Thursday, May 31, 2012

Should Christians be surprised by suffering?

In light of some recent comments on Christians and suffering that I've read on a few blogs, I wanted to share a few thoughts on the topic. Should Christians be surprised by suffering in their own lives? Should they be surprised by suffering in the world? We shouldn't be surprised by the suffering we endure in this life. Peter wrote in his letter, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you."

What about the things preachers tell us on television? Aren't we supposed to have "our best life now"? With just enough faith can't we live a life full of health, wealth, and pleasure? Well, all of those are things are indeed pleasurable. Health and wealth are definitely pleasing to us, but I think if one's focus is on health, wealth, and fun then one is missing the point of Christianity.

God does not rescue us from earthly suffering, instead God rescues us from sin and ultimate suffering. What is ultimate suffering? I would say that ultimate suffering is eternal separation from God. That is the suffering God rescues us from. I'm not convinced that Christians can have their best life now here on earth. To think such a thing is possible is truly wishing and not an idea that holds much weight. 

I think modern Christians are surprised by suffering because prosperity teachers (for example Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer) teach their listeners that Christians are entitled to prosperity and to activate that prosperity you just need a little faith, you know the kind that is the size of a mustard seed, and then BOOM you will be rich, healthy, and have a fun time here on earth. These guys also teach that if you're a poverty stricken Christian then you're not living the "life of faith" and that if you "just had enough faith" you wouldn't be in the mess you're in. If you hear crap, I mean, teaching like this and think that it's biblical teaching, then yeah, you're going to be surprised when you're budget doesn't look like Bill Gates' budget aren't you? The "prosperity theology" will also make people do things like Meyer wrote in her book We laid hands on the check and prayed. I went and got all of our checkbooks and my pocketbook and Dave got his wallet and we laid hands on them and put the blood on them, asking God to protect our money, to cause it to multiply and to see to it that Satan could not steal any of it from us” (p.111 The Name, The Word, The Blood.)

I don't mean to imply that being rich and healthy are bad things to pursue. What I am saying is that Christians shouldn't expect those things as rights or that health and wealth is due to them simply because they are Christian. God does not owe us material pleasure. He rescued us from ultimate suffering, which is far greater than any material gain we can ever have in our earthly life. The Apostle Paul explores that concept in his letters to various churches and people that the present suffering we endure now cannot compare to the eternal life given to us from God. While that thought isn't always the best answer for a friend, family-member, or even yourself, to the question of suffering; it is the biblical answer I think and also a far more satisfying answer than "Well, if you just had enough faith you could get out of this mess you're in."

Suffering is a common theme in the Bible and not at all incompatible with Christian theism. I won't get into the topic here because I've wrote on it elsewhere, but I mention it in this blog post to make the point that Christians shouldn't be surprised when a flavor of suffering comes our way because it will hit all of us sometime in our life. When it comes our way we endure it and not lose trust in God because a calamity has knocked us down.

Check out this video below by R.C. Sproul and please check out the links.


Is the Word Faith movement biblical? There are more links at the bottom of this article related to the Word Faith movement

Why suffering?

Understanding Evil: The best of all possible worlds

Understanding evil

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