Being filled with the Spirit.
3 TESTS PROSPERITY BRINGS
Someone has said, “The unsoundness of a vessel is not seen when it is empty; but when it is filled with water.” This is when you will see if it will leak or not. As hard as you may examine the vessel, you will not truly know its performance until it is filled. Mankind is tested by adversity and by prosperity. Most of us understand how adversity can test us. Often we do not consider how prosperity can try us and our character. We find it difficult to believe that blessings can cause us harm. We fail to recognize that the character of a Christian is not fully discovered until he has been tried by the fullness of success.
Proverbs 10:9 says, “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.” God wants us to use the good things in our lives for His glory. Let me share three tests that prosperity poses to our character:
1. PRAISE OFTEN FINDS PRIDE
As Christians we must remember the Bible’s command to be humble. If we “die to self” daily, as the Apostle Paul instructs us, we will be able to handle the praise that is heaped upon us when we succeed. We must beware when we are praised by men. We may start believing what they say, and pride will creep into our lives. Our lack of character will eventually show on the outside. Some gifted men handle praise very well, others become very egotistical and demanding. We must guard against developing an attitude of superiority rather than servanthood.
2. WEALTH OFTEN FINDS SELFISHNESS
Dr. Lee Roberson used to say, “Millions of dollars have passed through these hands but none of it stuck!” When we become successful because of wealth, we must remember Who gives wealth. We must also be aware of Who gives the wisdom to obtain wealth. Christian character guards against selfishness and continues to give to God and others in need.
3. EDUCATION OFTEN FINDS ARROGANCE
First Corinthians 8:1 says “…we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” We know that knowledge and wisdom are important, but we must exercise caution. Education can lead to unbelief. You can educate yourself to a point that you no longer rely on God for wisdom. You can read the wrong sources or sit at the feet of scoffers and end up denying the God that you believed by faith. Godly character disciplines us to rely on God and His Word to guide us in life matters.
Beware lest the prosperity that you prayed for becomes the great test that you end up dreading because it exposes who you really are! In the Bible, Job did well with this. Joseph and Daniel also handled their success in the right way. King Saul did not fair as well. Nor did Lot or Haman handle praise and success correctly.
John Wooden, the famous UCLA head coach would tell his players: “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” When Christians get in trouble with their reputation (what people think of them), it is the result of a character flaw. Often they respond by blaming others and lashing out at them. They feel sorry for themselves and how they are being treated. Remember, you cannot fix other people. You can fix yourself but that takes character!
As Christians, we need to strive for success. Our strong Christian character needs to stand out to a lost world. The world needs to see Christians who can handle adversity as well as success. Success tests the crucible of our Christian character! Let’s remember who we are and Who brought success our way.
LESSONS FROM THE CHURCH AT CORINTH
In First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to be laborers together: “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). There are many things the first century church had right, but there are many things they did not have right. How quickly the Corinthian church forgot God’s call to go and make disciples of all nations. We forget quickly too! Let’s look at what hindered the church from laboring together:
CHILDISH TRAITS (1 CORINTHIANS 3:1–2)
Here we see the Apostle Paul’s pacifying instruction. He had to speak to them in a childlike way. He desired for them to grow up in a Christian way, but he had to soften the content of his message—from meat to milk. In verse two, Paul indicates that time had passed and these believers should have grown, but they still were not ready for the meat of the Word.
CARNAL THOUGHTS (1 CORINTHIANS 3:3)
In verse three, we find Paul naming their carnal habits—envying, strife, and divisions. He goes on to say they “walk as men.” You could not tell a Christian from an unbeliever. It is a mistake to think a new convert will suddenly act like a mature believer, but the point is that fleshly and worldly living stunts the growth of a Christian.
COMPETITIVE TALK (1 CORINTHIANS 3:4–8)
Competition kills the work of God. When we begin naming names and giving praise, we set up a certain amount of competition among ourselves. The Bible says we should give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7), but we must be careful not to create an environment where people get offended because their name is not mentioned or they are not recognized. God is the One who “gives the increase.”
STEPS TO STOP THESE HINDRANCES
1. Examine your own pace of growth regularly. How is your walk with the Lord? Is it growing or stagnant?
2. Expand your knowledge of the big picture. God gives the increase.
3. Envision your reward at the end of life. Get busy planting and watering God’s harvest. Lay up treasures in Heaven and stop worrying about what everyone else is doing here on earth.
26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
27 And he arose and went:and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away:and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water:and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still:and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more:and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus:and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
After salvation, God calls us to the daunting task of the Great Commission. Many Christians have been very active in this task at some point of their spiritual life, but many stop because of a lack of results.
