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.