So why do followers of God suffer, atheists prosper, believers become wealthy, and unbelievers lose everything? Is there any rhyme or reason to our success and failure based on a relationship with God? (Or as some might say, “Is there anything in this for me besides heaven?”)
We see so much evidence for God using both success and failure in the lives of His people in the Bible. From Job to Lazarus, we see people who love God and whom God loves encounter pain, hardship, even death.
For me the key to understanding this complicated equation is that the sum is goodness and blessing, but I have to redefine what goodness and blessing means. We live in a world that equates blessing with dollar signs and goodness with abundance and prosperity. Especially in America, we have become so enamored with the rich and famous that we fail to see how wretched, poor, and blind many of them are. Is it a blessing when you have more money than you know how to spend, but are addicted to drugs, suffering from mental health issues, and suicidal?
In God’s definition of goodness and blessing the poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted, and the pure in heart are blessed, not necessarily with material things, but with eternal things— the kingdom of God, seeing the face of God, being called sons of God.
God does bless some followers with worldly possessions and He does so with great purpose. Jehoshaphat used the time of peace and prosperity that God had blessed him with to send out teams to the various towns with the book of the Law, to teach them God’s commands and how to live in right relationship with God. Likewise, those who are blessed materially today are called to pour out those blessings not on extravagant luxury for themselves, but on sharing the good news that God loves you to all those who are made in His image.