundance is the false sense of peace that it can give many people. People who are surrounded by abundance cannot comprehend their life on any other terms. In other words, since they have always known abundance they perceive that the abundance will never cease. This false sense of security often produces complacency.
Complacent people do not want to be bothered by any other reality. Such intrusion makes them rebellious and unhappy. After all, as long as they have their false façade of abundance, they could care less about anything else. They want to be left alone to wallow in their miserable concept of life.
Entertainment has probably been the most effective tool to dull people into this complacency. During Jesus’ day, Herod was more interested in the miracles Jesus performed than who He was. When Jesus was brought before Him during His ordeal, before going to the cross, Herod asked Jesus to perform a miracle. When He did not entertain the self-centered leader, he turned Jesus over to his soldiers to be mocked (Luke23:6-12).
Jesus stated that He would spew complacent people out in judgment. It is important to recognize that complacency in the spiritual realm is not based on the lack of good works, but a lack of response towards Jesus Christ. After all, the Laodiceans were not void of works, but they were unreceptive in other ways towards Jesus (Revelation 3:14-19).
Sadly, we see this dulling down in the Church. Granted, the real sheep are becoming restless with it all as more churches become sources of entertainment, rather than places where Jesus is lifted up and His Word presented in a pure, uncompromised way.
However, life will always intrude into the complacent worlds of people. During a time of peace for Israel, such an intrusion came in to purge the people. God allowed Satan to provoke King David into numbering the people. It was clear there was something amiss in Israel. God apparently wanted to intrude into their comfortable reality. After all, a sense of peace can cause people to forget the One who serves as their real fortress, high tower and place of refuge. The end result of David numbering the people is that many died of the plague. Talk about reality intruding into these people’s lives (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21:1-17)!
The final trap of abundance is ingratitude. People who possess less seem to be more thankful than people who have more. The Apostle Paul learned how to abound and how to be abased. Note the word “learn.” We must learn to be content in all matters of life (Philippians 4:11-12). However, there can be no contentment unless there is some point of contrast and an attitude of humility.
The Apostle Paul had his contrast. The contrast was not just a physical one where he understood what it meant to have much and how to go without. It involved a spiritual contrast as well. As a Pharisee, he found himself to be a chief of sinners in the midst of abundance, but as a follower of Jesus, he found an abundant life in the midst of persecution (1 Timothy 1:12-17).
It is in the process of learning contentment, that we learn of Jesus and develop His attitude of humility (Matthew 11:28-29). It is only in an attitude of humility that we can begin to understand what we have in Jesus. This will humble us. Such humility will allow us to properly receive the life we have in the Son of God. This life will bring the necessary contrast between the worldly and the heavenly, causing us to grow in gratitude towards the abundance that is clearly found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
The heavenly abundance is not measured in quantity, but rather in the quality it truly brings to a person’s life. It is not based on the material realm, but on the spiritual realm where greatness is not measured by material possessions, but by how much one has become perfected in his or her life in Christ.
The problem with Christians who are ungrateful is that they lack contrast and a humble attitude. Perhaps they forgot they were bought with a price that cost God His best, and cost Jesus His all. Maybe they lack the right attitude because they have not yet counted the cost to know God. In other words, they have not counted the cost of their present life.
There are various reasons people are not grateful, but as Christians this sin of unbelief must not be named among us. After all, ingratitude is a sin of unbelief because people do not have a sincere faith in the character, work and provision of their God.
This season of celebrating the life God has provided to us, would be a good time to examine if there is a need for repentance due to ingratitude. Perhaps we need to humble ourselves to truly receive the life God has for us so we will have a contrast. Maybe it is time to quit considering what we don’t have as far as this world and consider what God has provided for us regarding our present and future life with Him.
It is time that as God’s people, we become thankful in heart and attitude this season and offer the real sacrifice of praise for the wonderful things He has done on our behalf. After all, we are the most blessed of people. We have the hope of the abundant and eternal for the present, and the promise of the heavenly for tomorrow.
We at GSM want to wish you a blessed Thanksgiving as you partake of God’s blessings with others. As you partake of His blessings, do so with a thankful heart, allowing the contrast to be evident as to the greatness and faithfulness of our great God, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(Watch for Rayola’s book on this subject in the near future titled, “THE FACE OF THANKFULNESS”.)