Don’t Go Down Envy’s Path

Some years back, as our church was studying through the Book of 1 Samuel, we saw the beginning of Saul being gripped by the sin of envy and oh what an ugly picture it was! Envy quickly led Saul down a path of incredible evil. In 1 Samuel 18 we only see the beginning of that slippery slope but even there the malignant poison of jealousy led him to take his spear into his hand and hurl it at David (twice!) even while David’s hands were ministering to him on the harp.

It was nonsensical; David had done him no harm. But that didn’t matter to Saul; all that mattered was removing the person who was stealing potential limelight and adoration. Saul became obsessed. He became relentless. His mental acumen was continually leveraged to devise ways of having David murdered.

I wonder if Saul’s behavior ever made him wonder: “How did I get here?”

Envy is not only problematic because it is a sin against the Lord of glory but also because of where the Scripture shows us it leads.

Cain envied Abel and it lead to murder. Joseph’s brothers envied him and that almost led to murder. Saul envied David and that lead to numerous attempts at murder.

In Acts 5:17 we’re told that the chief priest and Sadducees were filled with jealousy towards the apostles and they persecuted them. Acts 13:45 tells that when the Jews saw Paul and Barnabas preaching to the multitudes in Antioch they were filled with envy and subsequently raised a persecution against them.

Even the Son of God was handed over to be crucified because of envy. In Matthew 27:17 and Mark 15:10 we’re told that Pilate knew it was because of envy that the chief priests handed Jesus over to be crucified.

James calls any logic, or so-called wisdom, that leads to envy devilish (Jas 3:14-15). He goes on to say that where you find envy and selfish ambition you have disorder and every evil practice (vs.16).

Envy goes places that cause damage and destruction and death.

And, even if it’s kept secret, Proverbs tells us, “envy is rottenness to the bones” (Prov 14:30b).

Nobody wins with envy.

But here’s the good news…

Jesus was the victim of envy so you and I could be free from it (Gal 1:4; Titus. 2:14).

So when envy pops up in your mind, in whatever form it takes – envying another person’s success, another person’s possessions, another person’s health, or looks, or abilities, or circumstances, or family, or children – remember where it led King Saul, where it led others, and where others led Jesus. And then, having recognized the intruder, remember that among the reasons for which Jesus died was so that envy would not have dominion over you. Recognize it. Flee from it. And rejoice in Spirit-given power to do both of those things (Rom 6:14).

And finally, by way of practical instruction, don’t envy, instead, love. Love does not envy (1 Cor 13:4). Therefore, when you are tempted to envy someone, overcome the temptation to envy by praying for him or her. Pray that they would be drawn near to Christ. Pray that God would do great works in their life. Pray that God would use them, work in them, and bear fruit through them. Replace envy with prayer that is desirous to see God do good to that person and to see God glorified in that person.

Advice for the Unemployed

Last year, the average length of unemployment in the United States was about 28 weeks. During that time people who are unemployed can experience great anxiety, fear, depression, increased apathy towards working, and a number of other despondent feelings. Thoughts like: “There’s no way out of this”, or “I’ll never find a job like that again”, or “I have no idea how we’re going to make ends meet” can bombard a person’s mind, resulting in a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

One of the reasons for this Daily Teaching is to confront those types of feelings and set them against the backdrop of the unwavering truth: God is in control. For the Christian, everything is working together for their ultimate and eternal good (Rom 8:28). Regardless, of whether or not our circumstances feel good in a given moment, the truth is our circumstances are an opportunity for God to glorify Himself through them and they are not evidence that He has left us to fend for ourselves.

What follows is some Gospel-centered advice for those who may find themselves employed:

1. Assess the situation (Looking Backward). Not everyone who is unemployed got to that point the same way. Some were laid off because a company had to downsize, others may have graduated from college and were not able to find employment, while someone else might have been fired for falling asleep on the job. Depending on what led to the point of unemployment, it would change a person’s immediate reaction. If there were some negligence or irresponsible behavior that led to job loss, repentance is a primary starting point. Upon recognizing, confessing, and apologizing for any wrongs that were done, a person can then begin looking ahead in faith to assess the situation looking forward.

