Is Life with Jesus Better or Worse?

A book caught my eye the other day. The title: “Life With Jesus is Just Better!” I think this is the opinion of a lot of Christians, but I’m beginning to wonder if that’s true. The idea that God has this great life for you here on Earth, one complete with material blessings, a plan for your career, the perfect spouse for you, etcetera, is a fairly recent American phenomenon. Christianity began as a cult that demanded renunciation of everything of value in this world-wealth, pride, ambition, and any goals outside of simple work, preaching the Gospel and practicing charity. Marriage (and thus, sex,) was to be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

And what did the Christians experience as payment for these sacrifices? Persecutions, suffering, hardship and pain. In 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 11, verses 24-29, Paul describes his life since his conversion:

“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. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”

Wow. Paul really needs to stop his defeatist attitude and get on the blessing train, doesn’t he? He needs to have some more faith, pray a little harder, and God will just deliver him from all of this, right?

Suffering for God has a long history. Check this out, from Hebrews, Chapter 11, vs 35-39, where Paul talks about Old Testament believers:

“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”

Oh, boy! Where do I sign up for that religion?

It’s not as if God abandons us in our suffering. He does give us grace to endure. 2nd Corinthians 4: 8-12 : “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

So what is the purpose of this suffering? 2nd Timothy 1:12 says if we suffer with Him, we will reign with Him.

2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 “Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.”

Hebrews 12:4 Says that God punishes His children to correct them, and in verse 10, we learn that this is for their salvation. It seems as though the Christian life is meant to prepare us for Heaven, and this requires us to go through misery.

Suffering changes us. It causes us to abandon that which is not important, that which binds our affections to this life.

Most Christians today see Christianity as a restoration of Eden- God’s blueprint for life on Earth, one that was disrupted by sin. They talk about principles for living, and how following these principles brings God’s blessing on your life. One would think that the Christian life is the most desirable life choice there is, respected by everyone. Instead, the Bible says that believers are the smell of death to those who are perishing. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16) We stink of the decaying remains of human life. We are not to be the envy of the world. If the Christian life were something desirable and respectable everyone would choose it, and there would be no test of worthiness. The Bible says the Gospel is foolish. (1 Corinthians 1:18-29) The Bible’s rules aren’t just odd or humorous; they are the hammer blows of self-crucifixion of everything that makes us human. Jesus told us to take up our cross daily-what else does one do with a cross but die on it?

Now, I hear what you are saying, “But L.P., we can’t present the Christian life as some kind of grim, grueling endurance test. People are suffering enough already! They won’t want to convert!”

Jesus did say that those who were heavy-burdened should come to Him and find rest for their souls. But I don’t think most people in the Western world are that burdened. Not really.

Maybe with our churches full of people who have rarely suffered for God, we need to rethink exactly what we are presenting. Most people don’t see their life as an agonizing burden, at least not in America. If we present Jesus as just an upgrade to an already good life, what is the point?

If people are really suffering, they are already close to God. They just don’t know it. We have to teach them that their suffering has meaning and purpose. And to those who aren’t suffering, we need to stop promoting Christianity as a Club Med vacation and more like training for the Olympics: hard, but ultimately rewarding.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Advertisements

3 Comments

  1. Judging from the nature and content of your post, would it be safe to assume that you’re not a fan of the preaching style of Joel Osteen?

    • Ha ha, no. I think he’s a phony and a heretic and a crowd-pleaser, I believe that-he will be caught in a sex-and-money scandal in the next few years.

      • Haha wow. Serious claims. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s