The test of insignificance

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With today’s get rich quick thinking and rush for instant gratification, people sometimes overlook the way God prepares them for success.

Make no doubt, God wants his people to be successful. It is mentioned many times in the Bible. For example:

  • The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. – Deuteronomy 30:9b-10
  • Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. – Joshua 1:8
  • If you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be. – Job 8:6-7
  • Walk in obedience to all that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess. – Deuteronomy 5:33
  • One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. – Proverbs 11:24-25

Unlike the prosperity Gospel, which promises riches, wealth and fame simply because people name it and claim it, the reality is that prosperity comes disguised as work – often hard work – and also requires obedience.

Prosperity is often evidence of God’s blessing, and I could write a whole column on that alone. But, the blessing does not comes instantly, but is actually the culmination of a lifetime of making the right decisions.

God is always testing us. He does so not to set us up to fail so that he can punish us, rather he does so to make sure we can handle prosperity when it arrives.

If money just fell into our laps, many times it would ruin us. Just look at the lives of lottery winners and Hollywood stars for evidence of that.

When we volunteer to follow God, he will put us in situations where we can demonstrate that we can handle the assignment, and the reward that comes with it. They often appears as insignificant tests, but God is checking to see if we are obedient to his ways, or if we are willing to revert to selfishness or take shortcuts.

We know we are being tested when we are asked to do something we do not want to do, when we do not want to do it.

As a teen, I worked at McDonald’s, which was probably the best job for me at the time. I was given responsibility in small doses, and rewarded when I consistently exceeded the expectation of my managers.

Cleaning bathrooms is not a fun job, but I did it – very well, I might add. Soon, more responsibility was hoisted upon me until I became a manager trainee handling tens of thousands of dollars in cash and products. I even had a key to open and close the million-dollar restaurant when I was 17 years old.

I had privileges few of my peers enjoyed, but I had more responsibility, too. I was faithful in the insignificant tasks, and rewarded with more significant assignments and rewards.

This applies to adulthood as well. Do you intentionally fudge an expense report or tax form? If so, chances are good that you’ll fudge the big numbers, too. So, God won’t risk rewarding you until you can demonstrate the ability to handle it.

One of my all-time favorite movies is called the Ultimate Life and it stars James Garner as Red Stevens, a very wealthy business owner, who had died and was being buried as the movie started. His grandson, Jason, was a spoiled rich kid with no responsibility, no conscience and no propensity to work.

Red wanted to pass on his multi-billion-dollar fortune to an heir who he knew wouldn’t squander it. Red really wanted Jason to have the inheritance, but he had to prove he could handle it first. So, Red wrote into his will a series of character tests for Jason to pass – each step opening the door to more responsibility and more opportunity and more reward.

Do you complain about your job, especially to coworkers and subordinates? Then you’re working to disqualify yourself for a promotion. Do you sulk when given an assignment that is not in your job description, and may not utilize your skill or talent in any way? Your response may indicate your ability to handle more.

In the Bible, David was anointed king of Israel as a teenager. Was he ready? Not yet.

Although he had proven himself as faithful by fending off a lion and bear when watching his father’s flock of sheep, David still had to be tested with increasing amounts of responsibility.

How about Jacob’s son, Joseph? His brothers sold him into slavery and told their father that he had been killed by a wild animal.

Eventually, Joseph wound up being sold to an Egyptian official. He prospered in every assignment he was given until Joseph was actually running the official’s household.

After the official’s wife wrongfully accused Joseph of inappropriate conduct, he was thrown in jail. But, he didn’t grumble and went on to perform well in every job given to him until he was eventually put in charge of the jail – as a prisoner.

Later, through a chance encounter with Pharaoh, Joseph was eventually put in charge of everything in Egypt. He was second in authority to Pharaoh himself and one of the wealthiest, most respected men in the world.

It took time. It always does. Proverbs 10:22 promises that the blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow to it.

Prosperity without pain. It sounds wonderful. But many people forget the painful, often arduous little steps along the way that prepared the recipient to receive prosperity.

In Matthew 25, Jesus explained the parable of the bags of gold. Three people were entrusted with their master’s wealth before he left on a long journey. One person received five bags of gold, another two, and another just one bag.

The people who received multiple bags of gold went to work and doubled the master’s assets for which the master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

The person receiving just one bag did nothing with the responsibility given him. Perhaps he felt sorry for himself or thought he had been mistreated or passed over. So, he buried the gold and walked away. After learning what the servant had done with his menial task, the master scolded him.

“You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned, I would have received it back with interest. So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.”

Jesus closed the parable with this warning, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

The test for significance always comes through our response to the insignificant matters put before us.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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