There is a foreign gospel often taught amongst churches that lead people into a delusion and awful state: that God intends to make us happy, healthy and wealthy while we are still on this Earth. We are all familiar with the extreme teaching as found in the “health and wealth gospel”, most of us have bought into the hype at one time through “The Prayer of Jabez”, and I would guess almost all of us hope for it and can test our hearts on it through the things that we pray. Is your prayer list a laundry list of needs – things that you desire to be fixed so that you can live more comfortably and happily? I know much of mine is.
There is a verse that some attempt to apply to today, many attempt to apply to the end times, but upon close examination only truly speaks to eternity:
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.”
– 1 Thess 5.9-10
Taking this verse out of it’s setting in the letter Paul wrote to the Church at Thessalonica, we can understand how someone would erroneously apply this verse to our every day life. If God has not destined us for wrath, then He intends to make everything go well for me! However, this verse is speaking in the context of the end, of eternity. The Church at Thessalonica was confused about death and the end, they even became fearful that they had missed the rapture! Thus Paul wrote to explain about the end, that those who had died would be raised from the dead and that when everything is said and done, we will not suffer eternal judgment but salvation through Jesus.
Consider how Jesus prayed for the disciples and for us:
“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me…”
– John 17.13-21
Jesus prayed for us that we would be unified with Him, that God would keep us from the evil one, and He sent us out into the world. Jesus should be our example as we consider our Christian walk, and God sent Him into the world to seek and to serve. He had no where to lay His head, He gave to the poor and needy, He lived His life with an eternal perspective of salvation and He was hated for it. If we want to be like Jesus, the world will hate us.
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
– John 15.18-20
The world persecuted Jesus, and they will persecute those who follow Jesus.
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
– 2 Tim 3.12
We have the promise of eternal salvation, and are no longer living under the wrath of God. Jesus took God’s wrath for those who believe in Him. We will, however, live under the curse of sin until the end. Sin leaves consequences on Earth. The world will suffer tribulation, and we must persevere through it, for it is only those who persevere to the end that will be saved.
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”
– Matt 24.9-13
God gives us the grace to persevere through trials and tribulation. We are made more like Jesus through our trials and tribulations, because Jesus suffered and came through victorious, and when we endure suffering with perseverance, it creates character and character leads to hope (Rom 5, James 1). Let us not think today that we are greater than our master, that we will be loved by the world and that we will be kept from suffering and persecution. Let us cling to Jesus as we walk through the trials and struggles of life, and be molded more into His image. He has sent us out into the world to be His witnesses. Let’s embrace it.