For us to fully appreciate the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, we must go back and grab some background material from chapter eight. In the beginning verses of chapter eight, we see that a guy named Saul was involved in the persecution of the church at Jerusalem, specifically he was “consenting” to the death of Stephen. Because of this persecution, many Christians began to scatter to other areas. Like good Christians, upon their arrival in other cities, they began to preach Jesus. Philip was one of those who left Jerusalem and began to see a great revival in Samaria locate to the north of Jerusalem. In fact, God was doing such great work in Samaria that the apostles sent Peter and John to Samaria to help according to verse fourteen.
All of this leads us to verse twenty-six and the five characteristics of a Spirit-filled witness:
A Spirit-filled witness follows God’s leading. (vs. 26)
When we consider the great work that God was doing in Samaria through Peter, it makes this trip to the middle of the desert even more astounding. Philip could have said, “God look what is happening here in Samaria, why do I need to go to the middle of the desert?” Sometimes God will lead us in ways that we may never understand. Our job is not to lead God, rather it is follow God’s leading. When the Holy Spirit prompts you to share the Gospel to someone, do not ignore His voice. God may lead you outside your comfort zone or to a place that does not make sense, but He is doing it for your good and His glory.
A Spirit-filled witness cares about the one. (vs. 27-29)
God calls Philip away from an audience that is growing in Samaria to one man in the middle of the desert. In our human minds, this does not make sense. Why leave a city that has begun to listen to God’s Word to go to the desert for one person? What if Philip would have gotten discouraged when he saw one guy? What if he would have gotten frustrated with God or thought about how his soul winning numbers were going to go down?
We do not reach others to gain some holy notch in our belt. We do not reach others to be able to report numbers. We reach others to simply bring them into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ and to see them escape the fire of Hell. Several years ago, someone coined the phrase, “Each one; reach one.” You may not have a job that allows you to stand and speak and see thousands saved, but you can reach a neighbor or co-worker. Reach the one that only you can reach.
A Spirit-filled witness feels a sense of urgency. (vs. 29-30)
After the Holy Spirit showed Philip the one that he had been sent there to reach, Philip wasted no time in verse thirty. When was the last time that “the one” you have been placed in a position to reach forced you into a sense of urgency? When was the last time you felt compelled to share the Gospel with someone because life is short and Jesus is coming soon? We do not have time to waste filling our lives with the temporal. Ask God who “the one” is for you, and run with the Gospel to them.
A Spirit-filled witness prepares for witnessing. (vs. 32-35)
There are some verses in the Bible that absolutely send chills down my back thinking about how great the Gospel is to every creature; verse thirty-five is one of those verses! The Ethiopian had some questions like most who come to faith in Christ. Philip took him from his questions and the Bible says, “he preached unto him Jesus.”
Our culture is asking spiritual questions. Sadly, most Christians today don’t know the answers to the questions and the curiosity of the culture. According to I Peter 3:15, we are to be ready to give an answer.
I Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
The closer we get to the return of Christ, the deeper we must dig into God’s Word to answer questions about our faith. Sooner or later, someone will stump us and we may not be able to run to our top five favorite verses, but we are still commanded to reach people. Begin to prepare for those you are called to reach so that we may take them from their questions to a meeting with Jesus!
A Spirit-filled witness continues to preach the Gospel. (vs. 39)
Following the incredible salvation experience of the Ethiopian eunuch and his willing baptism immediately following, Philip leaves. Philip reached his “one” plus some if we included those in Samaria, but we do not find him in retirement following these salvations. Philip continued in other cities reaching more people.
If we could add a little bit to the phrase,”Each one; reach one,” I think it would have to be something like “Each one; reach one, and another, and another, and another, and another until God calls you home.” Obviously we lose the conciseness of the phrase, but we should have that philosophy. May we never feel that the job is complete because we saw our “one” come Christ. May we feel compelled to go and find another and another and another. Where are the Christians who are praying for God to bring them new people to reach?
I would challenge you to take the time to read Acts 8 and study the distances Philip traveled to see this Ethiopian accept Jesus. It is a miraculous story in that context, but it would have never happened had Philip not been responsive to the leading of God. Today, are you a clear picture of Jesus Christ to the world as a result of your obedience to the Holy Spirit? The world is watching to see how you respond to what God is asking you to do. If you try to have it your way and God’s way, the world sees, but when we are empty and clean of ourselves and the things of this world, we are a clean and clear picture of God’s work in our lives.
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