Job was one Old Testament example of someone who, despite being godly, experienced great suffering and lost his health and wealth. Today I’m going to look at a New Testament example – that of the apostle Paul. No-one would deny Paul was a godly man greatly used by God, as he spread the gospel message to the Gentiles. But did God bless him with good health, and wealth? A look at several passages will reveal the answer to this.
Could anyone say because he was God’s servant Paul got everything easy? Have a look at 2 Corinthians 11:24-33. This shows Paul’s life was anything but one of ease and comfort. As he sought to serve God, he was subjected to great hardship. Paul and the other apostles did not have all this world’s goods as he makes clear in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13.
As for Paul’s health, he admits to having what he refers to as ‘a thorn in the flesh,’ 2 Corinthians 12:7, which he implored the Lord to take from him. The Lord did not. Are we to conclude therefore that Paul’s faith was lacking? Or that he was not godly enough to have his prayers answered? I don’t think so. Paul recognized that God had a purpose in his illness.
If Paul was not healed through prayer, why should we expect that God will heal all believers? Again, it comes down this concept of trying to put God in a box and tell Him what He should or shouldn’t do. God alone knows what will best serve His purposes. God knew by leaving Paul’s thorn with him, he would have to rely on God to get him through, not on himself, 1 Corinthians 12:9. Paul was wise enough to recognize God’s hand and leave the decision of how to deal with this problem to God.
A friend of mine prayed for her husband, when he had leukemia. She had faith and prayed believing God would answer. He did. But not in the way she expected. God allowed her husband to go though the experience of leukemia which ultimately led to his death. However in his illness, he drew closer to God and touched many lives with his faith and trust in God. My friend wrote about how God used this suffering and pain for his purposes in Footprints magazine. So we can see that God does not always heal. But he does know what best achieves His purposes and the best outcome for many.
Does God want us to be wealthy? I knew another Christian who had lost everything in Cyclone Tracy back in 1974. Was it because she was not godly or did not have enough faith? Neither could have been further from the truth. She was one of the most faithful and godly women I knew but her life had been a series of hassles, struggle and disasters that left her far from wealthy by worldly standards. Sometimes she struggled from one pay day to the next to put food on the table and clothe family but she never relinquished her faith in God.
And what about those in places like Africa where they have little in the way of material possessions and wealth. Yet churches in Africa are growing at rates that make those of us in the western world look sick by comparison. A lady at our home bible study the other night told us about a missionary from Africa they met. For years they kept in contact and he talked about the amazing way the church was growing-The congregation was in the thousands. Then one day he casually dropped the comment that they hoped to get a roof for their church soon. Was this church materially wealthy? No. Was it spiritually wealthy? Yes.
So it is obvious we cannot always equate material wealth with spiritual wealth and godliness. In fact quite the opposite may be true as in Revelation 3:14-22 and the church in Laodicea, who boasted they were rich but in actual fact were rebuked for their lukewarm faith. It’s a warning to all of us as well.
Bible references from the New American Standard Version
Please Visit These Related Blogs