Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Gospel and Suffering

The assumption is often made that the Christian life is one of continuous cheerfulness. It is also often assumed that Christianity is consistent with being comfortable in the current world and the current cultural context. But this is not what the Bible says. Rather, we are told to expect trouble in this life (Acts 14:22; John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 4:17,18). Also, we cannot simply conform to the world (Romans 12:1,2; 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4), but should expect hostility from it when we follow Christ (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4; Matthew 10:16-22). We are not told to expect a trouble-free path through life, but that there will be struggles and difficulties. This is not surprising, because we are told we are in the midst of a battle between good and evil (Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 1 Peter 5:8,9). But it makes a clear difference what attitude we take toward the situation.  

Any response made to this reality must be based on who we are and what Christ has done for us. Christ has paid the price necessary to redeem us (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and therefore gives salvation and eternal life to all who put their faith in Him (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Philippians 3:9). The result of this is that God begins to work in our life to transform us into who He wants us to be (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:3). And God is also at work through us to accomplish His purposes in the world (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:28,29). Now God is not just at work through us as individuals, but He has made us part of a larger community, which works together to help and encourage one another (Romans 12:4,5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Hebrews 10:24,25). This affects how we face trials. If we believe we belong to God and will be with Him forever, we are less likely to be devastated by the trials of this present life (Romans 8:18). If we believe God is at work in our lives, we can recognize that trials are part of the process He uses to change us into who He wants us to be (James 1:2-4). Also, if we are the agents for carrying out God’s purposes in a sinful world, we should not be surprised by opposition, but should trust that God will bring us through it victorious (2 Corinthians 2:14). And if we are in this together, we can encourage one another to continue on through trials (Hebrews 12:13). Troubles and problems are inevitable in this life. Christianity does not claim to eliminate them. But it gives us a better basis on which to face them.

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