Vast wealth can open up all kinds of opportunities. I think of Bill and Melinda Gates who are using their $billions to fight disease and illiteracy in dozens of places on the globe. That same wealth can cripple. There is a stereotype of the second generation in families of wealth. They are sometimes called ‘trust fund babies.’ They do not have to work or achieve, knowing that their needs will be met for the rest of their lives.
My kids did not have to deal with that challenge. There was barely enough money for the present, never mind a ‘trust fund.’ Knowing how critical it is to understand good financial principles, I created ways for them to control small sums early in their lives. I provided a regular clothing allowance, leaving the choice of how they spent it up to them. They could spend it all immediately or let it accumulate to buy the things they needed. They could buy a lot of cheap things or fewer more expensive items. They learned to appreciate the value of a dollar and to discern more clearly between ‘want’ and ‘need.’ I knew what I was doing was hard, and sometimes my heart ached when they had to live with the consequences of less than wise choices. I wanted so badly to tell them, “Here’s the money you need to do that.” Or, “just go enjoy yourself.” But, I would not because I had a higher purpose in mind than their happiness at the time. I was trying, as best I knew how as a fallible human being, to prepare them to be godly, productive adults.
Do you know that God subjects you and me to testing, too?
He is not sadistic. He is not just playing with us as some have suggested. He allows us to go through difficult situations in order to refine and strengthen our character and faith. Sometimes we wish He would treat us like a trust fund baby, giving us all we want, when we want it. He doesn’t! The Bible says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1:6-8, NIV)
Going through a tough time? Me, too! “Why must I endure this?” we ask. I have lived, as a first person experience, what the Psalmist describes. I watch some people who live without a thought of God or eternity wonder, “They seem to live such a painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong.” (Psalm 73:4, NLT) “Look at these arrogant people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. Was it for nothing that I kept my heart pure and kept myself from doing wrong?” (Psalm 73:12-13, NLT) But, I refuse to remain in that doubtful state. I quiet my heart in worship, focus my mind on eternity, and choose to wait for the fullness of His revelation. After realizing that God was shaping him by the trials, the Psalmist offers this praise. “Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” (Psalm 73:23-24, NLT) I share that hope. Do you?
Here’s a word from the Word. I urge you to receive joyfully, not with grim determination. Don’t give up before God. Instead, give in and accept the grace He can provide for this day. “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.” (James 1:2-5, The Message)
Father, I am limited in my grasp of tomorrow.
Sometimes the way that You lead seems pointlessly difficult.
The pain looks meaningless and I am tempted to think that
You either don’t care or have forgotten about me.
Renew my faith. Whisper the assurance of Your plans,
Your purpose to me once again.
Help me to trust You until the test is over and then,
To let You shine through the refined character and faith
You have developed in me.
Jesus, my Savior, my Friend –
keep me near your heart this day. Amen.