For some reason Christians often believe that blessing and difficulty are mutually exclusive words. Unlike peanut butter and chocolate, blessing and difficulty don’t seem like good traveling companions.
When God blesses our lives shouldn’t our circumstances work out with ease? Shouldn’t we prosper in every aspect of our jobs? Shouldn’t others like and respect us? Shouldn’t our ministry efforts go smoothly? After all, God certainly has the ability to make things happen, why wouldn’t He—all the time? Shouldn’t the Christian life be a piece of cake?
Thinking about the Apostle Paul, we would all concur that there was a man who lived a blessed life! But when we survey the actual details of Paul’s life, he experienced difficulties for Christ that would make a Navy Seal wince. Even at the end of Paul’s life, most of his traveling companions had abandoned him. And yet he was blessed!
Apparently Peter’s thinking also fell along these lines: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you…” 1 Peter 4:12 (NASB).
I think it’s safe to say that not only are we surprised by fiery ordeals, we often find ourselves incredulous that God would have the audacity to even allow them. Isn’t a fiery ordeal a sure sign of an uncaring or absentee God?
As I said in my last post, an integral part of God’s agenda is to form us into champions of the faith. Perseverance through adversity breeds proven character; everything good and true must be tested. If our Christian lives don’t in some form stretch our faith to its limits, I’m not sure that we’re walking with God.
During a profound moment Jesus told His followers not to work for physical food, but rather for eternal provision. Whether confused or upset I don’t know, but they responded with a question: “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”
Surprisingly, Jesus responded with “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
Um, well, not exactly what your average pastor would say on any given Sunday. But I think I get what Jesus was saying. The foundation for all of life is an absolute trust in our heavenly Father. Out of faith flows redemption and peace with God. Out of faith flows physical provision. Out of faith flows fruitful labor for the Gospel.
In a sense Jesus was saying, “Don’t be a laborer. Switch careers and be a believer! Don’t expend all of your energy to fill your stomach. Feed your soul on the Bread of Life! Don’t walk by sight. Walk by faith!”
Did you know that some (not all) forms of depression are reactive? We become discouraged and depressed as a result of our reaction to circumstances that are not what we want (or think they should be). We hold onto an idealized form of reality, while growing increasingly negative in our view of life. Some (or all) of our reasons for being bothered may truly be valid, but when our expectations morph into an attempt to control our circumstances and the people around us, everybody loses.
All of this means that we need to periodically reevaluate our approach to life to ensure that we are deliberately processing everything through the eye of faith. Personally I find it necessary to sometimes slow the pace of life, taking extra time to prayerfully reflect on issues that may be bothering me. Concern for a loved one, an unanswered prayer, frustration with our government, or a reluctance to move in a new direction in life can all be things that weigh on me over the course of time. I begin to feel burdened without really knowing why. As I take the time to honestly identify specific issues, surrender them to God, and choose to exercise faith, I can sense the burdens immediately begin to lift.
Christianity is a full-time faith-walk. Not a comfort-walk. Not a security-walk. Not a spectator-walk. But a faith-walk. Until we come to grips with this reality; that every facet of life must be processed through the eye of faith, we’ll not only be discouraged, we’ll be continually plagued by a deceptive sense of powerlessness.
God has so much more for us than we are currently experiencing. Let’s get on with our new career!