The conclusion

I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

So this is how life was explained to me when I was young: study hard, get good grades, find a good job and you will prosper and live a good life. Unfortunately, thats not how life works. Solomon’s observation about life (without a view of God and eternity, thus the constant use of “under the sun”) has led him to conclude that “time and chance happen to them all”. He was absolutely right. Some people study the hardest but never get the grades they deserve while others drop out of college and end up as CEOs and directors of multinational companies. And some never make it beyond their first few years on earth. Life is unpredictable because things don’t always add up.

But for one person, everything adds up just perfectly. For Him, everything makes perfect sense and everything functions just as it is supposed to cymbalta for pain. Nothing surprises Him, nothing is unpredictable because “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). He controls every detail of what happens on earth, from small seemingly inconsequential events (Proverbs 16:33) to calamities that claim lives (Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6).

So why do we harp on having success, health and wealth as the formula to a good life? God’s will always prevails over man’s best efforts. He can raise up and bring down at any time He wishes. This is not to say that we are supposed to be fatalistic and be bums (scriptures speak specifically against that – Ecclesiastes 10:18; Colossians 3:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12) but I think we need to redefine what we constitutes a good and successful life. Life is much more than evading suffering, having good health and great wealth. I think we need to have an eternal perspective to life.

Even as I write this, I am reminded of Matthew 6:33 again and again.

More than conquerors

The common brand of Christianity looks like this: “Christ suffered so we don’t have to. Suffering and bad circumstances is of the devil. Claim the promises of Christ regarding salvation, health, wealth and success and overcome all the bad stuff.” Naturally, the one who claims more of God’s promises and/or has more faith will be healthier, wealthier and more successful. Health, wealth and success inevitably become the evidence of Christ in a person. Suffering is not of God and even if it is, it’s never for the long term and only for a season. God enables us to conquer life and live abundantly (John 10:10)!

But let me propose a different view.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we have complete victory (NIV: “more than conquerors”) through him who loved us!
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39

Let me bring up 4 truths about living as “more than conquerors”:

  • The centrality of Christ
    Our relationship begins and holds together because of Christ, not our love for God. Romans 8:30 says “And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.” The whole of our salvation reality (some say experience) is the work of Christ- from our predestination, calling, justification and till glorification. It is all God. If any of it were up to us, we’d be in trouble.
  • Christ has conquered so we don’t have to
    When we read “complete victory” and “more than conquerors”, we get a sense of how complete our victory is in Christ. John 16:33 shows us how Jesus sees His reality in our Christian life, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage – I have conquered the world.” God isn’t airy fairy pretending that all is well; He says that we will have “trouble and suffering”. At the same time He says that in Him (not outside of Him) we may have peace and in Him we can have courage (because He has conquered).
  • Our victory is not dependent on health or wealth
    Verse 37 doesn’t say over, after or beyond “all these things”, but in. While we are in trouble, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword, our relationship with God remains unchanged. Our health and wealth or suffering and pain is not a reflection of our relationship with God – if it were, we could write off the whole book of Job. Instead, Christ is our measure of victory and our “abundant life” (John 10:10). If health and wealth were our measure of victory, Christ becomes just a vehicle to attain our version of “abundant life”.
  • God’s love penetrates through circumstance in life
    How else can we convey the good news to those incarcerated for life? How else can we give hope to someone on death row? How else do we bring Christ to the terminally ill? The hope that the gospel offers is not limited to or mainly health and wealth, but it is eternal salvation and union with God. This is true hope, that a person living out a life sentence, on death row or terminally ill can have an abundant life! That abundant life IS Christ.

When Christ becomes useful to us to living the abundant life (health, wealth and success), we have lost the plot. We become less than conquerors, rather than attaining to God’s abundant life in Him, we strive for our abundant life through Him. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there is no difference, because there is. If our measuring stick for life is health, wealth and success, we’ve just made that the gold standard – the summit of life (abundant life/life in full). Instead, His call is to focus on Him and His promise is that He will take care of our needs on earth (Matthew 6:33). We need to raise Jesus up to more than just a vehicle for health, wealth and success. We need to dethrone health, wealth and success and enthrone the treasure of Christ (Matthew 13:44-48; Mark 8:36)!

