We are beginning our long-term series on Myths in Christianity officially with one that may be a bit of a heavy topic in the year that is 2020. That’s okay. Just remember… I warned you.
One of the myths of the modern Christian life is that the things of life and our experiences are not supposed to be hard, harmful, or hurtful.
A lot of us, myself certainly included, have sat around, hit that 2020 wall, and realized how bad some this year has been. People have died, lost jobs, lost loved-ones, had games and seasons and trips cancelled, and many other things. Mental health crises have skyrocketed. We have everything from conspiracies on COVID to full blame on one person for a literal virus. March Madness never happened. The NFL has seen 15+ stars have season-ending injuries. Everything is a lousy zoom meeting now. And all of us, at some point or another, have sat in a room, mad, frustrated, and experienced hopelessness in light of the year 2020. Everything has lost its flavor. Everything seems like it is gray now.
I’m a Christian, so shouldn’t my life be easier than this?
We have all realized this year that we are not untouchable. None of us. And that has begged the question, even amongst Christians, “did we deserve this?” I’m not going to answer that. I want to ask another question. As a Christian, is my life supposed to be easy? Are bad things supposed to happen to me? Is any of this fair? Joel Osteen has wasted hundreds of thousands of minutes and pages and words telling you that God wants you to succeed and prosper according a man-made standard. If that were true, then does this mean God took the year 2020 off? We are going to look at this from a biblical perspective.
God only wants your total success… unless you’re Job.
Take a look at Job. He was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). Job was “the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). He would get up every day and engage in intercessory worship for his children, just in case they sinned… which they most obviously did, like we all do. Job had wealth, health, and a large family– the Holy Trinity of Osteen Christianity. And what happens? Job survives a plague and becomes a large success… except he doesn’t.
Satan comes in to talk to God. God asks, “From where have you come?” Satan tells him that he has been going “to and fro on the earth” (Job 1:7). God asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8). So, now God himself admits out loud that Job is legit. Satan then proceeds to accused God of basically wrapping Job’s family in proverbial bubble wrap: “… have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands… but stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (Job 1:10-11). God then tells Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hands” (Job 1:12). So, here is Job, he’s got it all going for him. Satan comes in, accuses God of being soft on Job, and so God allows Satan to do with Job what he wills.
You know what happens? Job’s life becomes the very definition of a living hell. His family dies. His possessions are taken. His friends accuse him of being faithless. And then he comes off the top rope and calls God to carpet. God then hits Job right back, putting him in his place. I encourage you to read that discourse– it’s awesome. But that’s not the point. The point is, we have a man in Job who has everything going for him, and God literally gives Satan permission to ruin his physical life. So, what was all that talk about life not being hard for the believer? Life sure was hard for Job.
God only wants your total success… unless you’re John.
John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus. John was chosen as the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, “sent from God” (John 1:6). He was baptizing people, and declaring that people “‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ just as the prophet Isaiah said” (John 1:19). He was a man of immense spiritual maturity, realizing that he isn’t even worthy enough to untie the sandals of Jesus (John 1:27). John was given the opportunity to literally baptize the Son of God and see the Trinity with his own eyes (John 1:29-34). He knew Jesus was the Messiah. He fully understood the gravity of the faith (John 3:31-36).
John became one of the great church fathers and lived a full life… except, well, he didn’t. John himself becomes doubtful at points of the true divinity of Jesus (Matthew 11). John also gets put in prison for presumably telling the truth (Matthew 14). Because of this, he gets beheaded. John was a man sent from God, he baptized the Messiah, he was faithful to the end. And he gets his head cut off due to a petty argument. The Christian life isn’t supposed to be harmful, right? John’s life sure looked harmful.
God only wants your total success… unless you’re Jesus.
Jesus was and is the Son of God. He is “Light from Light, true God from true God.” Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the savior of the world, the fulfillment of the Law, and the Rock of our salvation. Jesus was born into a Jewish family with successful earthly parents. Jesus had a world-winning career of mass fame and love until he died from old age, leaving a legacy… except for the fact that it didn’t happen like that.
