A different look at Christianity In the past 50 years a gospel has been preached, which has misled many. One spoke about the fact that people should come to Jesus for then all their problems would be solved. Messages were preached on the subject of giving in order to receive in return. One should no longer fight, because Jesus had conquered the devil on Calvary. Christianity was presented as being without cares, relaxed, pleasant, a bountiful life, where people were focused on the church in order to feel good. People came to church to increase in wealth, to receive more and especially to have the ears tickled through wonderful study days. People then said “O, how we enjoyed this teaching. It was so good!” Often people were not able to repeat what they had heard, but it had been a successful day anyway! Half a gospel is a false gospel! Mostly we look back to an egocentric, one-sided experience of a part of the message, bringing much damage to the Body of Christ. Generally speaking, as I look to the situation among the Christians, I notice a weak body, still battling with sin and often hoping for the return of Christ, who would bring deliverance to all their limitations. There is a lot of soulish, emotional Christianity, often seeking to satisfy its own desires and needs. People are focused to their own group or church and struggle for years with their problems. There is a tremendous lack of Biblical knowledge and somewhere Christianity totally misses her goal, making her a mockery to the world. A radical change is needed It looks like a radical change is needed in spiritual insight as well as in practical outworking of the goal of Christianity. Someone once said, “It looks like Christianity needs suffering in order to come to the level where she should function”. The church was never meant to be a goal in itself but it is a means to reach the great commission, which Jesus has given us. We need to change our understanding of our calling and also how to practice the message that is found in the Bible. Not always receiving whatever you want In the Bible we find several examples of promises, which were not fulfilled in the lifespan of a person. People received the promises and were looking to the fulfillment of them but yet did not receive them… We look for instance to Moses, who received the commission to bring the people of Israel into the Promise Land. Moses did see the land from afar but he himself was not allowed to go in. In Hebrews 11: 39 we read that many heroes of faith did not receive the things promised. People have wrestled, prayed, waited and yet not received what they hoped for. In the book of Acts we read that Herod murdered James. James died as a martyr, but was unable to finish his task on the earth. Read Acts 12: 1-2. We used to sing a song in the Full Gospel Church “always happy, always happy, every day the sun is shining”. Is there then never a battle or sorrow, pain or unanswered questions, or unfulfilled hope? Many people do not dare to be honest and recognize that the sun does not always shine as bright! There are depths, there are nights of struggle, cares and even sufferings to bear. God is with us! God has tears God sympathizes with us. He cries with us. God has feelings. He is not a spectator. In Genesis 6: 6 it says literally that God has tears. God was grieved because of man’s failure. There are many other Scriptures, which show that God knows sorrow. One thing is sure: God is not the author of suffering! He is our companion in suffering. God does not ignore suffering; He comes in the suffering of mankind in order to strengthen that person. Psalm 41: 1 “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble”. Hence we should pay attention to the person who suffers and realize that God is with us in the midst of all toil and tears. The sufferings of the present time Paul writes in Romans 8: 18 about the sufferings of the present time and he says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”. Paul speaks here about sufferings and about glory and he then continues in verse 19 by saying that the whole creation is eagerly waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. The whole of creation is subjected to futility because of sin, because of Adam, who sold his right of dominion to Satan. That is the reason why there is so much suffering and sorrow in the world and why so many things happen, which are not according to the will of God. Glory Through suffering, greater glory Suffering does not come from God. It is the Evil One who attacks people and who places hindrances in order to make people fall. It is also very clear in the Bible, in both Old and New Testament that children of God are going through sufferings. Jesus has suffered; we, His servants, are not more than the Master, we will also have to face suffering. Not because of God’s permission Suffering does not make sense when people acquiesce in it and especially when people assume that God is the author of suffering. Then people come in a crisis and do not understand any longer how the God of love brought them in such a situation. God is not the author of suffering, though, but it is Satan. He is going around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. One must resist the devil, steadfast in the faith, without wavering, without compromise, holding on despite whatever happens and he will flee from us. God suffers with us God comes along in our sufferings and in it He takes care of restoration. When one of His children is going through difficulties or sorrow, then God comes in these difficulties and He turns things around for the good giving hope for victory to the Christian. Jesus was able to withstand the suffering because of the glory, which was waiting on Him. Peter writes about suffering and declares also that God will strengthen us after a short time of suffering. “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you”.
Read 1 Peter 5: 10. Suffering because of opposition Paul declares in Romans 8: 31-38 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Suffering as a price Suffering is often the price that someone pays in order to walk in a greater authority afterwards. Suffering means that we prove to the enemy that whatever he tries, we are not giving into his attacks, but we are determined to go on because of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Regaining lost territory Suffering is related to repossessing territory that was lost. It is answering to the question “who do you think you are?” Suffering also means to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, like Peter says in 1 Peter 2: 21 “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…” Every blessing and abundance of the Kingdom of God has been promised to us with persecution. See Mark 10: 30. First conclusion of this part: There is blessing and victory but not without a fight, not without trouble. We must realize that there is a price to pay in order to repossess areas for the Kingdom of God, or for the outworking of a mandate, and/or for the fulfilling of a vision received from God. Suffering does not come from God but from the opponent, who will try to stop us and discourage us, but the one who endures to the end, will receive the reward.
To be continued… In a next article I will further expound on the reasons for suffering. Read also chapters 5 and 10 on suffering in my book “And yet God is different”. If you do not have the book yet, you can order it through this website. God bless you! Irene Maat