The wicked prosper

Certainly God is good to Israel,
and to those whose motives are pure!
But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my feet almost slid out from under me.
For I envied those who are proud,
as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
For they suffer no pain;
their bodies are strong and well- fed.
They are immune to the trouble common to men;
they do not suffer as other men do.
Arrogance is their necklace,
and violence their clothing.
Their prosperity causes them to do wrong;
their thoughts are sinful.
They mock and say evil things;
they proudly threaten violence.
They speak as if they rule in heaven,
and lay claim to the earth.
Therefore they have more than enough food to eat,
and even suck up the water of the sea.
They say, “How does God know what we do?
Is the sovereign one aware of what goes on?”
Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like,
those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer.
I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure
and maintained a pure lifestyle.
I suffer all day long,
and am punished every morning.”
If I had publicized these thoughts,
I would have betrayed your loyal followers.
When I tried to make sense of this,
it was troubling to me.
Then I entered the precincts of Gods temple,
and understood the destiny of the wicked.
Surely you put them in slippery places;
you bring them down to ruin.
How desolate they become in a mere moment!
Terrifying judgments make their demise complete!
They are like a dream after one wakes up.
O Lord, when you awake you will despise them.
Yes, my spirit was bitter,
and my insides felt sharp pain.
I was ignorant and lacked insight;
I was as senseless as an animal before you.
But I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me by your wise advice,
and then you will lead me to a position of honor.
Whom do I have in heaven but you?
I desire no one but you on earth.
My flesh and my heart may grow weak,
but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.
Yes, look! Those far from you die;
you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But as for me, Gods presence is all I need.
I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter,
as I declare all the things you have done.
Psalm 73

Psalm 73 is a difficult psalm for many to read and hear. It is the honesty and truthfulness of the psalmist that cuts to the bone. He rightly observes one thing: the wicked prosper and flourish. For many who believe in what we now call prosperity gospel, this is an especially hard thing to swallow.

Just in case we are tempted to deny this fact and imagine this to be something that only happened “in those days”, just look around. Do we escape pain and suffering more than pagans? Are our bank accounts bigger? Do we live in bigger houses, have more children, live longer and more enjoyable lives? No we don’t. If we measured God’s favour and blessing solely by earthly health and wealth, certainly we would lose all credibility as Christians and God would lose all credibility as God. Didn’t God say that we will be blessed if we believe in Him and have faith? Doesn’t God promise that He will provide all our needs? Yes He did. But He maintains sovereignty over all (Psalm 73:28, “I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter”). He need only be fair in His own eyes, not ours. We cannot measure God’s sovereignty by our yard Born in China trailer

Thankfully, God (and the psalmist) doesn’t leave us stuck with this problem. He goes on to reveal a more eternal view.

  • Their enjoyment is only temporal, there is an end to this perceived unfairness (Psalm 73:17,20). But those who are near to God escape destruction in the shelter of His presence (Psalm 73:27-28).
  • The end for them is not sweet, desolation and destruction awaits them (Psalm 73:18-19, 27). Contrasted against the “position of honour” for the one whom God holds (Psalm 73:24).

But this eternal view isn’t the end. What He goes on to is a God centric view. He comes to the conclusion that nothing on earth is more worthy than God. Read what he says here:

Whom do I have in heaven but you?
I desire no one but you on earth.
Psalm 73:25 (See also Psalm 73:23-28)

Consider how God is central to every saving action, not man. God holds the psalmist right hand, therefore the psalmist is continually with Him. God guides with wise advice and will lead him to a position of honour. God protects his heart (unlike the wicked whose heart is corrupted by riches, Psalm 73:7-9) and grants stability. When the psalmist understands God’s redemptive desire and ability, he reassesses his position and declares that God is ALL he needs and ends with “I declare all the things you have done” (Psalm 73:27-28).

