By Micah Colbert
What should we do when the wicked prosper?
Like most of you, I’m deeply concerned with a lot that’s taking place in our country. Godless ideologies are rapidly becoming mainstream as wicked people in powerful positions of influence relentlessly advance their agendas. Those who try to resist are marginalized or “cancelled.” The alarming success of the wicked cannot be ignored. It’s reshaping our culture, worldview, relationships, and freedoms. One can only imagine what might be on the horizon if the wicked continue to prosper in their endeavors.
So how should we as God’s people respond to all of this? Thankfully, we don’t have to figure out how to navigate through these challenging times on our own. God’s Word gives us answers. Below are a few thoughts from the Scriptures that I trust will be an encouragement to you:
Let the future hope of the gospel fuel your present pursuit of holiness
I can’t think of a greater book to turn to in troubling times than 1 Peter. This epistle was written to encourage believers who are being persecuted for their faith. In this book, Peter exhorts suffering saints to passionately pursue a life of holiness in light of the hope that we have in Christ (1 Peter 1:13-21).
What is holiness? It’s loving “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37). A life of holiness is consumed with Christ. He is our life (Phil. 1:21). Being holy means that we “seek the things above, where Christ is” (Col. 3:1-4). As we grow in holiness, we become more fixated on pleasing our Lord and less “entangled in civilian pursuits” (2 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:1-10). Instead of worrying about the future, we joyfully embrace our identity, privileges, and responsibilities as God’s people. Knowing that we are sojourners and exiles on earth, we “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:13-16; 1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11).
Friends, don’t lose heart. The sufferings and injustices of this present time cannot in any way compare to the glories that await us in Christ (Ro.8:18; 2 Cor.4:16-18). It doesn’t really matter what happens to us in the here and now. We have an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Even in the midst of the potential trials that might await us, we can “rejoice with joy unspeakable” (1 Pet. 1:3-9). We know that the Lord is orchestrating all things – even the things taking place right now in our society – for the ultimate good of His people (Ro. 8:28).
May the hope that we have in Christ compel us to cast aside the shackles of worldliness in order to pursue holiness in the fear of the Lord (2 Cor. 7:1).
Draw near to God when you’re tempted to become envious of the wicked
Are you tempted to get angry or envious when you see the wicked prosper? Life seems to be going great for them. Meanwhile, you’re barely making it. You’re trying to be faithful to the Lord, but life seems to be a constant struggle. Perhaps you’re tempted to wonder if the life of faith is even worth it. If you’ve ever struggled with these feelings, you’re not alone. The Psalmist relays his experience with these very same struggles in Psalm 73. So what was it that kept him for slipping into miry pit of despair? Drawing near to the Lord.
As he cast his anxieties upon the Lord, he began to see things from a dramatically different perspective. Suddenly, the truths he knew about God became more precious and life-sustaining. In the end, the Psalmist could take heart, knowing that the prosperity of the wicked was only temporal while the joys of the righteous are eternal. With this Biblical perspective in mind, Psalmist would testify, “It is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (Ps. 73:25).
Live by faith, not by sight, as you experience the harsh realities of life in a fallen world
In a sin-cursed world, life isn’t always fair. The wicked prosper while the righteous suffer (Ecc. 4:1-2). The perplexing realities of injustice, pain, and brokenness surround us. We’re tempted to give way to despondency when we realize just how impotent we are to fix society’s problems (Ecc. 2:17). We grow discontented with the way things are, longing for a return to the “good old days” (Ecc. 7:10) when things were “so much better.” We wrestle with bitterness, anxiety, and resentment as we try to make sense of it all. It’s in the midst of this bleak world that the wisdom of Ecclesiastes shines forth as a ray of hope.
Ecclesiastes was written to encourage God’s people to live by faith, not by sight, as we navigate through the hardships of life. Living by faith (i.e the “fear of the Lord”) doesn’t mean that we minimize suffering or simply grin and bear with it. Rather, it means that we wholeheartedly enjoy the blessings God has given us as tokens of His goodness and grace (Ecc. 2:24-26; 4:9-12; 5:18-20; 8:14-17; 9:7-10; 11:6-10). We submit to God’s sovereign orchestration of our lives instead of worrying about things that are outside of our control (Ecc. 7:13-14). Instead of looking to the fleeting, futile things of this life, we set our hope in Christ to find solid joy and fulfillment. In short, walking by faith means that we pursue a simple life of obedience and submission to the Lord, knowing that “this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12:1-3).
I know that many of you are discouraged by what’s taking place in our culture. But friends, we have hope. We have eternal perspective. In Christ, we have “everything that we need for life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3-4). May the Lord grant us grace to respond to the prosperity of the wicked in a God-glorifying, gospel-advancing manner.
Reposted with permission from Rooted Thinking.
Micah is the discipleship and outreach pastor at Community of Grace Church in Buffalo, NY. He is also the author of two outreach books: Good News for All Nations and Discovering Hope. Micah enjoys reading, coffee, hearty conversations, and time spent with his wife and four children.