Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the prosperity gospel is
that its adherents eventually must face the harsh reality that regardless how
faithful the believer, there is no a guarantee of an Easy Street address. The
examples of Jesus’ Apostles prove that for even the most faithful Christian,
life here on earth is often anything but easy. Even today, persecution of
Christians is both extensive
and on the rise.
Fortunately, most Christians in the West have never faced
serious persecution because of their faith – at least not yet. But we all face
difficulty of some sort on a regular basis; it’s a fact of life for fallen man,
and it’s that fall that is at the root of all our problems. All the storms and
hard times in our lives are the result of sin.
You may say, wait a minute, what about Job? The Bible says
that Job faced all those terrible things but did not sin. And you’d be right.
But consider all those terrible things Job faced – physical ailments,
disastrous loss of property, death of his children. None of those things
existed before the fall; they all became a part of our lives as a direct result
of sin in general, thus it was possible for Job to experience them all without committing
a particular sin.
Also consider this:
We often hear statements to the effect that Jesus died to save us from
sin. But if you think about it, that’s not technically true. The truth is that
Jesus died to save us from the consequences of sin. The primary consequence of
sin is full separation from God – spiritual death. But it’s not the only
consequence; there are many others. Physical death is a consequence of original
sin; before the fall, there was no physical death. The same is true of all
those trials and difficulties faced by Job, and of those we face in our lives –
all the result of sin.
And therein lies a key truth: The storms we face in this
life are consequences of either particular or original sin. Jesus died to spare
us from the consequences of sin. So at least in part, Jesus died to give us victory
over the troubles of this life.
Our standard reaction when a storm arises in our life is to
hunker down and ride it out. “God, I trust you’ll deliver me from this storm,
but until you do, I’m going to stay here curled up in a ball, trusting you.” But
curling into the fetal position to ride out one of life’s storms isn’t the type
of free life God intends for us to live; rather, it’s just another form of
What a weak, helpless, and miserable way to live. But that’s
what we do. In fact, we encourage that behavior in others when we console them
– especially after the loss of a loved one. “God will see you through this.
Just rest in Him. Your loved one is in a better place, and he never has to feel
pain any more.” Yes, there’s consolation in those words. But there’s no victory
whatsoever in them, at least not for those left behind.
Even our old hymns are guilty on this front. “I am bound for
the Promised Land. When shall I reach that happy place and be forever blest?
When shall I see my Savior’s face and in His bosom rest?”
And with this more modern hymn, it is most glaring:
“In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face.”
Why? What is it about the dark of midnight or about the
storm howling above that can harm us? Absolutely nothing.
If fear of the storm holds us back, our faith is terribly
weak. Yes, our God is strong and will protect us through the storm – but that
doesn’t mean that we sit still and wait that storm out. It means that through
the Power of Jesus’ resurrection, we can march boldly into the wind and driving
rain with the knowledge that He will keep us from harm and will see us through
to the end. The wind and the rain should neither deter us nor even slow us down
as we run our race. On the contrary, it should encourage us to press on with
even more determination.
Which response brings God the most glory – curling into a
ball underneath His protective wing while the storm passes over, or continuing
our race boldly, running head-up into the wind and rain knowing that victory is
Unfortunately, pressing on is a strength that many will
never gain, and a boldness that many will never experience. But it is also a truly
liberated, victory-minded, purpose-fulfilling, God-focused life. I’ll take that
option, thank you.
For Aaron. God
delivered this on the day of your memorial. That was no accident, for I most of
all needed to hear it, and saying goodbye prepared me to listen.