Health for the body and soul

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
3 John 1:2

While the rest of the world seems to have gone crazy about healthy living and longevity, the church seems to have been absent entirely from this movement. The Hindus boast Yoga, the Buddhist boast Shaolin Kungfu, the Taoists boast Taichi and Qigong, Christians have taken the stand that spiritual health is more important than physical health (1 Timothy 4:8). I’m not saying that we are inferior or that we need to learn from them, but I do feel like something is missing somewhere.

I do know that there are books such as “What would Jesus eat?” or “The Bible Diet” but I have never heard any preacher stand on the pulpit and say that God wants us to eat right, exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps we feel that it would condemn those in the congregation who are more horizontally gifted, or that the congregation will see it as vanity and glorifying the carnal/flesh, or trying to obtain our own version of eternal life – longevity. Afterall, it is no secret that living healthy does extend your life. God is not shy in saying that longevity is much desired and considered a blessing (Exodus 23:25-26; Deuteronomy 5:33; Psalm 91:6; Proverbs 3:1-2).

So what is the problem here? The problem is that our spiritual health is not opposed to our physical health. In fact, the more healthy we get spiritually, the more healthy we desire to get physically and the more we desire longevity. Our spiritual health is complementary to our physical health and in more ways than one. 

1. Our spiritual health is linked to our physical health supernaturally

Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body 
and nourishment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:7-8

He gives strength to the weary 
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; 
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty…
You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.
Job 5:17, 26

By God’s grand design, good health is a supernatural blessing from God. He is the provider of physical health, not just healing, but health and strength. The Old Testament talks about how fearing the Lord and following His commands will reap the benefit of good health (perhaps because some of the Law deals with hygiene). How that works exactly, I don’t know. But the bible says it does – its supernatural. In the New Testament, a Christian knows that Christ has fufilled the Law on our behalf and thus we expect to reap the benefit of health. It is simply a supernatural effect of accepting Christ.

Note: This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never get sick, fall ill or die, I said we expect. Meaning, while our attitude is that we expect good health, we do not deceive ourselves; we also understand that our flesh is constantly dying.

2. Our spiritual health is linked to our physical health naturally

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (See also Psalm 24:1)

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:2

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Galatians 6:7

Lets face it, our bodies are not our own. God has full ownership over our bodies by means of creation and redemption. He even owns the copyright, what we see in the mirror is the image of His body. The more we grow in spiritual health, the more we understand that we are to be good stewards of all that we have, that includes our physical body. We are all familiar with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). We are also familiar with the Parable of the Shrewed Manager (Luke 16:1-9) – who used what he had now to prepare for what is to come. Should we not take care of His image as best we can?

Consider the importance of our life (and it’s longevity), it is the first gift to each individual even before he or she is capable of understanding the gift of eternal life in Christ. The living has hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6) and has the ability to save souls (Luke 16:19-31), the dead on the other hand has neither. God places a very high premium on human life, there is no equal to human life (Leviticus 24:17). Now if life is so important to God and we want to serve Him effectively for all of our days on earth, why are we trying (consciously or unconsciously) to shorten our life with our lifestyle?

The writing is on the wall, if we sow an unhealthy lifestyle, we reap a short life. It is a natural consequence. If we constantly eat foods that are bad for us and refuse to take care of our bodies with exercise and rest, we reap illnesses that will hinder our effectiveness in ministry.

I preach to myself when I say these things because I am as guilty as anyone else for not taking proper care of this great gift from God. Now, I must prove myself faithful to this health and life I have been given.

The hardest question I suppose is what we intend to do about it. Here are 3 things that we can do right now:

  1. Eat right (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  2. Exercise moderately (Proverbs 31:17; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
  3. Rest well (Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 6:32; John 4:5-6)
  4. Do it all with someone else (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

If it is difficult to get started, get someone to go along with you. If you have difficulty getting someone started, ask them to go along with you. My father is a very wise man, when he wants my mum to get some exercise, he doesn’t scream at her to go walking, he says, “I’m going for a stroll, come with me please?” and he makes it an enjoyable experience by holding her hand, walking around nice places, sometimes even buying a little snack that they can eat when they’ve finished their stroll. Works everytime.

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