MYTH: Christian Life is Easier Ł 2 Corinthians 4:16- of Christianity/FAITH... · faith matters) fi…

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<ul><li><p>MYTH03 PAGE 1</p><p>faith matters faith matters faith matters faith matters faith matters</p><p>)) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )</p><p>MYTH: Christian Life is Easier 2 Corinthians 4:16-18</p><p>We should consider it aprivilege to belong to JesusChrist whether life is easyor hard.</p><p>I watched the preacher on television. He waspassionate and articulate. He said that God wantseveryone to be healthy and wealthy. He told usthat God has promised the good life to all Chris-tians if we will only claim the promises of God.He went on to say that it is a lie from the devil thatwe cant have all of our problems solved. And heasked us in his listening audience to take a step offaith and to prove God by sending a large dona-tion to him and then by sitting back and watchinghow God would bless.</p><p>The underlying promise to everything he saidseemed to me to be that life is easier when a per-son becomes a Christian. In some ways thats true;in other ways it is quite contrary to what the Bibleteaches. After all, Jesus said in Matthew 11:30,For my yolk is easy and my burden is light. Jesuspromised in Matthew 28:20, . . . I am with youalways, to the very end of the age. And God tellsus in Hebrews 13:5, Never will I leave you; neverwill I forsake you.</p><p>As a pastor I have had people share with metheir great disappointment with God because theythought he promised them better than they got inlife. When they became follow-ers of Jesus their understand-ing was that he would answerall their prayers, solve all theirproblems, heal all their diseasesand make life constantly happy.Then came sickness, sadnessand set backs that really hurtand took them by surprise. It isnot what they thought theChristian life would be like.</p><p>We must beware of themyth that the Christian life is always easy. It is not.</p><p>Oh, please dont misunderstand. The Chris-tian life is wonderful. The Christian life is super-natural. The Christian life is spectacular. But it isnot easy. So, I invite you to three biblical teach-ings and lots of biblical quotations to try to put allof this into perspective.</p><p>The first biblical teaching is universal hu-man suffering. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13,No temptation has seized you except what is com-mon to man. That is to say that there are troubles</p><p>in life that are part of the universal human experi-ence. It is part of living in our world and no one isexempt. All of humanity must deal with it.</p><p>The list is longfire; floods; famine; earth-quakes; crimes; broken bones; broken hearts; dis-ease; death. It is not that everyone experiences allof them, but as Christians we are not exempt fromany of them. When someone becomes a Christianshe is not suddenly immune from the flu at schoolor getting fired at work. Christians are as vulner-able to natural disasters, mental illness, financiallosses and family problems as anyone else.</p><p>St. Paul is the Poster Christian for universalhuman suffering. We read just a bit of his autobi-ography in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27:</p><p>Five times I received from the Jews theforty lashes minus one. Three times I wasbeaten with rods, once I was stoned, threetimes I was shipwrecked, I spent a night anda day in the open sea, I have been constantlyon the move. I have been in danger fromrivers, in danger from bandits, in dangerfrom my own countrymen, in danger fromGentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in</p><p>the country, in danger atsea; and in danger fromfalse brothers. I have la-bored and toiled and haveoften gone without sleep;I have known hunger andthirst and have often gonewithout food; I have beencold and naked.</p><p>In the next chapter hetalks about his thorn inthe flesh from which he</p><p>repeatedly prayed to be healed and was declinedevery time. He never says what his physical dis-ability was, but Bible students have guessed that itwas either poor vision or chronic malaria. Eitherway, the great apostle wasnt exempt from physicalproblems just because he was a Christian.</p><p>Please dont think that because of faith in JesusChrist as our Savior we are somehow immunizedagainst the difficulties of life. The difference isnot in what happens to us but in how we respondto what happens to us.</p></li><li><p>MYTH03 PAGE 2</p><p>faith matters faith matters faith matters faith matters faith matters</p><p>)) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )</p><p>All of this may seem terribly discouraging. Butdont get discouraged. Just listen and hang in therefor awhile. What were talking about here will getbetter; but first it will get worse!</p><p>The second biblical teaching is that there isoften extra suffering for Christians. Thats right!Many times Christians actually have more prob-lems and greater suffering simply because we areChristians. 1 Peter 4:12 tells us, Dear friends,do not be surprised at the painful trial you aresuffering, as though something strange were hap-pening to you.