The Perils of Paul

Some people, if they’re not careful, give the impression that the gospel is: “Give your life to Jesus and you will just sail through life healthy and prosperous with no challenges. If you have problems, become a Christian and you won’t have any more problems!”

The Bible never promises you a trouble-free life; in fact, it promises you the opposite!  “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33). Faith was not given to you to ensure that you never have a problem, but faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). Your faith will overcome your problems!  But you will have to know the Word and exercise faith in it to enjoy that victory.  Actually, when you think about it, why would you need the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:57) if you will never have an opponent? By definition, you only have victory when you have an opponent! On Friday, the Red Sox were unable to be victorious in a World Series game – because none was being played!  They only won victories Wednesday and Thursday because there was an opponent. [In this case, the opposing  team (the Colorado Rockies) was similar to PBFC in that it only passed the plate once per day.]

The problem with preaching a “no-problem” gospel is that it is way too easy for people to fall away as soon as things get the least bit hard.  They’ll think, “I didn’t sign up for this!”  But the day you got saved, you signed up for conflict!  You signed up for persecution for righteousness’ sake. Jesus mentioned that you would be persecuted and reviled and have all kinds of lies spoken about you – and to rejoice and be very glad in that day, because that’s how they treated the prophets of old, too.  Do you think it was all smooth sailing for Jesus? He had people trying to kill him long before He laid down His life willingly. He had people lying about Him and trying to sour everyone on Him.

We have people who preach that you can get a 100-fold return on everything you put in the offering, but how often do they mention persecution, which is in the same verse they quote (“a hundredfold in this life with persecution”)? Actually, this verse is not guaranteeing that if you put $1 in an offering, God will give you $100.  Who is going to persecute you for putting $1 in an offering?  (Read in context, this verse is talking about missionaries who leave all for the sake of the gospel.)

If smooth sailing is a sign that you are in the will of God, Paul missed God his whole life.  He spent years under arrest and in prison!  He was beaten, shipwrecked, flogged, in danger from false brothers, often weary and hungry, sleepless, cold, sometimes working to support himself (not full-time, so how could he a “ministerial success” in modern terms in those cities where he worked for a living?). He stuck his neck out in Asia only to have his entire ministry team quit on him as soon as serious trouble came up (2 Tim 4:16)! These days, when it seems like many ministers want to be considered “apostolic”, perhaps people should read about the troubles that real apostles had in the Bible – they might change their minds about wanting to be apostolic!  Some of the “heroes of the faith” of past generations like Smith Wigglesworth were not even well-liked in their day – perhaps they were ahead of their time and are finally recognized for what they stood for.  One of the greatest missionaries of all time, William Carey, labored in India for the first 7 years without a single convert – and stayed faithful and kept going! How many today would keep going without an instant megachurch?  Some press on but many quit. Thank God Paul didn’t quit even when he was weary and beaten up.

God has not promised you freedom from challenges, but He has equipped you to overcome them.  The Word of God has everything you need to cover every situation life throws at you – it’s your training manual.  But you have to know it and do it!  Don’t be surprised if you face a challenge – everyone does, not matter how great his faith is. Even Jesus was tempted by the devil. But like Him, you can overcome every time by believing and acting on the Word of God!