Bible Study | October 1, 2015


Photo by Evan Long / CC

I love God’s idea of seasons. They bring variety, color, and change into our world, and we need all of these. We need variety to splash spice, color to bring beauty, and change to cultivate character.

As I write, it’s summer. What a wonderful season! School ends and vacations begin. Baseball fans stream into ball parks, and campers gather around fire pits to enjoy hot dogs and ’smores. There is play time in the pool, growth in the garden, relaxation in the rays, and hay to bale. There are weddings to attend and lawns to groom.

Autumn, winter, and spring have their bonuses as well. Each season brings abundant blessings. But summer is a time to thrive.

I love the word “thrive.” It’s an exciting, energized, and encouraging word. The first dictionary definition is “to grow vigorously; flourish.”

We understand that. Just walk by a garden and you’ll see plants that are growing and producing. Spend time with a child who is happy and healthy and whole. Watch a growing church filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and encouragement. You could label all three as thriving.

The second definition is: “to gain in wealth or possessions; prosper.”

On a recent trip to Canada, some friends and I spent time on Campobello Island and went to Roosevelt Campobello International Park. We toured the Roosevelt Cottage, chatted on the porch of the Hubbard Cottage, and took in the sights. These places speak of wealth and possessions. The grounds were green and well tended. The view included part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Last summer, I toured another home in Asheville, N.C. The 250-room home—the largest privately owned house in the US—was completed in 1895 and boasts 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. It also has an indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, and a bowling alley. It was the home of George Vanderbilt II, a very prosperous man.

The third definition: “to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.”

This is harder, but worth it. A number of years ago, I was vacationing with my parents and my brother at Prince Edward Island, in Canada. My brother and I were checking out the sights. At one location we spotted a tree that seemed to be hanging on for dear life at the edge of a cliff. What kept it from falling to its demise were its strong roots. Not a great place to thrive but, from what I could see, it was doing just that despite poor conditions.

I once noticed a boy of about 10 or 11 at a store. He walked, but with great effort. Something was wrong with his legs, so he used a cart to get around. I found myself hoping that this young fellow could still find the will to thrive in spite of what seemed like a difficult journey. At another store I noticed a man sitting in a wheelchair. Part of one leg was missing. What was not missing was his joy. He greeted people with a smile as they came in and talked cheerfully with customers. In spite of his circumstances, he definitely appeared to be thriving.

We live in a world that is crumbling in so many ways. We live in communities where culture and church collide on various fronts. And yet, in these circumstances, God calls the church to thrive.

I’m glad I serve a God who looks at the storm and says, “Peace! Be still!” I’m glad I serve a God who looks at the situation and says, “Don’t worry about anything.” I’m glad I serve a God who looks at the serious illness and says, “Is anything too hard for me?” I’m glad I serve a God who empowers people to thrive.

God longs for us to thrive, and has given us the tools we need to do so. God loads us with benefits and loves us in so many ways. Still, If I can use myself as a mirror, I know that we fall short in many ways.

The good news is that, no matter the season, God wants us to thrive. And you can start now. You can start to flourish, to prosper and, in spite of your circumstances, to thrive in your walk of faith.

Put away those things that choke the “thriving” out of you.

Put away divisiveness, gossip, and greed. Put away the critical spirit, pride, unkindness, lust, apathy, self pity, and fear. Throw those weeds onto the burn pile and take a blow torch to them.

Surround yourself with a love for your brothers and sisters that is deep and wide, peace in the midst of problems, hope for a glorious future, joy in serving with sincerity, patience amid frustrations, long-suffering in the middle of solving differences, faith that sees what the eye cannot, and belief in the great goodness of God.

Imagine the body of Christ taking God seriously and believing the promises God has made. Imagine churches growing and glowing. Imagine people in our world noticing the thriving church and being drawn to the beauty they see. Imagine a revival of faith sweeping our land because people of God dared to thrive.

Pray for God’s help. Start flourishing and prospering in your walk with God. If we follow God’s path, our lives will be changed and our world will be impacted for good.

Thrive so that the world can see that we are different because of God’s grace. Thrive so that we can be agents of hope in a world that needs healing and comfort. Thrive because God wants you to. Through God, you can!