</p><p>In the first century Christians knew that they wereat greater risk because of their faith. Christians wereenslaved, persecuted and even tortured and killed.Let me give you a sampling of what the New Testa-ment was telling those first century Christians aboutthe hardships of being a follower of Jesus:</p><p>Remember those earlier days after you hadreceived the light, when you stood your ground ina great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimesyou were publicly exposed to insult and persecu-tion; at other times you stood side by side withthose who were so treated. You sympathized withthose in prison and joyfully accepted the confis-cation of your property, because you knew thatyou yourselves had better and lasting possessions.(Hebrews 10:32-34)</p><p>This is my gospel, for which I am sufferingeven to the point of being chained like a criminal.(2 Timothy 2:8)</p><p>Jesus brother writes, Consider it pure joy,my brothers, whenever you face trials of manykinds, because you know that the testing of yourfaith develops perseverance. (James 1:2-3)</p><p>Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author andperfector of our faith, who for the joy set beforehim endured the cross, scorning its shame, andsat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition fromsinful men, so that you will not grow weary andlose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)</p><p>You became imitators of us and of the Lord;in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the mes-sage with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.</p><p>(I Thessalonians 1:6)Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing</p><p>joy and their extreme poverty welled up in richgenerosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2)</p><p>Rather, as servants of God we commend our-selves in every way: in great endurance; introubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings,imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleeplessnights and hunger. (2 Corinthians 6:4-5)</p><p>We do not want you to be uninformed, broth-ers, about the hardship we suffered in the prov-ince of Asia. We were under great pressure, farbeyond our ability to endure, so that we despairedeven of life. (2 Corinthians 1:8)</p><p>Well, you get the point. It can be tough to be aChristian. Although, probably a lot less tough forus than for many. We live in a country with free-dom of faith and are not likely to experience afraction of what Christians suffered in the RomanEmpire or even now in the Sudan or North Koreaor other parts of our modern world.</p><p>None of us wants tough times, but we shouldnot be surprised by them. To the contrary, weshould consider it a privilege to belong to JesusChrist whether life is easy or hard.</p><p>A few years ago Charleen and I retracedat least part of the journey of the early 20th cen-tury Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Wesailed the Weddell Sea, walked on South GeorgiaIsland, visited Elephant Island and toured aroundparts of Antarctica. Maybe you know his story.</p><p>In 1914 Ernest Shackleton sailed from En-gland with a 27-member crew aboard the ship theEndurance, headed for the largely unexplored con-tinent of Antarctica. His biographers tell about anad he ran in a London newspaper in anticipationof his expedition. It said:</p><p>MEN WANTED FOR HAZARDOUS JOUR-NEY. LOW WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONGHOURS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS. SAFERETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND REC-OGNITION IN EVENT OF SUCCESS.</p><p>Five thousand men volunteered to go.It is a metaphor for following Jesus. Far more</p><p>so than signing up with Shackleton, becoming aChristian and following Jesus Christ as Lord is agreat adventure with God. It is exhilarating, prom-ising and spectacular, but there are probable, if notinevitable, hardships along the way. And billionshave volunteered.</p><p>The Christian life is very good but do notbe surprised if it is also very hard. We are toldin 1 Peter 4:12, Dear friends, do not be sur-</p></li><li><p>MYTH03 PAGE 3</p><p>faith matters faith matters faith matters faith matters faith matters</p><p>)) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )</p><p>prised at the painful trial that you are suffering, asthough something strange were happening to you.</p><p>The third biblical teaching is about thespecial grace God gives Christians. Recogniz-ing the difficulties of life God promises specialprovisions for followers of Jesus. Paul writesin 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:</p><p>Therefore we do not lose heart. Thoughoutwardly we are wasting away, yet in-wardly we are being renewed day by day.For our light and momentary troubles areachieving for us an eternal glory that faro u t w e i g h sthem all. So wefix our eyes noton what isseen, but onwhat is un-seen. For whatis seen is tem-porary, butwhat is unseen is eternal.</p><p>Pauls point here is that the troubles of life areof a short duration in comparison to the length ofeternity. Some day earths troubles will pass andChristians will experience the wonder of heavenwhen todays troubles will be forgotten.