Thursday, October 24, 2013

Proverbs 27:21 Success is tough!

The final verse we’ll be looking at in Proverbs 27 is a simple one, but it caught my eye:

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,

    and a man is tested by his praise. (Proverbs 27:21)

The analogy of being tested in the fire is used often in the Scriptures.

“...And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” (Zechariah 13:9)

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. (1 Corinthians 3:12-13)

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. (Malachi 3:3)

We are used to hearing that our trials are meant to refine us. God allows us to experience them in order that when we have come through, we might be more like him, shining like gold and reflecting His glory. So we tend to think of that testing coming from some major trial. But today’s verse indicates that sometimes, even more intense than a test of fire (failure, rejection, financial loss, hardship, illness, etc), is the test of praise and success!

When we experience a taste of success, when people are praising us for our accomplishments, when we get the promotion and the accolades, we are especially vulnerable to a fall, because we are tempted to be prideful! We may think that our victories and fame are the result of our own strengths and abilities. We might think, “My business is so successful because I am a talented entrepreneur, and my ideas are so creative!” Or we may reason, “My leadership skills have naturally brought me to this position.”

The reality is that our only strength is in our weakness. Because, when we are weak, and know it, we need to rely on God’s strength - and then we truly are strong! It’s in humbly admitting we cannot do it on our own, when we are actually overwhelmed by the odds against our success, that God displays Himself best on our behalf.

Paul affirmed this in one of my favorite passages:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

The LORD has been speaking to me so loudly about learning to appreciate and even exult in my own weaknesses. We are currently studying Gideon in our women’s Bible study, and the message has been that God wants us to be in places where only He can get the glory for results.

You may recall that, in the book of Judges (ch.6-8), Gideon went to battle the Midianites, the enemy of the Israelites, taking 32,000 troops with him to face more than 135,000 enemy troops. God made him whittle down the forces to the point that he ended up with only 300 men, because God did not want the Israelites to think that a victory was accomplished by their strength. Sure enough, God miraculously gave the Midianites over to Gideon and his men. A great reminder that our battles, as well as our victories, are the LORD’s!

So, whatever God calls us to do - no matter how huge the obstacles seem, or how unqualified we appear to be - we do not need to fret, because God will receive glory from our weakness as His strength is made evident through us. I needed to be reminded of that. How about you?  

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