Question from an email friend:

>As someone who knows the spiritual battle we are in, how do you personally balance ministry, your relationship with God, enjoying life and the things of this world that aren’t “bad.”

This question comes from a committed Christian who wonders how much we can enjoy the things of this world without becoming worldly. Where is the line between old-order Mennonites or Amish who shun modern conveniences like electricity and gas powered engines, and the prosperity gospel advocates who believe that God wants to give us the riches of this world for our enjoyment. That has been an issue in Pentecostal circles for years. The older Pentecostals were very ascetic and didn’t wear makeup, and wore little or no jewelry. The advent of television and multi-media ministries has spawned a new generation of Pentecostals who do just the opposite (Recall the early years of Jim and Tammy Baker).

Paul rejoiced in the Lord that the church in Philippi was concerned for his needs, but only lacked the opportunity to come to his aid. He said, “Not that I speak from want, for I learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both in having abundance and suffering” (Phil. 4:11,12). Well! What is his secret? Is it the next verse? “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Notice the preceding context. Paul had overcome his anxieties (verse 6) and discovered the peace of God (verse 7) by turning to Him and choosing to think upon that which is true, lovely and right (verse 8), and finally by living it out (verse 9).

Notice the larger context. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (vss. 4,5). The fleeting riches of this world can bring momentary happiness, but happy are those who want what they have. Paul knew what he had in Christ. The joy of the Lord was his strength, and that will “always” be with him. More on this tomorrow and the next day.

Dr. Neil

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