2. Pray. James tells us, “You have not because you ask not” (Jas. 4:2b). If you’re looking for a job, continue to ask God for work. One of the best things that can happen during this season is that God uses this time of unemployment to rekindle your confidence in the fact that He answers prayer. The earnestness of your desire and need can be an impetus to nearer communion with God. If your prayer life before this situation looked like leaving occasional voicemails for someone who you weren’t sure was going to call you back, maybe now you’ll more often bear the excitement and/or appreciation of someone who has been ushered into the presence of the King, allowed an audience with Him, and for however long you desire, you are able to bow and plead your case before the One who loves you and gave His Son for you.

3. Assess the Situation (In the Present). A few years back I saw a statistic that read, ’80 percent of Americans are discontent with their jobs – most have no consistent sense of fulfillment.’ If you were a part of that 80% before you lost your job, recognize the opportunity you now have in light of God’s providence. Perhaps, God will use this time to lead you towards a job doing something you enjoy more and find more fulfilling. During this season it’s good to ask yourself questions like: “What kind of job, or jobs, would I like to have?” Or, “do I have any skills, whereby, I can begin offering a service to people even while I’m in between jobs?”

4. Let finding a job become your full-time job. One of the pitfalls of unemployment is that when a person loses the structure they’ve gotten used to, they can feel overwhelmed by the amount of free time they have. Feeling that way, and without a sense of direction, can be paralyzing. That’s why it’s important to immediately create a schedule. What should happen upon hearing the news of unemployment is that a person should immediately grab a note pad or a calendar or access an excel spreadsheet and begin creating a schedule. Interwoven throughout the schedule should be action steps that one can take in finding a job or seeking work, along with ways of using their time to serve others.

5. Serve in your local church/ Fellowship with other Christians. A few years back the connection between the body of Christ and finding employment was illustrated before my eyes in a series of three ‘praise reports’ that happened in a relatively close period of time. One person went from doing something they didn’t enjoy so much, to working in a Christian school alongside another teacher. Though the days can be long and the demand can be great, so is the reward. In the two other cases, God used two people to help each person get their respective jobs. In one instance, two people helped drive someone to local businesses to see if they were hiring. The first three places said “no” but the fourth hired this individual on the spot. Imagine the excitement as they said to one another, “Wait a minute, they just gave you the job? Right now? Praise God!” And in the other case, one person spoke to another on behalf of the person that was unemployed. It turned out that the second person in the chain of assistance knew a local store manager and introduced the young man to her in the hopes that their business would give him a job. Well, the manager hired the person as a favor, and shortly thereafter, and for the duration of that person’s time there, they performed well and demonstrated that the decision to hire him was a good one.

If you will do these things with a mindset that realizes and embraces that the goal of your life is to glorify God, you can have confidence that you’re being a faithful steward of the time you’ve been given and the season that you are in. If you are Christ’s, remember, you are His and He is your Shepherd. He will lead you where He wants you to go. These steps may seem small, but even if they were, we remember the principle learned in Matthew 25, when the Master commends the faithful steward saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little, I will put you in charge of much more” (Mt 25:23).

Getting Up When You Fall

Often times it is the most zealous of believers that struggle with getting back up after they fall. For them, falling, in whatever form it may take, feels like debilitating failure. They know the holiness of God (1 Pet 1:16); they know the price that Jesus paid for their sins (Acts 20:28); they know how serious evil is (Prov 8:13); and, in light of all that, they can’t believe they made whatever mistake they made.

Some, then, travel on the downward spiral of sin and condemnation. Others put themselves under some kind of undue penance where after 2 or 3 days of going about their business without any kind of noticeable fall they can return to Bible-reading and prayer and fellowship with God. Anything like that mentality almost ensures perpetual failure in that particular struggle because the power of sin is the law (cf. 1 Cor 15:56b). Sin and the law work well together because when our eyes are inappropriately and exorbitantly on ourselves and on our performance they are not focused on Christ and His finished work.

The answer for any Christian in a moment of failure is the same hope that drives the Christian life: grace and faith.

When you fall, if you are a Christian who believes the Gospel, loves Jesus Christ, and hates sin, the first place that you should go is – repentance on the platform of a grace. You tell God that you hate the sin; you acknowledge it (Ps 32:5) and confess it (1 Jn 1:7), but after that, you must swim in the boundless ocean of God’s grace. Where sin abounds grace does much more abound (Rom 5:20). Before you begin focusing on what you have to do right to improve your spiritual performance, you must glory in the grace of the Gospel and the fact that your performance merits you no more love from God and loses you no love from God. There’s forgiveness because payment has already been made. Thus, rather than punishing yourself with perpetual disgust, take your eyes off of yourself and revel in the fact that your ultimate sin-issue has been dealt with. You get to fight the battle against sin from a platform of grace and forgiveness.

