In a perfect world, it would be nice to think that if we went to Church faithfully, prayed daily and had a regular commitment to confession, all would be well the majority of the time. The truth is; thought we might well have these habits in hand, it’s not that simple. In our modern world comfort and convenience are king, life goals. If we achieve those, we tend to believe that we are doing things right. The other day I was speaking with a young friend who was having some “work distress”. After great effort to attain a law degree and getting an amazingly well salaried job she was miffed to find out that it wasn’t all perfect all of the time! “I thought that I would graduate, get a job and then live the rest of my life with no problems.” Oh my! I guess you could call that wishful thinking and I guess that we all fall into that trap from time to time. One of the things that it is important to realize as we proceed on “the journey” is that it’s not about us! As a matter of fact, in the life of a believer, it’s all about Him. When the lepers were healed and the lowly Samaritan returned with gratitude (Luke 17), he was the only one of them that “got it”. The others literally turned their back on Jesus as they departed in their “comfort” perhaps thinking that they deserved this after all. In the long run, the other nine were probably in a more precarious position, spiritually, than before they were healed. Their lack of gratitude put them in a position where they were even more vulnerable to attacks of the enemy than before their healing. Their attitudes were a direct co-operation with the enemy! That’s the wisdom of the scripture that teaches us if we sweep our house clean to rid a demon, we can expect the spirit to return and bring seven others with him to occupy the empty space, leaving the person worse off than they were before (Mt. 12:43-45).
So we have to be careful about what measuring stick we use in order to keep an eye on our progress as Christians in the world. If we use unreliable parameters we can easily wind up going backwards rather than forwards as the Lord’s agents in this material world. That’s one of the most problematic things in the “Gospel of Prosperity” that we sometimes hear evangelists preach. It is, quite simply, a false doctrine not to mention an unreliable measure! St. Leo the Great (†461, Doctor of the Church) had a very clear understanding of this concept over fifteen hundred years ago: “After the public attacks of the wicked ones cease and the devil restrains himself from the slaughter and torture of the faithful, lest by the intensity of his cruelties there be a manifold increase of our triumphs, the raging adversary turns his bloodthirsty hatred to quiet treachery and those he could not overcome with hunger and cold, with sword and fire, he will wear out with an easy life, he will snare with willfulness, inflame with ambition and corrupt with luxury.”
We must be very careful not to equate prosperity with mature spirituality. One does not garner the other. Make no mistake, though, the Lord can choose to gift us with anything he wishes like his servant Job. However, we need to not rest on our laurels and mistake the fact that we have “stuff” as an indication that we have grown in our spiritual walk. I know many desperately poor people who are far more spiritual than others I have met. In the long run, it’s really a matter of developing a perspective that can inform us rather than blind us. Achievement is one thing that we all strive for, it’s part of human nature and not necessarily a bad thing. However, the period after successful achievement is a time that can prove to be more dangerous than when we were in the struggle. That is the time when we feel like we have no more to do because we have accomplished something. It’s when we have successfully “cleaned house” and a time when we think that no more work is necessary. It can be a dangerous time because we are not paying attention to the circumstances around us. We must be careful not to assume that because we have achieved a major accomplishment we are no longer in a precarious position. If we examine Pope Leo’s quote a little closer we see that even he mentions the “strategy” of the devil; The Evil one begs off of too much violence lest it bring a flood of good works to combat him. Our senses seem to be sharper in the heat of the battle.
This is in no way meant to discourage the concept of working hard to accomplish a great goal. That exercise in itself is a particular formation that can’t be gained any other way. It is a reminder, however, that when we have had success, the game changes. The things that are aimed at our weaknesses are no longer the same and we need to become keenly aware of that. So when you have achieved some measure of comfort in a struggle be smart enough, spiritually, to scan the landscape for changes that could be a “different twist” in the pathway that could lead you to a spiritual rough ride. Do not make the error of assuming that because you have attained a goal the struggle is over. It’s never over, it just changes form. The devil is a shape shifter who can insert himself into any situation bad or good. As warriors for the lord this fact of spiritual warfare is neither here nor there. It is simply a fact of spiritual life. As we become more accomplished in life we have more to teach, more to share, more to give to those who are still struggling to mature. This is a good thing and we have all the tools we need to help pass on our wisdom in our walk with the Lord. The one mistake that it all too easy to make is our attitude and assuming that we have no more work to do or struggles to undergo. Don’t mistake a level of comfort for the place where you have time off from the battle or don’t need to pay attention. That would be a mistake which nullifies all of your previous good work. Co-operate knowingly with the Father, not unknowingly with the enemy!
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Copyright© 2010, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
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