Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Prosper, How to Fail

“And he sought God…and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.”
II Chronicles 26:5

Have you written your New Year’s resolutions?  I have, and you know what? They’re the same ones I had last year. We wish each other a “Happy New Year,” and others wish us a “Happy One” right back.

When we wish happiness for each other, what we’re really saying is “I hope you’re prosperous this year.” I want to be prosperous in 2012, not materially, but spiritually. I desire to draw closer to God than I did in 2011. I think when you get right down to it, “to be prosperous” is to “be blessed.”  Well, there’s no better place to find the “formula” for “prosperity, or blessings, or happiness” than in the Word of God.

Some months ago, I was reading in the book of II Chronicles the story of a king named Uzziah. He was only sixteen years old when the people of Judah took him and made him king. Uzziah feared God. The Bible says, “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord,” (v. 4)

If you want to have a Happy New Year, if you want to be “blessed,” and prosperous, you need to:

Do right.  Perhaps in the eyes of men you can be successful by lying, living an immoral lifestyle, and mistreating others in order to reach your goals this year. But when you do that, you’re not doing that which is right, and the key phrase is “in the sight of the Lord.” As long as Uzziah did what was right, God “made him to prosper.” I’ve heard it said, “Do right though the stars fall.” But we can only do right, when we know what’s right.  The will of God in our lives, the “what’s right” is found in the Word of God. One of your resolutions for this year should be to “read the Bible through.” Start in Genesis, and read it all the way through to the end of Revelation. Even though you don’t understand what you’re reading, read it anyway. If you’ll dedicate just twenty minutes every morning to systematically reading the Bible, in one year you will have finished reading it through. January has already gone? Then start now to read it through, and start all over in February of next year. Dedicate another fifteen minutes to memorizing verses and chapters, one new verse every week. Teach them to your children and grandchildren. There are many methods, many books that encourage people to memorize Scripture. There are even clubs that children can join, organized with the purpose of stimulating children’s memory to “hide the Word in their hearts.” But it’s you, Mom, who are responsible for that, not the church. I don’t know what your routine or your lifestyle is. But there’s nothing more important that you can include in the lives of your children than learning Bible verses by memory.

Uzziah was a good man, and he did what was right, and as long as he did what was right, God made him to prosper. What a simple formula!

But who of us can qualify as a good person, like the people we read of in the Bible? Well, even the good men, like King David, had their weaknesses.

There are at least three sins of which Uzziah was guilty in this story. If we’re honest these same three sins can be a hindrance to God’s prospering us this year.
  1. One of Uzziah’s weaknesses was his pride. “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction:” (verse 16) Sometimes success is the worst thing that can happen to us, because we’re lifted up in pride. Think about your goals you’ve set for this year. Why do you want to achieve what you want to achieve? If pride, the desire to have more, or to be better than others motivates you to do more this year than you did last year, this could be a reason for God’s failure to prosper you. Do you remember the story in the Bible of the mother of James and John? Matthew 20: 21 and 22 say she went to Jesus, and asked a favor of Him. She said, “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.” She wanted a place of preeminence for her sons, to show them off. Pride manifests itself in many ways in our lives. Sometimes we’re proud without even realizing it, because pride is very subtle. When we interrupt a conversation we’re showing a proud spirit with this attitude: “I know more than you do. What you’re saying is boring to me…it’s not as important as my opinion.” I don’t know if I just have a very critical spirit, but lately I’ve noticed how common it is for people not to pay attention to what others are saying. Sometimes it’s hard to detect. But when someone is very distracted when others are talking, at the same time it may be possible that the person talking is very boring, it could very well be for lack of courtesy. That’s a sign of pride. Sometimes I’m talking with someone, and some little something will distract them. It’s because they’re not interested in what I’m saying. When this happens with one of my children, I stand in front of the wall, and start talking to my curtain. It’s very obvious what I’m doing.  Maybe the word “bless” would be a better choice of words than “prosper.” I love the phrase some of my friends have written to me this year, “May you have a year full of the blessings of God,” which means, “May you have a prosperous year.”
  2. Uzziah rebelled against God. He entered the temple to make sacrifice and to burn incense upon the altar. This was the office of the priest, and the priest could even resist the king in this matter. Uzziah’s rebellion was manifested when he disrespected the position of the priest. How about you? Do you respect your husband’s position? What about the position of your son in law in his home? And the authority of your Pastor? The Bible says that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft…” I Samuel 15:23 I say this kindly, but this year, let’s not be witches.
  3. Lack of self control. Uzziah got angry. He had the censer in his hand to burn it. While he was “wroth” or angry, “the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests…” (V. 19) This was the instant judgment of God. I haven’t seen your resolutions for this year, but I’m sure that most of them, if not all of them require discipline…self control. Have you decided to take off some pounds this year? That requires self control. Do you want to read the Bible through this year? You’re going to have to discipline yourself, get control of yourself. We all get angry, we lose control. We say things, we do things that we wish we hadn’t said or done. We should ask the Lord every morning of this year to take control of our actions, our thoughts, and even our moods. Do you ever wake up in a bad mood? You know what? It’s my very personal opinion that every woman should get up before anyone else in her household. Why? Because we set the atmosphere in our home, whether we’re a wife, mother or grandmother.   The lady of the house sets the mood of her children, her husband and her grandchildren. The First Person every lady should meet in the morning is the Lord…He’ll help you to start your day in a good mood.  No one likes to get out of bed on a cold morning. During the winter months, our bed is more delicious than any other time of the year. But just tell God, “Lord, help me to have enough character to get up, and spend time alone with You.” Guess what! Did you know He wants to spend time with you, more than you want to spend it with Him?

As long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God made him to prosper. As long as he did what was right, he was prosperous. But when he was lifted up in pride, when he rebelled, and when he lost his temper, “the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense altar.” (v. 19) “And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord:…” (v. 21)

Imagine being a queen one day, surrounded by people who serve you, and probably love you, who live for your comfort, and the next moment to live in a “several house;” …apart, alone, with no one to care for you. Does that sound like people you know who are in nursing homes? What a lonely life some people live. My heart goes out to them. But I often wonder how many lonely elderly people are where they are, because when they were younger, they didn’t seek the Lord. Maybe they were rebellious, and proud, and had no control over their temper, and they lost their children. Their family rejects them, as though they had leprosy.

Just like King Uzziah, you can enjoy the prosperity of God today in your life. But if you don’t seek Him, you’ll end up like the king did, apart from those who surround you today.

What does 2012 hold for you? Prosperity or loneliness? Blessings or curses? It’s up to you!


Jolene said...

Thank you, Mom! I definitely want to prosper, not fail, at the very important tasks the Lord has entrusted me with.

I love you!

Jennifer said...

Thanks! I used your message as a Bible Study at the jail last night.

Cinnamon said...

I was so blessed by reading this. I copied down parts of your encouraging words into my journal to ponder further and share with my children.

You have blessed me so much. Thank you for sharing.