Second, you must believe that God will give you victory over whatever that particular sin is (1 Thes 5:24; Jude 24; Gal 3:1-5). You must be convinced that sin will not have dominion over you (Rom 6:14). This does not diminish the necessity of prayer, Bible-reading, and wise practical steps; it simply infers that faith must precede and undergird all of those steps, otherwise the foundation of your pursuit of sanctification will be disciplines and performance rather than believing God’s promises.

Therefore, may you be exhorted today to look down when you fall, and see that the ground on which you stand is the same ground on which you fall and stand upon once again – grace (Rom 5:2).

Why Do The Wicked Prosper?

Many people struggle with this question. Some look at the world and see many people who blaspheme God or covet riches or teach false doctrine or exploit others, accrue wealth, live lives of relative ease, and think, ‘Why are those people so well off?’ For others the thought becomes almost paralyzing. They can’t understand why God would allow such a thing and they, in turn, have a skewed view of who God is in light of what they see. Some, in their misdirected struggle to answer this question, paint with an incredibly broad brush, change the question into a statement and essentially make just about all the prosperous wicked. They say, ‘anyone who is rich is greedy and should [fill in the blank] … give more away or pay more taxes or, once again, [fill in the blank]’. It’s not hard to see how that kind of reasoning not only fails to take into account the godly wealthy of Scripture (i.e. Joseph of Arimethea, Abraham, Lydia, etc.) but it dodges the real issue. The real question is, “Why does God allow the wicked to prosper if He is in sovereign control of all the happenings in this universe?”

You might have thought this question belonged only to those of us who are not Biblically inspired writers, but this was actually the very question the prophet Jeremiah asked the LORD.

“Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” (Jer 12:1)

This was a genuine question; it’s not as though Jeremiah was doing some recreational, philosophical speculating and wanted to simply get God’s thoughts on the matter; rather, he was contending with men from his hometown who sought his life (Jer. 11:18-19) and he was living among a people who could have God ‘on their lips’ and at the same time far from their affections (12:2). He wasn’t sure how to reconcile their wickedness with their wellness.

As an aside, it’s worth noticing how Jeremiah framed the question in a God-honoring way. And even as he asked the question he proclaimed God’s perfection: “Righteous are you, O LORD” (vs.1a). You get the idea that although Jeremiah didn’t understand God’s judgments, he wanted to be sure to let God know that he knew God was altogether righteous. That posture is an immediate lesson in itself. When you have questions about God’s dealings in the world, vocalize those questions with reverence and humility in light of what you already do know about God.

God responded to Jeremiah in, what might be to some, a rather surprising way. He began His response by saying, “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?” (Jer 12:5a). In other words, as attested to by the verses that follow, and without going into an extended Jeremiah devotional, God proclaimed that things were going to get harder. Knowing the greater context of the book of Jeremiah, along with Habakkuk’s similar line of questioning, judgment was going to fall upon Judah and Jerusalem via the wicked and pagan Babylonians. So the prosperous wicked of Judah would soon be judged by the prosperous wicked of Babylon. In that we learn two things: (a) the prosperity of the wicked of Judah was not indefinite, and (b) Babylon’s’ temporary prosperity would only serve to be a means of judging the wicked of Judah.

Beyond that, when looking at the breadth of Scripture, we can see other reasons why the wicked prosper. Though not comprehensive, here are some of those reasons:

1. To demonstrate His grace. God makes His rain fall on the just and unjust (Mt 5:45). He doesn’t have to; it’s unmerited. Human beings, prosperous or not, are by nature and choice sinners who have transgressed the Sovereign God of the universe. The only thing we deserve is judgment; yet, God, in His grace, gives men: additional breaths, jobs, rain, food, laughter, and much more. Those who are prosperous in this age and, yet, still refuse to trust in the person and work of Christ for the forgiveness of sins will have more to be accountable for [materially] in that they were beneficiaries and stewards of more resources.

