“Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him” (Eccl. 7:13-14).
From the first time I understood these verses it gave me both comfort and dismay. The dismay came from the realization that days of goodness and prosperity will not last. Actually, that point alone is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that the day of prosperity will end; the good news is that the day of adversity will also end. But it is disconcerting to know that the good health I presently enjoy will end. The precious relationship I have with my wife will some day end with the death of one of us. Nothing is really secure in our life under the sun. Whether it is our careers, our families, our homes, or even our relationships with friends and brethren, anything can change so that what we previously knew as a day of prosperity can suddenly become a day of adversity.
That is not a pleasant thought, is it? But fortunately, it is not the final word on the subject. “In the day of adversity consider…” Consider what? “God has made one as well as the other…” Look at that. “God has made…” God does not make bad things! God makes things for good purposes. While we might think it would be good for the days of prosperity to go on till the end of our lives, God knows it would not be best for us. If there were always days of prosperity, we would get lifted up with pride. We would think we were in control. We would think that it was because of our goodness and righteousness that life was so prosperous for us. We would end up trusting in ourselves so that we would not look forward to heaven. Thank God for crooked things! Now we are able to better understand the Lord’s answer to Paul’s request to remove his thorn: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s conclusion perfectly summarizes how we ought to face the crookedness of life: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Thank God for crooked things.
In the Day of Prosperity Be Joyful
Who doesn’t love the day of prosperity? “Prosperity” in this text does not simply mean wealth. It is the time in life when most things are going well; our health is good, our relationships are sweet, and tragedy seems far away. It is a wonderful time. It is a time that God has made. So what are we to do in those times? Be joyful! That may seem easy enough, but for most of the world it is not easy at all.
Some fail in the day of prosperity because it causes them to forget God. What need do I have of God when I have so much? Men and women begin to think that their prosperity is a result of their superior wisdom and the skillful work of their hands. But God said to Israel, “You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:18).
Others struggle with the day of prosperity because they always want more. They are never satisfied even with the prosperity God has given. I was told once that J. P. Morgan was asked how much money was enough, and his reply was, “Just a little bit more.” Indeed, the wise man said, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver” (Eccl. 5:10).
Still others do not rejoice in the day of prosperity because they are always fearful of losing what they have gained. Ecclesiastes 5:12 states, “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.”
It is only the true disciple of the Lord who can rejoice in the day of prosperity. We know that these days are a precious gift from God; a gift that one day will be gone. But the Lord’s disciples also know that they can “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4) whether it is a time of prosperity or a time of adversity. We do not put our trust in the ups and downs of life. Our trust is in God who will bring us through the good times and bad, and one day will bring us to live with Him in that great eternal home. So the answer is, in the good times rejoice and in the bad times consider, God has made both so that we will understand we are not in control. Only He is in control. Therefore, we must “set our minds on things above, not on things of this earth” (Col. 3:2).
As we begin 2014, we do not know what lies ahead. Will it be a year of prosperity or a year of adversity? For some, the year will bring hardship and tragedy. For others, it will be a time of births, a time of love, and a time to build. But for the child of God, it will not matter. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). “Be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6).
For the editors of Focus Online, we wish you a year in which God is glorified through you whether it is a day of prosperity or a day of adversity. May God bless you.