ADVERSITY AND PROSPERITY
M. J. Jacob
I can never forget the two perplexing questions I have encountered in my life; nor can I forget the painful incidents that prompted those questions. One was from a co-worker, a Hindu station master, “At the tail-end of your life, your God took away your breadwinner (my 24 year old son). Is not your God cruel?” The other question was from my youngest son, Biju, when he and the others brought home the body of our eldest daughter Jessie, three years ago.
Jessie paid a short visit to us in Tiruchirapalli, from Canada, with her husband and two children. After spending a couple of days with us, they left for Kerala by car, accompanied by Biju. On their return trip they met with a major accident on the highway near Madurai. Jessie succumbed to her injuries and, after a post mortem, her body was brought home. With tears in his eyes, having witnessed a series of tragedies in the family, Biju asked his heart-broken father, “Pappa, why are these mishaps only in the Jacobs family?” Plunged in the darkness of painful grief myself, I could not answer his question.
Today, if I get an opportunity to meet my Hindu friend, I have a definite answer to the question he asked me 36 years ago. My God is not cruel. He is our loving Father. My God never makes mistakes. He permits adverse circumstances in my life to make me better, not bitter. Through the tragedies of life He uses me for His glory as a helper and comforter to the needy souls. In my advanced age, I am one of the happiest people in this world.
As regards my son Biju’s question, I know he has found the answer in the wonderful interventions of God in his father’s life. He is learning that it is not material prosperity that makes a man, but how he responds to the adversities he encounters that makes or breaks him. I can honestly say that it is through a stormy path, not a bed of roses, that my Lord elevated me. I was blind, now I see. I am amazed how my God selected this imperfect and immature ‘baby’ (that’s what my parents called me!) and trained me to accomplish His purpose in my life!
Life will have a different perspective when we learn that it is the tragedies of life, not the triumphs, that God uses to make His children strong in the ‘inner man’. Had God prospered me in material things, I would probably have not tasted the richness and sweetness of the life in Christ which I enjoy at present. I have learnt that adversity is a pruning process in God’s children. It is very sad to see many in Christendom today being led away from this truth by the preaching of the ‘prosperity gospel’. Prosperity often leads to calamity, as we read the media reporting suicides of the rich and famous with more frequency.
Just look at the life of Jesus as recorded in the gospels. Before the Lord commenced His ministry, Satan tempted Him to acquire the kingdoms of the world and their splendour and become world famous. Jesus did not fall for it; He obeyed His Father and chose the adversities of this life. The result of His obedience even to the point of excruciating pain and death on the cross is salvation of humanity. Not only that, God the Father gave Him the highest honour of being seated at His right hand in eternal glory (Heb.12:2).
Look at the life of Paul. Like his Master, he chose a life of suffering. He learned that it is through suffering that we enter into the glorious kingdom. His epistles abound with testimonies about the ‘fellowship of the sufferings of Christ’, even conformity to His death. “Always bearing about in the body, the dying of Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered into death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you” (2Cor.4:8-12).
Andrew Murray has said, “If we want fully to experience Christ within us, in our body, and in our work for others, it will depend upon our fellowship in His sufferings and death” (Inner Chamber).
Fanny Crosby lost her eyesight when she was an infant. She accepted this adversity as God’s gift. It is amazing how our Lord used her for His glory by bringing light and life to thousands. She was one of the few joyful persons in the world. Once a preacher told her, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight.” She replied, “Do you know, if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind… because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of the Saviour.” She wrote over 9000 hymns. Our adversities and problems look so different in the light of eternity! “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2Cor.4:17).
C. H. Spurgeon says, “There are people who love God only because He prospers them. They love the table, but not the host. They love the cupboard, but not the master of the house. True Christians anticipate enduring adversity in this life. The promise of the old covenant was prosperity, but the promise of the new covenant is adversity. Remember Christ’s words, ‘Every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will bear more fruit’ (Jn.15:2). As we produce more fruits, God will reveal to us the certitude of our prosperous life in heaven.”
Dear child of God, if God permits adversity in your life, don’t be disheartened. Draw nearer to the Master. Share with Him your sufferings, the agony and the pain. Accept the way He is leading you through your suffering, and you will find solace to your heart. God is accomplishing His eternal purpose in moulding you as a vessel fit for the Master’s use.
“Though we may be storm-tossed and bent by the spirit of adversity, we need not be crushed and broken, if our souls are anchored to the Rock of Ages.”