In the first part of this two-part series, we introduced the idea that many people are unfortunately taught that to become a Christian tends to mean a life without troubles or problems. Certainly, if God has a “wonderful” plan for your life and mine, then how could it include those things? Moreover, many pastors throughout America and the world teach that God is essentially a heavenly Genie, there to fulfill our wishes. This “name it, claim it” theology – which has no basis in Scripture – is designed to attract people into joining churches. Usually, they are taught the more they give financially, the more God will be able to bless them. In that sense then, Christianity becomes a religious institution that is seen as providing not only salvation in the next life, but fulfillment of our wishes in this life.
Most who look forward to being married do so because they believe that finding that soul mate, marrying them, starting a family with them, and making plans with them will be wonderful. However, in America, the divorce rate is nearly 50%, which of course means that 1 out of 2 marriages ends in divorce. Surely, those folks did not marry planning to divorce, did they? What happened?
What happened is that reality set in. People court one another, love grows, the wedding day happens and then the honeymoon. All of this is generally a time of expectancy and excitement. However, once the honeymoon period is over, reality begins to come into focus. Life is still there. Married people eventually fall into the normal routine of working, taking care of children, paying the bills, taking care of the home and all that it entails, and so much more. If allowed, that routine will literally squash the romance of a marriage pretty quickly.
People who continue in marriage, despite its difficulties and routine, do so because of their commitment to their spouse. They push on because that’s what they promised to do. They understand that making a marriage work means working at that marriage. It is, in the beginning and the end, a relationship and relationships take work and time.
Over the years of your life, you’ve probably noticed that some people you were friends with fell out of your life for one reason or another. Others might remain friends to this day. Most of us are fortunate to know that we have had or still have people we consider close friends. These people are the people we can share our innermost thoughts with and not be condemned or judged. They know us and we know them. There is a quality of comfort when we are around them and we believe the feeling is mutual.
But relationships like this take work. They don’t simply happen. People must work at them to define borders or parameters, to understand likes and dislikes, to determine whether knowing that other person is worth the effort. If they’ve remained a close friend, then the effort has been worth it.
If you stop talking to your good friend or spouse, chances are excellent that the relationship will suffer. As I’ve stated before, the Law of 2nd Thermodynamics essentially states that things left to themselves go from order to disorder. Leave a banana on the counter and check back in a week. It will have become ripened or even started to rot.
Relationships are very much like this. If we do nothing to work on them, they will sour. It is the same with our relationship with God. If we enter into a relationship with Him (which is essentially what salvation is all about), but believe that He is there to make us happy, to reveal that “wonderful” plan of His to us, we may very well be disappointed. God’s “wonderful” plan centers around salvation.
Once we gain or embrace salvation, we are actually embracing Jesus as He is, God the Son.
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life (1 John 5:11-12; emphasis added).
You see the text I’ve italicized? Salvation is Jesus and the one who has salvation has Jesus. Just like in any other relationship we are in, there will be problems we face, issues that we will need to deal with, and temptation we will need to avoid. Because God is living within us through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Acts 6:5; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14; 1 John 2:27, etc.), He will empower us to live lives that please Him and bring Him glory.
Can you imagine marrying someone and always expecting them to do things for you without you never having a thought of giving them something in return? That one-sided relationship wouldn’t last that long. We all see the stupidity and selfishness of that type of relationship, don’t we?
Yet, when it comes to God, it’s as if some pastors try so hard to “sell” the gospel, that they believe they have to make it sound extremely palatable so that people won’t have any reason to reject it. This is not the way the gospel message was presented in the New Testament. People were presented with the truth of salvation and called to a life that often involved hardship. Persecution was rife in the first century and it exists now and getting worse. God has never promised to keep us from being persecuted. He has only promised to keep us from His wrath, which is not the same thing.
We need to understand that God’s “wonderful” plan for our life primarily involves salvation and that salvation will not be fully experienced or even understood in this life. It will not be until we pass through death’s door that the mysteries of salvation will be made clear to us. Paul tells us we now see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). He also tells us that not all has been revealed to us yet.
But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Too many people focus on this life as though it is the be all, end all of everything. People are born, live, and die, every day. As a student of history, I’m continually amazed to learn how many people spent much of their lives building monuments in some form or another to themselves. Yet, they still die and those monuments – whether physical or otherwise – cannot help them once they leave this life.
The Bible has some very important things to say about the brevity of our lives. We would do well to heed its message.
Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:14)
Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:4)
For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls…” (1 Peter 1:24)
For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. (1 Chronicles 29:15)
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah (Psalm 39:5)
There are many verses like the ones above and they all remind us that life is short. Because of it, we should live not with our eyes on ourselves, but for God. God’s “wonderful” plan is His plan of salvation. He has never promised that this life will be free of problems and pain. In fact, He said we will have trials and tribulations.
People need to be told the truth about salvation and what that means for us in this life now. It does not place us on the primrose path devoid of sorrow and pain. It places us on the road that is diametrically opposed to Satan and his kingdom, but as the Bible tells us…
…we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)