I love how the Bible has multiple kinds of literary genre, seemingly one for whatever mood you happen to be in that day.
It’s like… “You want historical narrative? We have Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Nehemiah, Acts, and tons more.”
Or “You want some prophecy? We have lots of that at the end of the Old Testament.”
Or “Poetry? Please. We have plenty, the best the world has ever known.”
Or “Want to see a personal letter written between early Christians? We got you.”
Or “How about the Law? Or Gospel narratives about Jesus? Or Apocalyptic writings? We have it all!”
The Bible really is amazing.
One genre that is timeless and precious is the Wisdom books: Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs. They each come with wisdom of such depth that it often takes years to unpack their full meaning.
Take this verse in Proverbs 27:21 — “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.”
Wow. Think about what this is saying. Solomon, the wisest man to ever live (other than Christ), tells us that precious metals like silver and gold are tested and purified in a specific way: through putting them into a fire. The fire brings any impurities to the surface, which then can be removed by a skilled hand.
Then he says that people are tested in a specific way too. Boiling it down, he’s basically telling us:
God tests us with success.
Does that sound strange? You might have an easier time believing that God tests us with stress or suffering.
But think about it.
We’ve seen success ruin people. The young rock star gets everything she has ever wanted and then crashes and burns. The athlete signs a big contract and then parties away his future. A business grows bigger than anyone expected, and the owner becomes reckless with expansion plans. When the politician — or the CEO or even the pastor — begins to read their own press clippings too much and think they’re invincible, destruction seems to invariably follow.
Experience tells us that more people have been ruined by success than by suffering. Suffering tends to push people toward God. But when people are successful, they often forget about God. What’s the antidote?
I love how God always reminded the Israelites after every major victory that HE was the one making it happen, not them. In Deuteronomy 8, He reminds them that He was the one who rescued them from slavery, who parted the Red Sea, who fed them manna every day, and so much more.
Moses tells them “He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)
When we have it set in our minds that God brings the victory, we can have a healthier way of processing successes and failures in our lives, including what others say about us. Compliments and criticisms are like chewing gum: you can chew on them for awhile, but don’t swallow them!
May we always keep our eyes on the one true Source of our successes every time we enjoy them.