When Christianity isn't Comfortable
2 Corinthians 4:7-12" "
There is a lie that is going around the American religious landscape, and it goes something like this: "If you really have faith and walk with God, and believe the right things and do the right things and say the right prayers, God will prosper you and give you your 'best life, now.' "
This lie sells quite well, of course, as it appeals to American consumerism, our desire for comfort and subtly appeals to our desire to be as God. If we do such and such and say such and such, we can speak things into existence, into being or get God to do our bidding at least.
Verses and texts from the Scriptures taken out of context and twisted ever so slightly, or at times, blatantly, and all done in the Name of Jesus, using some of the same language found in evangelical churches, makes this deception difficult to spot if one does not know the Scriptures.
The tragic and dark underbelly of this lie is the terrible collateral damage done in the Name of the Health and Wealth Jesus. People who did all they were told to do by the Merchants of Prosperity, only to learn the cancer didn't go away, the raise didn't come, that new job didn't work out, the tragic thing did happen and so on.
When we look at the Scriptures, we see Jesus calling us to follow Him and promising us things that aren't that appealing from a 'consumer' standpoint: trouble, hardship, opposition, being hated, many troubles and so on. He tells us to take up our cross (an instrument of death) and follow Him. He said if we spend our lives trying to preserve ourselves, we'll lose our life, however, if we lose our lives for His sake, we'll find true life.
We see God the Son in the garen of Gethsemene, agonizing to the point He sweat drops of blood as He prayed, knowing that soon He would take on the sin of the world and endure God the Father's righteous wrath against that sin. We see Him praying, 'if it be thy will, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but Yours...' And then, on the cross crying out 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'
He was despised by men. He came to His own and His own did not receive Him nor recognize Him. We killed Him.
That was why He came though, to give His life as a ransom for many.
And this same Jesus said, 'a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecute me, they'll persecute you.'
Jesus never promised us comfort and ease.
And when we look at the disciples we see more suffering. We know how the apostles, and that includes Paul, were all martyred for their faith. John was tortured with boiling oil and exiled on the island of Patmos.
These men suffered for the Gospel.
In this text in 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds us of some important things we need to remember:
First, we are dust. Our bodies are frail. Jars of clay. They break down. We break down. We are weak.
But there is a purpose for this.
Second, we also experience painful hardships in life and for the Name of Jesus. Simply belonging to Him and living for Him guarantees that we will experience trials and hardship and periods of profound discomfort.
But there is a purpose for this as well.
God's power is demonstrated in and through our weaknesses. When we are weak and abide in Him, He also gets the glory and accomplishes things in us He would otherwise not do. When we are proud and feeling strong and sure of ourselves, depending on ourselves, we are of little use. We are in the way. But, when we are broken, wonderfully broken, and weak, and depending on Him, abiding in Him, trusting in Him, continually being filled by the Spirit, He does amazing things in and through us.
All of this is for His glory and the blessing of others and our own sanctification.
Sanctification is becoming more like Jesus. It is a lifelong process and is often uncomfortable. He knocks off rough edges. Trials and tests are necessary not only for our own spiritual growth, but for the blessing of others, and so others will see the Lord, not us, in our lives.
That is amazing stuff.
Our 'best' life is not here. This is a training ground. Life involves warfare and testing and growing. We deal with the world, the flesh and the devil. We deal with the frailties of our humanity. We deal with pain and disappointment, but in all of these things, God is not only present, He is at work.
Our best life is on the other side. One day we will be free from this body of sin and death. One day we will be free. We have a True Home that awaits us and we look forward to that day when we are finally Home.
But, until then, we are sojourners, exiles, ambassadors, witnesses, people who are following Jesus in the grace He provides day by day, and He is with us, for us and He is Good and Sovereign over all.
And on this side, as we follow, we understand that hardship and pain and difficulties are all a part of our Christian life. The glorious news? He is actually using those experiences to do something glorious in and through us. These experiences are not wasted. They are not without meaning.
We boast in the Lord and say we are among those who are' always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.'
For the King and His Glory,