2. To demonstrate His judgment. The Psalmist Asaph contended with the same kind of question in the 73rd Psalm. He said his foot almost slipped when he was envious of the boastful and saw the prosperity of the wicked (vs.2b-3). He gives a long description of their ease and comfort, and contrasts it with his own feeling of futility, as he presents the ‘problem’ [or ‘apparent contradiction] of God’s goodness and the prosperity of the wicked. But then, as psalms of lament tend to do, the psalm turns and Asaph articulates the breakthrough he had. He said, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me – until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” (vs.16-17). It’s the following verse that is very telling as it relates to the prosperity of wicked: “Surely you set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction” (vs.18). The ease and wealth and security of the wicked was, and is, really just an illusion! It’s a ‘slippery place’ that is in itself, not only an example of grace, but of judgment! Like an icy hill, wealth can increasingly hasten a person’s descent towards divine judgment by distracting their attention away from the brevity of life and the certainty of judgment.

3. To instruct the church. The Scripture depicts the transient nature of the wicked’s prosperity, at least in part, for the instruction and edification of the church (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). It’s as though when the Christian reads about the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel or the destruction of Jerusalem or the prediction of Babylon’s fall, he or she ought to be reminded that the wicked’s prosperity is temporary. Conversely, it should serve as an impetus to store up treasures in Heaven as opposed to Earth. In response to the way the wicked handle prosperity (see Luke 12:13-21) the Christian thinks: ‘I want to reflect the surpassing value of Jesus by not finding my joy in earthly treasures’ or ‘I don’t want to handle whatever prosperity God gives me like they do, I want to leverage it for His glory and His Name’s sake’.

Should you need further encouragement in this matter, let me direct you to the entirety of Psalm 37 and remind you of the glorious ‘prosperity’ freely offered to you in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Embracing Contentment While Trusting God’s Providence (Luke 9:4)

In the opening verses of the ninth chapter of Luke’s Gospel we see Jesus calling, equipping and commissioning His apostles to minister to the cities and towns of Galilee (Lk. 9:1-2). After telling them to basically leave and go only with the things they had in their possession in that moment (vs.3), He told them:

“Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.” (vs.4)

In Matthew’s Gospel we can see some additional caveats and instructions that Jesus gave them. He said that when they entered a city or a town they were to inquire who in it was worthy (Mt. 10:11). This likely meant that (a) they should see who in that town was known for showing kindness and hospitality, and (b) perhaps implicit in the statement of worthiness was the idea that they were to find men and women who were waiting for the kingdom of God.

Back to the text of Luke 9:4, notice, Jesus told them whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. The obvious implication of that command, when joined to Matthew 10:11, is that the disciples were not to go looking for the most comfortable arrangements. They were to take what God providentially afforded them. They were not to go from house to house within a town or a city. They were to stay at one place and depart from there.

Here, implicit in Jesus’ instruction to His apostles is a reminder for us to be content with what God has given us, as well as the providential circumstances that we find ourselves in. Therefore, in light of that, let me give you two exhortations and one quotation from Charles Spurgeon.

First: Resist the temptation to keep thinking about what you don’t have; rather, be thankful for what you do have. Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve had that kind of strategy behind it – ‘Never mind what you have, why can’t you have that fruit?’ He not only twisted God’s Word in his temptation of them but he tried to take their eyes off everything that God had graciously provided for them and get them looking towards the one tree that was off limits. May you and I resist similar temptations and destroy discontentment with thanksgiving.

Second: Believe that God has given you everything you need to be happy in Him.  You may want circumstances to change; you may be waiting for God to open a specific door in your life; you may be hoping for a breakthrough in your circumstances; and all of that may be perfectly fine, but it must not cloud the reality that, if you are a Christian, you have everything you need in any given moment to be happy in God… because you have God. The Holy Spirit lives inside of you. With Him you have everything; and without Him you have nothing.

Third: A Spurgeon quotation: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”[1] Besides the practical wisdom of this quote is the underlying idea that we should not seek satisfaction in things. We must know our fallen frames well enough to say, “My real issue is not stuff; my problem is that I’m putting way too much confidence in the satisfaction that stuff might bring me when I should be looking to God for my satisfaction.” Stuff (as we’re using the term) can be fine when put in its proper place. It’s when we elevate its ‘pleasure-providing potential’ to a pedestal it should not be on that we deceive ourselves and take our eyes off of where true satisfaction is to be found.


[1] Charles Spurgeon, The Bed and Its Covering. (seehttp://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0244.htm)

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