Most of the tests which come into the life of the believer come from Satan. He comes to "kill, steal, and destroy" (John 10:10). He is "the accuser of the brethren" (Revelation 12:10). He tries to sift us "as wheat" (Luke 22:31). And he walks among believers "as a roaring lion...seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
However, not all testing comes from Satan. God also tests us - but unlike Satan who tests us with evil, God tests us with good things. In fact, every blessing of God comes with an accompanying test. With every good and perfect gift, God asks us, "Will you still seek Me and not the gift?" In everything, God wants to have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18).
Many Christians have passed Satan's tests and trials - they have overcome evil circumstances, gossip, sickness, and financial disaster - but then have failed God's test of prosperity. Sadly, these believers serve God when the circumstances are difficult, but desert Him when life is good. Once their bank account is full, their bills are paid, and their family is healthy and filled with joy, they stop reading and meditating on the Word, their church attendance drops off, and they are no longer in active Christian service.
Excuses or Reasons?
Jesus ran into many people who followed Him only until their need was met. He saw them fall away as soon as the pressure of need was gone. They treated Him - and His Word - like a magic genie: after Jesus granted them their three wishes, they figured He would disappear and leave them alone. Once their need was met, they lost their motive for serving the Lord.
In the following parable, Jesus challenged both His disciples - and us - to keep our motives pure and our priorities focused on Him:
"Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses." (Luke 14-18a)
This story anticipates the coming of the Church Age and the local church. Jesus knew the dedication of His disciples would one day be demonstrated by their consecration and faithfulness to their local church. The same proof of our dedication to the Lord is demanded today by our faithfulness to attend our local church and our willingness to become involved in the work of God.
In this parable, the man who made the great supper is the pastor of the local church. Each time the church doors open, the invitation goes out to call those to come and eat of the great meal which has been prepared.
The ones who were invited to this supper had always come before - but this time, they offered excuses. Now, there may be a reason why you cannot come to church, but there is no excuse. A reason is the truth, while an excuse is a lie, a facade to cover the truth. A person who makes excuses never accepts personal responsibility, but always puts the blame on someone or something else. The Bible tells us that everyone who was invited to this feast began to make excuses.
"The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’" (Luke 14:18b-20)
The first two men had financial excuses. One said he could not come because he had to inspect a piece of ground he had purchased. The other said he had to go and try out some new oxen he had bought. Let me ask you a question: What kind of idiot buys a piece of property and then looks at it? What kind of idiot buys oxen and then tries them out? Everyone knows you need to inspect and prove before you buy! These were excuses, designed to cover the truth, blame the circumstances, and deny personal responsibility.
How did these men become prosperous enough to buy the land and oxen? These blessings came from God through His Word, from the spiritual meals served by their pastor every week.
These men, apparently, came to church because of great financial problems. The Lord was gracious to meet these need, and buy better equipment. But now their priorities have changed. They are busy with their possessions and are no longer interested in the things of God. They never had a great love for the Lord. He was there to meet needs and grant desires, but never to be loved and served.
Notice, these men had to be hunted down to discover their excuses. When people leave church because of a change in their priorities, they rarely tell anyone - they just leave. When you finally see them on the street or in the mall, they give you many excuses why the church and the Lord are not so important anymore.
The third man in this story excused himself because of his new wife. While this man was single, he was very dedicated to serving the Lord and active in local church. God was his top priority - until he discovered a mate. Now, instead of being involved, coming to church early, and studying God's Word, he spends all his time with his new wife, occupied with the trivial details of life instead with the Giver of life.
There must always be a pressure in our lives, pushing us to serve God. God's desire is to see that pressure, that drive toward godliness, move from the outside to the inside, from external circumstances to internal desire. In other words, God eventually wants us to serve Him because we want to, not because we have to. This is one major reason why God meets our needs and gives us abundance: He wants to test and prove our motives.
What is our motive for serving God? Let it be a heart of gratitude and love. Let the motive of love far exceed the motive of need.
A Godly Warning
Moses warned the Israelites about the snares of prosperity before they entered Canaan. He told them of hills filled with copper, gold, and silver. He told them of rich soil which would grow large crops with little effort. He also told them of the God Who would give them the great prosperity of the land after their time of fighting was over. They would live in houses they had not built and have such wealth they would become the envy of other nations around.
But Moses knew the time for the Israelites to dedicate themselves to the Lord - and to make a strong commitment to Him - was before the prosperity came.
"Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’
“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day." (Deuteronomy 8:11-18)
Only pride and arrogance could cause us to give ourselves credit for something God did. God's desire is for us to remain dedicated to Him, even after we are blessed. It gives God joy when we, His children, worship Him, even when we have no pressing needs.
Passing the Test
The greatest worship comes from a heart of gratitude and love, not a life of need. God wants to meet our needs, so we can become true worshipers of Him. His ultimate test for us will be to see if, when our needs are met, our love for Him will be sufficient motivation for us to remain faithful and worship Him with our whole hearts. When we do that, we will have passed hardest test in the Christian life - the prosperity test.