Do only good things happen to those who are “living right”? If so, how do we explain Jesus’ warning to His followers, In the World you will have trials and sorrows; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the World (John 16:33). He never mentions that our trials will be matched according to how we live! Instead, He tells us that the World is a place and system of suffering. We are to expect trials and sorrows as elements of living in the World.
If afflictions are dished out according to how “wrong” a person is living, how would we explain Apostle Paul’s suffering?
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Would we warn him, “Paul, my dear brother, you must be living wrong or God would feed, clothe and protect you. You’ve got to get it right, Paul or you’re a dead man!”
What about Jesus? He was beaten so badly that his appearance was… marred beyond human likeness (Isaiah 52:14b) and was crucified unto death (John19:30). Would we pity him saying, “Holy cow, Jesus! You must have been living wrong to be facing the ultimate trial! I guess it is too late to get your life in order so that you can skirt around this crucifixion!”
if we don’t understand and demonstrate the greater purpose for suffering, including death:
…that he might deliver us from this present wicked world…
This deliverance isn’t a down the road reward for “good” behavior! It is a here and now victory! Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, we are also to be overcomers of this World (Romans 8:37); today. It isn’t about how much or how often we suffer that communicates anything of importance. It is about how we respond to suffering that speaks loudly of Whom we are made.
Stay tuned next week for the conclusion of this series.
P.S. Please feel free to contact me with questions, thoughts, topics you’d like to ponder or to read past articles at: http://whole-heartedlife.blogspot.com/. You may also contact me at:
In Search of the Whole-Hearted Life
505 Jefferson St.
Diagonal, IA 50845