The life lived for Christ is not always an easy life. The idea that the Christian life is from time to time filled with trouble flies into the face of the current talking heads which scream or smile into the cameras on television. Preachers such as Joel Osteen, T.D Jakes, Paul and Jan Crouch, Kenneth Copeland are but a few of those who present the Prosperity Gospel to the world. The idea that the Christian life might have a little hardship and difficulty is paramount to blasphemy in some Christian circles. This is sad. It is sad because once again the totality of God’s Word has been ignored by those who have been entrusted with the job of presenting God’s Word to the world. The preachers of the Prosperity Gospel do the Christian Church a great dis-service by proof texting several verses in the New Testament and then telling us that a true Christian that has faith will never have problems, difficulties, or trials. Plus, all we have to do is, “name it and claim it.” The Prosperity Gospel preachers also make the claim that if we have faith we can have money, drive new cars and live in fine houses. Then perhaps the most damaging lie is that those that have faith need never be sick. They hold to the belief that it is God’s will to heal everyone, and true faith will bring about complete healing. This concept with this is theologically beyond me. It goes against logical thinking. The last time that I checked death was no respecter of persons and one day all our bodies will wear out due to the ravages of disease or old age. What is sad is that some sincere faith filled Christian’s have believed this falsehood. The problem is that when they pray for healing and they are not healed they then believe that their faith is not adequate. I knew a man who suffered from epilepsy. He was that was told if he only had faith he could be healed of this sickness. I can assure you this man was a faith filled person.
The message of the Prosperity Gospel not only has damaged the individual psyche of countless individual Christians, but it has robbed the church of a balanced understanding of the victory that comes to those who follow Christ.
We need only to examine Scripture and see trials have been and always will be a part of believers lives. The Old Testament reminds us of this truth in the life of King David. David a man who had a heart for God knew well what it was to be tested and to face difficulties in his life. He knew what it was to have his family torn apart by political infighting. Absalom who was David’s son sought to wrestle power from David. He wanted Absalom to be spared but one of David’s generals killed Absalom as he hung by his hair from a tree limb. David’s infant son was taken from him. David had all kinds of problems in his life, but still God loved David. David knew God intimately. He knew what it was to be close to God, and what it was to feel far removed from the presence of God. In the New Testament we read of The Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Bible scholars are not sure as to what this thorn was, but we do know that he prayed for it to be removed but God in God’s wisdom choose not to remove it. In Hebrews chapter 11 we read of great people of faith and that received the victory. However in the same chapter we read of individuals that were filled with faith yes still faced tremendous suffering. Trials, and sufferings are a part of life. They are inescapable.
I have faced trials in my own life. After 20 years of pastoral ministry I have had to take an incapacity leave due to a sickness. I can assure you that it is difficult to wake up in the morning and have no pastoral responsibility for the day. Having lived in parsonage for the past 20 years it has been a test and trial to find housing. It has been a test to formulate a budget based on a salary that has diminished some since taking incapacity leave. Does all of this mean that I do not have faith? Absolutely not! The opposite is true. These trials have actually strengthened my faith in God. I have learned what it really means to trust God though all of this. Trials can make our faith stronger if we allow God to work in us.
It is time that we get back to a balanced view of suffering and trials. Trials are, and will be a part of the Christian journey. Its up to us as to what we do with trials. Trials can either destroy us or build us up. I am reminded of the hymn writer John Newton and the words that he penned over 200 years ago. Its strains are still sung throughout the world. “Amazing Grace” is timeless in its beauty and message. Stanza three rings forth with clarity and truth. “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; tis grace hath brought me safe this far, and grace will lead me home.” Let us allow trials and sufferings to grow grace within us.