Somewhere between our Christian expectation and Christian experience is the reality check that having Christ in our lives does not immune us to having crises in our lives. The manner in which the Christian way of life is packaged often leaves us with the impression that our lives will be problem free, trouble free, and worry free. As a result, we leave the altar, baptism pool, or prayer room feeling refreshed by the new birth and expecting life to be paradise on earth. However, it does not take long for us to realize that there are no checks postmarked from heaven, our bosses and evil co-workers have not been eviscerated, and our medical diagnoses have not changed. Our moment of theological reflection leads us to the conclusion that we have been duped; or have we?
A cursory exploration of Scripture seems to paint a different expectation than the health, wealth, and prosperity message that we hear today: the message that suggests if you have enough faith or sow enough seed, miracles will run you down like an NFL free safety. Despite the overt sarcasm, we must acknowledge that Scripture does promise us that God will supply our needs (Phil. 4:19) and is more than able to heal our bodies (Matt. 9:35), yet it also reveals that God often uses trials, tribulation, and suffering to build our faith (Jas. 1:2-3). So we must have faith in the Person and power of God to do the miraculous in our lives, while at the same time recognizing that faith is most often demonstrated during the period when what we experience is the antithesis of what we are expecting.
From Scripture we discover that Job, who was a righteous man, experienced the loss of his family and wealth and suffered sickness in his body, yet he is applauded for his faith (Jas. 5:11). Paul, whose writings dominate the New Testament, experienced numerous hardships, yet he boldly proclaims that he “kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Peter, who preached the inaugural sermon of the church, found it perplexing that believers would think it was strange to experience trials (1 Pet. 4:12-13). And need I point to our Lord who expressly warned us that in this world we would face tribulation (Jn. 16:33).
So the answer to the question – “Have we been duped?” – is an emphatic No! God has lovingly and graciously informed us that we must share in the sufferings of Christ (Ro. 8:17). He has provided us with anecdotes of devout men and women in both testaments whose lives were not flowery beds of ease, but were full of the joy that can only come from having a personal relationship with Him. They knew (as we should) that while they could expect to enjoy some transitory blessings on this side of human history, their ultimate expectation (as ours should be) was to enjoy the eternal blessings that will be bestowed upon them in the age to come.
Rev. Isaac Hayes is the president of Healing of the Soul Ministries. He is also the Assistant Pastor for Strategic Development and Stewardship at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, IL. You can follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram through his handle @RevIsaacHayes.