</p><p>As good as a future promise may be it maynot be enough to deal with present pain. So, theBible gives an added perspective that only Chris-tians can understand in 1 Peter 4:12-16:</p><p>Dear friends, do not be surprised atthe painful trial you are suffering, asthough something strange were happeningto you. But rejoice that you participate inthe sufferings of Christ, so that you maybe overjoyed when his glory is revealed. Ifyou are insulted because of the name ofChrist, you are blessed, for the Spirit ofglory and of God rests on you. If you suf-fer, it should not be as a murderer or thiefor any other kind of criminal, or even as ameddler. However, if you suffer as a Chris-tian, do not be ashamed, but praise Godthat you bear that name.</p><p>The point here is that Jesus suffered for us. Hewas humiliated, beaten and crucified to redeem usfrom sin. He is our Savior and Leader. We havesigned up with him and it is an honor to experience</p><p>for him a little of what he experienced for us.When life gets hard we not only identify with</p><p>Jesus but we gain insight that helps us to help oth-ers. Have you ever gone to a counselor or physi-cian and discovered that she or he once sufferedwhat you are suffering? 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says:</p><p>Praise be the God and Father of ourLord Jesus Christ, the Father of compas-sion and the God of all comfort, who com-forts us in all troubles, so that we can com-fort those in any trouble with the comfortwe ourselves have received from God.</p><p>So, here is what happens.As Christians our lives arenot always easy. We experi-ence the same universal prob-lems of life that everyoneelse experiences. We mayeven suffer extra pain andproblems just because we arefollowers of Jesus. But when</p><p>we do, God steps in and provides supernaturallove, care, promise and strength. We get to expe-rience God in new and deeper ways because ofthe problems of life.</p><p>Do you remember that physical disability ofPaul? Whether it was poor vision or chronic ma-laria or whatever it was, here was his response in2 Corinthians 12:8-10:</p><p>Three times I pleaded with the Lord totake it away from me. But he said to me,My grace is sufficient for you, for mypower is made perfect in weakness.Therefore I will boast all the more gladlyabout my weaknesses, so that Christspower may rest on me. That is why, forChrists sake, I delight in weaknesses, ininsults, in hardships, in persecutions, indifficulties. For when I am weak, then Iam strong.</p><p>It is not that Christians have lives that are easier.It is that Christians have a God who is greater!</p><p>In December 1914 the Endurance entered theice fields of the Weddell Sea. The pack ice frozearound them and the promises of the ad started tocome true: HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. LOWWAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG HOURS OFCOMPLETE DARKNESS. SAFE RETURNDOUBTFUL.</p><p> It is not that Christians have livesthat are easier. It is that Chris-tians have a God who is greater!</p></li><li><p>MYTH03 PAGE 4</p><p>faith matters faith matters faith matters faith matters faith matters</p><p>)) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )</p><p>Faith Matters is the Broadcast Ministry ofLeith Anderson and Wooddale Church6630 Shady Oak RoadEden Prairie MN 55344952-944-6300www.faithmatters.fmLeith Anderson</p><p>They stayed in and around their ice-lockedship for ten months, through the darkness of theAntarctic winter, hoping they would be able tosurvive the winter and finally be able to sail to theopen sea. But tragedy was added to tragedy onone indescribable day when the ice crushed theEndurance. No one knew where they were. Therewas no help coming. So Shackleton and histwenty-seven men started walking across the fro-zen sea, dragging three lifeboats and minimal sup-plies. Eventually they reached open water andfloated to Elephant Island. It seemed hopeless.Between them and South America was the DrakePassage with the roughest seas in the world. Theyknew their chance of survival in lifeboats wasabsolutely zero.</p><p>So, Shackleton and four crew members tookone of the lifeboats and headed away from SouthAmerica toward South Georgia Island where therewas a whaling station. Without adequate naviga-tion equipment and with dead reckoning theyaimed for a speck in the Southern Atlantic Oceanthat was 800 miles away. Bitter cold and danger-ous waters surrounded them. They were the onlyhope for the 23 men left behind on Elephant Is-land. Shackleton was a committed Christian. Heprayed for Gods grace and God got them to SouthGeorgia Island.</p><p>Amazingly, in one of the greatest feats of navi-gation in all of human history, they hit it! But theylanded on the wrong side. Between them and thewhaling station was a mountain range so high anddangerous it had never been conquered by hu-mans. Without experience or proper climbingequipment Shackleton and two of his men headedup the mountains and over ice fields, through bliz-zards and over treacherous cliffs. Thirty-six hourslater they slid down the other side of the moun-</p><p>tain to the whaling station. Heres what ErnestShackleton wrote in his diary:</p><p>I know that during that long andracking march of 36 hours over the un-named mountains of South Georgia, itseemed to me often that there were four,not three. I said nothing to my compan-ions, but afterwards Worsley said to me,Boss, I had a curious feeling that therewas another person with us. </p><p>You see, God did not preserve them fromsevere difficulty. What God did was climb themountain with them.</p><p>They reached the whaling station and ledthose whalers back 800 m...</p></li></ul>

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