I find it terribly difficult to listen to many pastors today. They preach week after week through proverbial “rose colored glasses” that leave many Christians believing that they will have a perfect life and can have anything they want only by asking God, having enough faith, and believing it hard enough. Then when they go through life’s struggles they feel like they’ve failed or like God has left them.
Some may call this teaching “name it and claim it” gospel, I prefer the term “vending machine” gospel. I can’t help but think about the mockery that these “Mega-Church” pastors are making of heavily persecuted Christians around the world.
(I can’t help but thinking how well their messages would be received in those areas or how much suffering they would be willing to endure for God’s Glory.)
While typing this I can’t help but think about what would happen to the person who only ate and drank vending machine food. I think that same analogy would be a good one to apply to our spirits. We need God to provide us with well balanced nourishment for our spirits. Maybe that’s what we should be praying for and I think that’s definitely what we should expect.
Sure, we have a right as His children to ask for whatever our heart’s desire. We have a right to ask for His blessings and for gifts from His unlimited storehouse. As Psalm 50:10 puts it He does own cattle on a thousand hills. That said, just like a balanced diet is healthy for the body along with exercise we must be willing to surrender everything to God and to live the balanced life that He provides but also to exercise our faith and to be Christlike to others. Sometimes the greatest blessings are received when we go through suffering and when we sacrifice of ourselves for the sake of others just like Christ did for us.
To keep our expectations in balance let’s look at what we have been told to expect in our lives as Christians.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:2-5
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
I think that it’s interesting at times that those same pastors who are quick to quote verses like John 14:13-14, John 16:24, Psalms 34:10, Romans 8:32, Psalms 20:4, Psalms 84:11, Matthew 21:22, etc. Yet, those same pastors are quick to dismiss and skip verses like I quoted above which tell us that we will go through suffering and hard times. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not discounting these good verses that I just referenced that make us amazing promises either. (All of these references are clickable links to their verses as always…)
During our times of suffering we need to remember to invite God into those times just as much as we need to remember to give Him thanks and praise for the goodness and blessings that He freely gives. I like the inline commentary of the Amplified version of this next verse where it reads “[with privilege]” as if to remind us that we are His children.
“Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment].” Hebrews 4:16
“A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.”
“For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.”
I like these verses because they remind us that God remembers and understands our frailty. As this next verse shows us we are supposed to live as spiritual beings. Yes, we are given much by God to enjoy in this life but we also need to remember, especially in times of suffering that this life is fleeting and temporary. We need to remember that God has our best interest in mind and is simply working to perfect the masterpieces that He has started creating.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:28-29
“[You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations,
So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
I like how in this verse we can be reminded that in everything that we are going through we are being transformed into the image of Christ. I love how in the commentaries that I read on this verse they referenced how we are changed by being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and even referenced how Moses’ face “glowed” after his encounter with God.
I think the culmination of all of this is that our witness is for others to see us even in our times of suffering radiating the glory of God. After all, we are to be a light that shines into the darkness of the world illuminating God’s love and mercy for all to see.
“At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s.” Acts 6:15
Father God I approach Your throne with privilege as Your child because of the gracious sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ. I pray for all of my brothers and sisters who will read this and ask that You would help us to see You at work in our lives no matter our circumstance right now. Please balance our lives with goodness even while we’re in the midst of suffering. Show us Your love and Your grace and help us to mirror that to others even if it means sacrifice on our part. We understand that we will have times of trial and tribulation and we ask that You would give us the grace and strength to endure. I Love You God and I thank You for working in my life and for teaching me and inspiring me. I ask that You would redeem this message and help it in some way to be an encouragement to others. I pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ my Savior and King. AMEN