Drinking coffee across from a Christian brother discussing the important and finer points of following Christ, my friend confidently leaned back in his chair “Where God guides God provides.” I looked up from my coffee saying “Really!” He could have spilled his coffee in dismay, he thought I was on the same note.
Another Christian brother, by a camp fire, after all had retreated to the comfort of their bed, through the smoke and light of its flame shared with me a time he thought “He missed God.” His reasoning was that it didn’t go well, so he must have been outside God’s will. Maybe!
What both these guys believed about being in God’s will have their genesis in a pre-Christian philosophy held by the culture in general. It is an assumption that is unquestioned. Even though the Bible often describes something different.
Before we followed Christ, if we had any sensitivity, we felt bad things happened because we were outside God’s will. It is especially realized when we are in distress. We are hurting and confused and frustrated, we call out to God many times offering ourselves up to Him. Connected to the former idea, we think, if we do what God wants; become a Christian, go to church, pray, read our Bible…things will get better. Not exactly wrong but not completely correct either.
Now here is the Biblical truth. Bad things happen in this world and in our lives simply because we are alive in a messed up world. By being good, as God describes, will save us a lot of temporal pain. We shall suffer as Christ, the apostles, the prophets, and Christians through the ages and those martyrs to come, before the end of the age. This is it.
Stuff happens. Cancer, headaches, and hemorrhoids; broken relationships, and rude shoppers are here to stay and unavoidable. Being a Christian will not save you from these. Some have preached otherwise but reality always exposes this fantasy as blasphemy.
We did cause and maybe still are causing ourselves a lot of problems. We may have been unkind, belligerent, abused drugs and alcohol. We may have not been hard working and diligent, but lazy. These all have ramifications. In reality it is stupid to do these things. One fella, another Christian, thought he was taking up his cross by not using drugs and alcohol. He saw it as part of a sacrifice to Christ. What? Really? Damn, these things were killing us and those around us. What advantage was it? He saved us from this. Too bad we needed to be told something so obvious. Sin is blinding.
Now to the matter. Jesus has promised suffering. Jesus suffered and so did John the Baptist. The prophets that came before him suffered as did the apostles that followed. The early church suffered greatly as did many through the years and there exist more persecution and deaths of Christians around the world today than ever before.
We think there is little persecution here in the U.S. and I agree. My theory to why, is that we have carefully crafted a deal with the Devil. “We will stay out of the way if you leave us alone.” We ploy. If you live a half-assed Christianity you’ll have no problem. You reap the natural benefits of Christian philosophy and life style without suffering the cost. “Stay in Church, do your stuff and you’ll be fine!” we assume.
Outcomes, negative ones, are not a sign you are outside the will of God. In fact sometimes it means you are in the center of His will. If it is selfish, self-serving, vindictive, hateful, and not peace loving: you are outside the will of God and as a good Father, He’ll take you to the wood shed. However, there is suffering that is from the hand of God that He wills. This is associated with surrendering to His will. It goes with the territory.
A few little known scriptures will open your eyes to His higher ways. In Col 1:24 Paul states “24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” The other is in Rev 6:9-11 “9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”
What do you gather? It is plain! Even though it is a new thought, for us who have evolved in the safe haven of the American church it hasn’t been plain maybe until now. There is work to do and it will involve suffering at the command of God. It is part of His plan in order to finish his work. “A servant is not Greater than his master.”