Drain Cleaner (Philippians 4:13)

A man walks to a bar. In full view of the bartender, the man proceeds to chug down an entire bottle of extra toxic drain cleaner. The bartender picks up the phone to call 911 and the poison control center, but the man assures the bartender that he’ll be OK. Quite perplexed, the bartender asks why. The man explains that he is a Christian, and he believes in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He further explains that he has faith enough to believe that God will not permit the drain cleaner to harm him. The bartender replies, “I am a Christian too … and you’re completely crazy.” Which man is right?

OK … this is a really far-fetched example. But it forces us to ask an important interpretive question: How should the Christian correctly apply Philippians 4:13? Even before we approach the actual text of Philippians 4:13, there are two incorrect views of the Bible verse that must be immediately debunked.

First, there is the “omnipotence” view of Philippians 4:13. If have enough faith, Christ can empower me to do it. Conversely, the reason that I can’t do things is that I don’t have enough faith. For example, this view would argue that – if I have enough faith – I can prevent myself from getting cancer, jump off the roof without being harmed and obtain vast sums of treasure and pirate booty. Of course, this view is absolutely absurd. The principal reason that this is absurd is that man would be able to attain the divine attribute of omnipotence (read: all-powerful). This is an impossibility. Faith doesn’t make you omnipotent … Only God is omnipotent (Isaiah 14:24-27; Isaiah 46:10-11; Matthew 19:26; Ephesians 1:11). Man will never become omnipotent (Isaiah 40:25-26).

Even if having enough faith granted you some sort of wacky supernatural ability, could you really manipulate God into doing whatever you want (if you have enough faith)? What about things that are self-serving? Like giving me an A+ on a test without studying? Like skipping out on work for two hours without the boss noticing? Like winning the lottery? Like sprouting wings and flying like a bird? Like making random people dance the watusi while singing Lana Del Rey songs? Nope. Whenever God has steps into human history to do miraculous things, it has been to advance His kingdom and not serve petty human desires (Exodus 9:16; Isaiah 48:11; Ezekiel 20:2-44; Malachi 1:11; John 17:24).

Or for that matter … What about things that are blatantly evil? If I have enough faith, can I steal all the gold from Fort Knox? Can I run horrible internet and phone scams about Nigerian princes on the elderly? Can I murder whomever I want and get away from it? Can download all of the pornography ever created for free? Can’t I just “sin it up” if I have enough faith? Certainly, God would not grant believers with “superpowers” to live even more sinful lives. God is principally concerned with the greatness of His name and His glory – not ours. He desires for us to mortify (read: kill) our sin daily and not continue in our sin (Romans 8:1-11).

Second, there is the “motivational speaker” view of Philippians 4:13. The emphasis of this interpretation is the word “I.” The interpretation hinges on the notion that you can achieve all of your hopes and dreams because Jesus really wants them to happen. This approach is the Christian self-esteem equivalent of chanting “I can do it! … I can really, really do it!” You know the scenario. Whenever you have that really hard test that you’ve been pulling an “all-nighter” for … Or whenever you’re got that work meeting or speaking engagement that you’re dreading … One of your Christian friends slips you the sweet and touching little card or note with Philippians 4:13 on it. Usually this greeting card is accompanied with “Let the weak say ‘I am strong!’” or “Be strong and courageous” as an accompanying verse. I recently read one greeting card where one hamster is trying to coax another hamster to swim by exclaiming Philippians 4:13. Another greeting card (and I swear I am not making this up) features a cat afraid to walk in the snow with Philippians 4:13 as the subtext. Wow. We must wary of trivializing the power of the cross into a sappy self-help slogan. The source of the Christians’ strength should never get blurry or confused. The emphasis must be “Christ” and not “I.”

The proper view of Philippians 4:13 comes from (SURPRISE!) taking the verse in context. So here’s the entire passage (Philippians 4:10-20):

[10] I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. [11] Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. [12] I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. [13] I can do all things through him who strengthens me. [14] Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. [15] And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. [16] Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. [17] Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. [18] I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. [19] And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. [20] To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. – Philippians 4:10-20 ESV

Part of the purpose of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is extremely evident in this passage. Paul has been imprisoned, and he is writing to thank the Philippian church for gifts that they have given to him. The church has blessed Paul not only financially but also with the service of his fellow believer, Epaphroditus. While Paul is appreciative for these gifts and is joyous about the Philippian church’s obedience and generosity, he uses his life situation to drive home an important point for all believers. Even in this time of imprisonment, hunger and need, Paul states in verse 11: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

What a challenge to modern believers! Could you be content in any life situation for the sake of the gospel call? The reason that all of this trauma has happened to Paul is that he is on mission for Christ – preaching the gospel message throughout the world. Paul has been rejected. Paul has been run out of virtually every town he has visited. Paul has been stoned and left for dead. Paul has been shipwrecked. Paul has been falsely imprisoned. Would you be willing to endure scorn, mocking, rejection, physical harm and outright torture for the sake of the gospel? Paul did. Not only that … Paul found contentment in the midst of this suffering for the sake of Christ.

Paul’s testimony reminds me of a video called “Shafia’s Story” produced by Voice of the Martyrs. The video recounts the testimony of a young Christian woman in Pakistan. She is falsely imprisoned for believing the gospel. Her brother is brutally executed for his faith. She is raped for 4 months while imprisoned. Her family is sold into slavery to pay for her release from prison. Yet she finds peace and forgiveness in the midst of her labors. In light of Paul, Shafia and so many other persons persecuted for the sake of the gospel around the world, it really puts a different spin on verse 11: “I have learned … to be content.”

Watch “Shafia’s Story” here.

