Over twenty years ago, my wife and I were participating in a Bible study small group, our first as a married couple. In fact, the entire group was composed of couples who had all married within the last two years. The leader, also a newlywed, felt it would be a good idea for married couples in the same stage of life to share their prayer concerns to support one another during this sometimes awkward transition of two lives merging as one.
The sessions were quite intimate as all of the members resolved to be as transparent about their struggles with one another. During one session, the discussion focused upon seeking a balance between work and marriage. As I listened to the discussion that analyzed how God honors our desire to faithfully serve Him by integrating these often time-competing activities, I reflected upon my prior five years. I decided to share my opinion, one that bordered on arrogance. “You know, I once thought there was no direct connection between our walk with God and spiritual blessings.” Several group members shifted uncomfortably and the leader asked me to clarify my statement.
“During the first years of my career, I was completely focused upon my professional success. I sacrificed everything to obtain it and as I pursued this goal, I turned my back on God. There were months that I did not pray or attend church, but my career did prosper.” There was an uncomfortable silence as the group digested my confession. The leader spoke again. “So you concluded that there was no connection between your walk with God and spiritual blessings?”
“That’s what I was beginning to think, but I was fooling myself. I was involved in several failed relationships. I was estranged from my father. Even some friends pulled me aside and asked me why did I have so much hostility. It was very humiliating.” I looked at the other couples, many of whom were now intently looking at the floor in front of them. “As my professional successes grew, my personal losses accelerated.”
“So perhaps there is a connection?” The leader cautiously suggested.
“Yes.” I sighed. “Perhaps there is.”
Even a God-given success is not necessarily proof that God is granting a person favor in His sight. The Book of Judges shockingly documents this principle. Familiar judges like Gideon and Samson were blessed by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit. They delivered Israel from their oppressors and enemies, yet after their successes, they fell victim to their sins. Gideon had many wives and concubines, giving birth to one of his sons, Abimelech, who killed his seventy brothers who were the other children of Gideon. Samson was prone to fits of prideful childish behavior and lusted after many women. In one fit of anger, he retaliated against the Philistines with a malicious action.
So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards.
Judges 15:4-5 (ESV)
Very godly behavior, indeed. Was God approving of this? I highly doubt it but God still allowed it to happen. In spite of Samson’s boorish actions, God continued to bless Samson as a judge and deliverer of Israel. Yet, Samson’s many faults and sinful behavior eventually led to his capture by the Philistines and eventual death.
During those years when my life was in chaos and rebellion, my professional career did prosper, but at what cost? I sacrificed many relationships including my walk with God. Finally, things reached a tipping point and God, in His great mercy, brought me to my knees in sobbing confession that I had sinned against Him and so many others. It was a searing lesson that even a God-given success is not necessarily proof that God is granting a person favor in His sight. God works His will through flawed and sinful individuals, like me.
Why would God do this? Like a parent dealing with a rebellious child, God’s compassion and love know no limits. He sometimes allows blessings to continue in a person’s life in spite of their behavior. I pushed God aside but God never let go of me.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.