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Wednesday, July 22

The PROSPEROUS SOUL "Are you 'Well done' or half-baked?"

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 2)
  Do you realize that God's Holy Word tells us that one of the tribes of the nation of Israel was half-baked? Hosea, one of God's preachers of the Old Testament, said, "Ephraim is a cake not turned." (Hosea 7:8) What does he mean by that? If you don't understand the meaning, could the same thing be said about you? Well, let's see if we can shed some light on this matter.

       Let's take a look at what God's Word says to us in the letter of 3 John 2, "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." God's number one wish for us is that we be prosperous. Note though, while He wants us to have material and physical prosperity, He tells us that those things depend upon the condition of our soul, saying, "...even as thy soul prospereth." So, what does God mean by a "prosperous soul"? A prosperous soul is one that is transformed out of the corruption of our old flesh nature, into the new nature that is like Jesus - filled with love, joy, peace, and all things good!

       So how do we go about getting a prosperous soul? Jesus summed it up with this command, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness." (Matthew 6:33) What does this mean? A related Scripture explains that answer this way, "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." (Hebrews 12:1,2) So, we get a soul that is prosperous by being conformed to the image of Christ is a process in which we have accepted responsibilities that God assigned to us, for our good. Furthermore, as we run this race of faith, this passage reminds us to keep our focus upon Jesus, because God never intends for us to run this race alone.

       But what if we don't lay aside the sin? What if we don't keep our focus upon the Lord? What if we try to sit down instead of continuing on in the race? Is God going to let us get away with that? No, as the passage continues, we find, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." (Hebrews 12:5,6) Notice that it does not say, "For whom the Lord 'is ANGRY' He chasteneth." God is clear that those whom He LOVES are those whom He chastens, or to whom He gives correction or discipline. And that, my friend, applies to You.

       How does God chasten us? God will often use the unique circumstances in our life, as well as the consequences we encounter as a result of our individual life choices. The Scriptures use the word "fire" to demonstrate these experiences. Most believers do not realize just how important God made the role of fire to be, in helping His children grow and develop in their potential. Jesus promised, "...He (Jesus) shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." (Luke 3:16) However, many people have the mistaken notion that becoming a Christian means the end of their earthly problems. They believe that the Christian life is supposed to be characterized by absence of trials. This is directly opposite of God's plan.

       Isn't it ironic that many people decide to get saved out of their fear of suffering in the fires of Hell?! They think that becoming a Christian is their way OUT of pain and anguish - like an eternal fire insurance policy. Instead, from the time we become saved and a Christian, we find ourselves in a place of having fire *assurance*. In other words, you can be *assured* that, almost from the moment you become saved, you will experience fire in your life, and pain and suffering from the fiery resistance being levelled against you in this life on earth.

       Although fiery trials and the suffering that accompany them, often come by the unwise choices of our old flesh nature or of the old flesh nature of someone else, God redeems them for our good, because He loves us. When we, as Christians, don’t understand this, we often ask God for relief from our trials, suffering, and the circumstances of unwise choices (our own or someone else's). This is often a major source of frustration for many of God's people because their priorities focus on getting relief while God's priorities focus on making us into a "new, Christ-natured" person. The fact is, we must learn to rejoice in knowing God is lovingly redeeming our old ways of life, so we benefit and grow from the trials and suffering they bring.

       Now, to explain what God meant by using the term "half-baked", He was trying to heal His people, but they would not let Him. They did not turn to Him when the trials came, so they, as a cake not turned, became burned on one side instead of being cooked throughout, evenly. They were half-baked. The only way to avoid being half-baked is to turn toward God even more, when the heat is on. That means, when we find ourselves in the midst of a fiery trial, our best results will come by facing it with full focus on God, our Redeemer. Satan, of course, will try to meddle in the process by tempting us to avoid the trial, or to attempt to quench the fire.

       There are many ways people try quenching the fire, seeking to find relief from its heat: turning to TV, alcohol, self-medication, divorce, job-change, church-hopping, shopping, moving, and many other spontaneous and harmful situations. Those are simply ways of trying to avoid the inevitable event of facing the truth. This is how God's people responded, and God said they were "half-baked". They wouldn't turn to Him and be healed.

       Notice that God's motivation in using the fiery trials was for the benefit of His children. The chastening is "for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness." (Hebrews 12:10) God uses our trials to chasten us because He loves us, not because He is angry with us. If we respond properly, then we profit, and prosper, from the benefits, "afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Hebrews 12:11)

       Is every trial we experience the chastening of God? Certainly not. The important point, however, is that God's bride will be purified by fire, as Isaiah 48:10 explains, "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."

       The Apostle Paul described the trials and sufferings that afflicted him as, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." (Philippians 3:10) Paul realized that his suffering was teaching him more about Christ Jesus, helping him to become more like Him. God wants us to realize that we have the choice to resist or accept His intension of using our trials in our lives to bring us closer to Him. To accept, is to make us "new" and more like Him. Rather than being half-baked, God wants His servants "Well done".

       When we stand in the fiery trials of pursuing NEW LIFE IN Christ, we allow them to do their perfect work, so we will one day be able to hear the sweetest of sounds, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:21a)

"I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see." (Revelation 3:18)

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