The Reminder

The Reminder

Volume XXXVIII, #27: The Challenge of Abundance

“I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:12)

WOULD YOU RATHER LIVE IN A LAND OF ABUNDANCE OR ONE OF SCARCITY? Would you rather have most of what you want in life or little of what you want? To a worldly person, the question would be simply ridiculous, but think twice before you answer, and try to be honest about what your priorities really are.

Maybe we could start by totaling up the disadvantages on both sides. The disadvantages of having little are obvious — perhaps painfully so — but the disadvantages of having much are just as real, even if they aren’t so obvious. Having all, or even most, of what we want can destroy us spiritually if we don’t face frankly the principal problem that goes along with satisfied circumstances: the fact that it is much harder to keep God in the right place in our hearts.

Most people assume that being poor is hard and being rich is easy, but Paul said that he had to learn how “both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Probably more people have been hurt by satisfaction than by dissatisfaction, but neither scenario is easy or automatic — both take learning and discipline before we can handle them and not be harmed spiritually.

Now you may say that if you had to choose between the problems of being full and those of being empty, there would be no contest: you’d choose the challenge of abundance. And truthfully, most of us would. That’s why we have so little patience with successful people who complain about the disadvantages of their success — for example, celebrities who whine about not having any privacy. We just want to say, “As problems go, that one compares pretty favorably to some others. Why don’t you just grow up and get used to the difficulties of having gotten what you wanted?”

But what about us? If God would let us have the kind of life that we want, all of our problems would be over, wouldn’t they? No, they wouldn’t. If we ever got what we wanted in this life, we would soon find ourselves faced with challenges we never knew existed before. In this broken world, having what we want is not easy. So if you find yourself “abounding,” watch out.

“The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult” (Winston Churchill)