There are two types of tests in life. We will all face them and yet they don’t come with any prior warning or instructions.
They are the test of adversity and the test of prosperity. And both have an inherent default trajectory in terms our relationship with God.
The test of adversity’s trajectory is towards faith in God. Facing adversity, facing circumstances that are clearly beyond our resources our abilities or our understanding tends to lead us towards calling out to God for help, for wisdom and or for breakthrough. And so we see the promise of Romans 8:28 at work in the midst of adversity as we draw nearer to God and as we discover things about God we would never have learnt without these tests. We might not want trials but we do often end up treasuring what is formed in us through them.
The test of prosperity on the other hand has a default trajectory that is away from God. Having the provision we need, having received the things we have prayed for ought to draw us deeper into relationship, faith and gratitude to God (who is the source of those blessings) but from my experience both personally and as a church leader the opposite is in fact often sadly the case.
I wish it were not so but I can confess that my prayer life has often felt more vital and central to my walk with Christ when I am going through adversity.
Just this week I was looking at a group of men from Oasis who meet every week to pray and I started thinking of the guys who were not in the room, guys who had in the past been in the room praying. The pattern was clear, during adversity each one of these men were there regularly but one after another had drifted away from these times of prayer just as God answered prayers for marriages, kids, finances, for businesses, for jobs, for justice in the courtroom…
God knows these two tests and their default trajectories and so he speaks to His people in Deuteronomy 6:10-12 pleading with them warning them not to forget Him in the moment He fulfills the promises He made to them. He warns them of the test of prosperity, the moment after prayers are answered…
“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
God speaks again through Moses in Deuteronomy 8:11-15 appealing to them.
Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness”
Sadly we know the story, we know that God’s people did exactly what God has implored them not to do when they did enter into their Promised land.
Just this past week my Father answered some prayers I have been calling out to Him for. I know that in this moment there is a test – will I allow these answers to overflow in gratitude and praise, will I allow them to fill me afresh with faith in my Father for other areas of life and ministry where huge questions still persist?
Gratitude to God is an amazing thing when it is expressedby us. It honours God as the source of all blessing in our lives and so simultaneously kills pride and the deceit of self-sufficiency and it fills our heart with love for our Father!
By Gareth Bowley