Recently we saw a sign which said “some people only look up when they are flat on their backs”. From a purely physical point of view that’s about the only way we can look when flat on our back. How many people look up to God when things are going well? Unfortunately very few. It has always been thus.
The children of Israel are an outstanding example of how easy it is to forget God during good times. Over and over again the Jews became puffed up when they became prosperous. Then God would send trouble in the form of an invader and they would in their distress turn to Him again.
We are living in exceedingly prosperous times. Even the people on welfare own TVs and drive automobiles. The poorest among us are rich in comparison to those of other ages and to those in many other countries today. Inside plumbing, gas and electricity are taken for granted by almost everyone reading this page. As our lives have become softer and we have attained to more and more of this world’s goods what has happened to our hearts? Certainly our hands are not as calloused as our forefathers’. What about our intestinal fortitude?
Do we think that we are better than our fathers? Elijah confessed that he wasn’t. Neither are we, and recognizing this will help us in two ways.
First of all we will acknowledge that our blessings come from God for He is the giver of every good and perfect gift, and we should daily thank Him for what we have, instead of being puffed up with pride of ownership. Remember the sin of Hezekiah? He lost practically everything, even to the cutting off of the gold from the doors of the temple to give it to Shalmaneser. When God rescued him by destroying the Assyrian army, and other countries brought him gifts and presents so that once again “Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honour”, then we are told, “his heart was lifted up and he rendered not according to the benefit done unto him.”
What we have has come from God and as Job said, “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord”. What we have has only been lent to us by God and can be taken from us in the night. God can open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing on us if He wills, and if it is good for us, but we must remember that what we have is His and when we think, “Is not this mine?” then we deserve to be driven out as animal. Remember Nebuchadnezzar.
The second lesson we want to learn is that when trouble and adversity does come, it is allowed by God. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” God feels that at times He must flatten us on our backs to make sure we are looking up. Concerning Hezekiah we read, “howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.”
Hezekiah rose to the trial of the armies surrounding Jerusalem and then fell to a more subtle temptation of showing off his riches. How much we are like this! We overcome a big temptation and fall to a smaller one. It means, of course, that we must be constantly on guard for sin is always just around the corner. As God told Cain, “if thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou does not well, sin lieth at the door.”
The key is to always be looking up, to pray without ceasing, and not wait until God flattens us on our backs before we turn to Him. If we truly place our lives in His hands and allow Him first place in our hearts, then we shall receive “an hundredfold now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”