Jesus Christ was born in less than ideal conditions (Luke 2). It was hardly a royal event… some king, right? He lives, presumably, a mundane Jewish life until he is an adult, which is when he starts an earthly ministry with a ragtag group of fisherman, zealots, and tax collectors. His own family doesn’t believe that he’s the Messiah (John 7). He amasses a following of people that, most of them, are only there for the hand outs (John 6). He never travels the world. He has to walk. He has to sleep. He gets accused of blasphemy, treated worse than a criminal, and arrested. Jesus gets betrayed by a man he shared life with for 3 years for pocket change. Jesus is beaten, tortured, laughed at, and mocked. The Jews, his own culture, choose a criminal over him. Pontius Pilate, the Roman official overseeing his case, completely ignores justice. He is then forced to carry his own cross up a hill where they kill him using arguably the most excruciating execution method in human history. He went through all of this solely because he came to earth to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and show the people who he was– the Messiah. They didn’t embrace him– they killed him. The Christian life isn’t supposed to be hurtful, but the life of Christ himself is nothing but hurt through and through.
If the Christian life is supposed to be all kittens and rainbows, then we have to either abandon the Bible, or admit the truth: your health and wealth isn’t the point. God is the point.
Take Job. Job is fantastic. His life gets turned upside down and burned to the ground. But you know what happens? Job doesn’t fold. Job repents, realizing he is the creation, and has no right to challenge the creator (Job 42:1-6). Job also realizes that his very life is grace, for God didn’t have to even create him. Most importantly, God proves that he is the point, for he is causality and creator of all things. The point is not that Job become massively wealthy landowner. The point is that God is God and every decision he makes, by definition, is the best decision, because he is the Creator God. Job doesn’t see this point without losing it all. By losing it all, he gains exactly what he needs: perspective.
Take John the Baptist. John is faithful and commissioned. He gets beheaded before he can even see his own dream realized. He suffers from his own sinful doubts, and he plays a back burner role in the life of Jesus on earth. He is killed for being honest, and is constantly questioned until that point. Yet, what was his legacy? His legacy was that of faithfulness in spite of all odds. By all worlds metrics, John was a failure. By all Biblical metrics, John was incredibly successful, for he ran the race and kept the faith. John made God the point because God is the point.
Take Jesus. Jesus is a nobody, born in nowhere, doing nothing. He creates a group of disciples made up of other nobodys. He is rejected by the vast majority of people, totally ignored by the people most-prepared to recognize him, and then killed as a crazy blasphemer. By every available metric, Jesus is the definition of a failure. Except he’s not because God is the point. He is killed for being holy, and then defeats death by raising from the dead, thus fulfilling the need for atonement for the sins of those who believe.
In all cases, God character and his being demand that he be most glorified. How is he most glorified in the life of Job? He is most gloried in proving to Satan that Job, no matter what, knows who God is: perfect. How is God most glorified in the life of John the Baptist? He is most glorified in proving to history that everything is intentional: including the Messiah. How is God most glorified in the life of Jesus? He is most glorified in proving to creation once-and-for-all that the only savior of Creation is the Creator himself; therefore, he stepped out of heaven to draw us to himself.
You see, we think hurt and pain and inconvenience can’t be a part of the Christian life because we use the wrong lens to view success. The life of the Christian is supposed to be covered in bubble wrap. If we aren’t becoming better than the world around us, we can’t be loved by God. God would never let us fall, get COVID, fail a test, what have you. He loves us, right? Right. But we are not the point. God is the point, and we are not. So far as he is being glorified, in every “win” and every “loss,” the the mission is being accomplished. Everything he chooses to do is only and purely designed to bring himself glory. By the very essence of that truth, anything that happens to me is supposed to glorify God.
That is absolutely beautiful.
All things that happen may not be good, but all things are glorifying, somehow, to God and who he is. That takes the stress away in some part, and most importantly, it takes the focus off of me. The things God chooses to do are perfect things within the context of eternity because he knows and feels infinitely more than we do, yet he chose this things anyway. We can’t make the call of the amorphous and eternal right and wrong because we are finite. We were created. We have a beginning.
The life of the believer is not about being safe, secure, healthy, and wealthy. If God wanted those things exclusively, then we would all be miraculously changed. Some of us are. Others aren’t. If it isn’t universal, then it is not the standard. It’s a myth to think things shouldn’t or won’t hurt just because God exists. However, we can relish in knowing that God will be glorified through all and in all things.
After all, isn’t that why we are even here?
Leave your bubble wrap at home, and bring some extra bandaids. The day will come when there will be no more tears. There will be no more pain. There will be no more hurt. Today isn’t the day. Let us pursue it at all costs, let us abandon our pride, and let us finish the race.
Praise God he even gives us grace enough to run it.
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