An Evangelical Free Church in Cary, NC

The reality of trials…

There is a tendency in Christian circles to present the faith in glowing terms- a focus on health, blessing, prosperity, joy, and victory. This tendency comes out of a proper desire to present the goodness of our Savior, but at times it can come across as an argument in utilitarian terms: “Here are all the personal, earthly benefits of following Jesus.”

Certainly, we want to present the Christian faith as one that does in fact solve people’s problems. For example, if you are struggling in your relationships, Christ can give you wisdom and change your heart. If you do not have clear direction in a career, Jesus will guide you and provide for you. If you have gone through a traumatic experience or have suffered the consequences of sins, Jesus will be there to comfort and heal you from those experiences. But these truths only tell half the story. What is God doing in our lives when things seem to be going wrong? (That is probably a question for another blog…)

I think the strongest witness of the Christian faith is when people continue to follow Christ and continue to hope in spite of many “dangers, toils, and snares” as John Newton wrote in the famous hymn “Amazing Grace”. Non-Christians will not necessarily take notice if Christians are healthier, wealthier, and wiser than people without faith in God. They may be more suspicious of our motives in those cases, or non-Christians may achieve those same goals by other means, without regard for God.

The Bible presents many people of faith who continued to follow Christ without receiving the blessings that people in Western culture tend to associate with success. Let’s remember, the main symbol of our faith as Christians is the cross- an image of suffering, which eventually leads to victory. The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy and others to not be ashamed of the gospel, and to share in suffering for the sake of the Lord Jesus:

2 Timothy 1:8–9 ESV

[8] Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, [9] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

One test of our Christian faith is how we respond when trials come our way, and it is clear that our earthly life will not necessarily bring us material success, cultural influence, social status, or the time and freedom to pursue leisure as we would like. Look at how the book of Hebrews describes people who were commended for their faith in the midst of suffering:

Hebrews 11:35–36

[35] Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. [36] Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.

We can certainly rejoice when the events of life are turning out “favorably” according to our desires; but we are also called to rejoice-Jesus even calls us “blessed” (Matthew 5:11-12)–when we endure trials and our mistreated on account of his name.

The sooner we learn the full range of bilical expectations of following Jesus, the more endurance, patience, and steadfastness we will have when inevitable trials and sorrows come our way. God is gracious, because even in the midst of those very difficult times, He is forming our faith and our character, He is present with us in the worst of circumstances, and He promises never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). Do not be ashamed to suffer for your Savior, or suffer along with Him- you are in good company with the one who has promised to bear all our sorrows.

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