Over the years I have heard both ministers and lay members comment that as Christians we do not have to suffer or endure any sort of "hardship" or "challenge". If we are sick, we simply pray and we will be healed right then and there. If we do not have a job, we will pray and immediately we will get a job. Our spouse will instantly have a change of heart and come to us begging our forgiveness. Over and over again people will pull out verses in the Bible to substantiate this theology. A favorite scripture to use is John 14:14.
If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
John 14:14 (NKJV)
We cannot build a theology around just one verse and ignore the rest of God's Word. We must see how our interpretation of it lines up with the rest of the Word of God; otherwise we are guilty of "cut and paste" theology. We cut out what we don't like and paste what we do like in it's place. In other words, we are trying to be editors of God's Word.
The other day, I read:
After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
Acts 14:21-22 (NLT)
Wait a moment. Suffering? Hardship? Why would this ever happen if we only had to speak the word and we would always be delivered instantly? Something just does not seem to make sense here. In Acts we are told that Paul and Barnabas said that we would have to suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God and yet a minister on the radio, on television or even in our own church tells us that we do not have to endure any hardship at all. Could it be that this is merely the opinion of Paul and Barnabas? Perhaps that it is. Perhaps this is merely their opinion and they are wrong. Whew!
Except... Jesus said this as well.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 (NLT)
This is not one of Jesus' followers saying this, John tells us this is what Jesus said.
The fire of hardship and adversity in one form or another is what burns away the impurities and imperfections in our lives. It either breaks us and causes us to turn from God or it strengthens us as we turn to Him. The fire is what refines us, molds us and makes us into who God wants us to be. Always remember that.
Based on what the New Testament says about trials and suffering, should we accept any teaching that denies this? What do you think?
Photo Credit: Master/freedigitalphotos.net