Of course, Paul states here that he has learned to be content. The ability to become content in any life situation doesn’t occur quickly and spontaneously for believers. The contentment comes from learning and experiencing that God does – in fact – carry us through our various troubles as we run the race with endurance. We learn that God does walk alongside of us in the midst of our troubles. He never abandons or forsakes us (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 147:3; Habakkuk 3:19).

The most important point that Paul makes is the famous (infamous?) verse 13. The source of the believer’s contentment is Christ. Paul does not base his contentment on his material wealth or life situation … He bases his contentment on whether he has Christ. And the hope of Christ can never be taken away. Regardless of what happens in our life, our God – who is the source of our strength and hope – never changes and is ever-present. Therefore, we can find contentment in either abundance or need, because the hope of Jesus Christ can never be abated or damaged.

What is the source of your contentment? If your job was taken away, would you still be content? How about your family? How about your car? Your home? Your possessions?Could anything on this earth be taken away that would make you discontented? Job had all these things happen and was still content in praising the Lord. Job  proclaimed: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). We should learn likewise. If no one can steal Christ from us, no one should be able to steal our true joy.

As I am writing this blog, the ceiling of my dining room has caved in. A leaky pipe has damaged several portions of my house. After an initial complete freak out like a spazoid, I called in some contractors to do the work. We wound up talking about Christ, kids and Bible commentaries with the contractors working on our house. We bought pizza for everyone and had great gospel-centered conversations with them. The day that my ceiling caved in turned into an awesome blessing from God that I will never forget. I was reminded again that stuff is just stuff … the gospel is what really matters. And – regardless of how much the final bill ends up being – I’m fully content and satisfied in Christ.

The more I live this life … The more I am learning to be content. All because of my Jesus who strengthens me.

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The Ayer Lion (Romans 8:28)

It happens at every funeral. A bereaved relative or friend of the family is standing by the casket weeping. A devout Christian wraps their arms around the person to console them. I instinctively cringe as I prepare for the mangled Bible verse that comes out of their mouths for reassurance: “All things will work out for good …” It’s Romans 8:28 (Mangled Translation). In an attempt to be comforting and empathetic, many Christians essentially wind up telling people to get their big girl panties on and strap on a happy face. Epic counseling fail.

There’s really two issues to examine this week: (1) What does Romans 8:28 actually say in context?; and (2) How should Christians use this verse during tragedy? Let’s start by looking at this verse in the context of Romans 8:18-30:

[18] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [19] For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. [20] For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope [21] that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. [23] And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. [24] For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? [25] But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

[26] Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. [27] And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. [28] And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:18-30 ESV)

Paul’s overarching topic in this passage is how the believer should respond to suffering in this world. The New Testament has a lot to say about the suffering of Christians (see last week’s blog here ). But what is extraordinarily interesting in this passage is the connection that Paul makes between the Holy Spirit and suffering. First, Paul offers that the Holy Spirit is a downpayment or firstfruits of the new age to be consumated in Christ’s return (see 2 Corinthians 5:1-10). The Christian should find hope in the midst of suffering, because the Holy Spirit gives us a small hint or taste of the greatness that Christ has in store for us. In addition, the Holy Spirit assists the believer in times of weakness – even praying and interceding to the Father when the believer is incapable or unaware. God gives believers the gift of the Holy Spirit to help them through the suffering found in this world. Amazing.

In Romans 8:28-30, Paul pivots to argue that believers must place suffering in the context of the “big picture” of what God is up to. And God is up to some really huge stuff! Paul is giving us an unbelievable bird eye view of God’s dynamic plan for His creation. In particular, verses 29-30 bring God’s gigantic master plan into full view. In His omnipotence (meaning: all powerful) and omniscience (meaning: all knowing), God knew before all of creation existed that some would be saved and love Christ. Without getting sidetracked by the great Calvinist debate, we can agree that God also is the sole author of our salvation, and He predestined that believers would be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. God calls out and invites a fallen creation to come back to their Creator. Those who repent and believe in the gospel will be “justified,” meaning that God accepts and declares believers to be righteous due to Christ’s saving work. When Christ returns, God will complete the process of healing and restoration of every believer (i.e. glorification). What an awesome work that God is engaged in RIGHT NOW!

One critical point about Romans 8:28 before we go any further: It’s talking about believers … not the general public. While the Bible has much to say about general suffering, Romans 8:28 does not apply to non-believers.

Much of the misunderstanding of this verse comes from our old friend: the KJV translation. The KJV (and NKJV) translate verse 28 as “all things work together for good” and not “the good.” Many commentators (C.H. Dodd; Leon Morris) have called this out as a mistranslation of the original Greek text. It might seem like a debate over the word “the” is Clintonian (i.e. “depends on what the meaning of the word is is”), but there are major ramifications. God is principally concerned about the final good for His creation, and not whether you think everything is peachy in your particular life situation.

Frankly, I think that the most important part of this passage is the “predestined” part of verse 29. Don’t fear … This Calvinist buzzword is not used in a hardcore TULIP-y 5-point-y sense here. In this instance, it’s talking about believers being predestined for something. Believers are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. We are in the midst of God’s transformative process. Before the foundation of the world, God determined that believers should be transformed into the image of Christ. How mind-blowing is that?!? If you are believer, God is currently working to transform you into the reflection of Christ.  Even while you’re reading this blog, God has His toolbox open and is building up the new and tearing down the old. He’s using His band saw to chop off things that aren’t like Christ, and He’s pounding together fresh lumber in areas that need to be built up like Christ. When the trumpet sounds and Christ returns, our physical form will be changed into the imperishable and our sin nature will be completely eliminated (which is called “glorification”) (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). Only then will our transformative process be complete.

The problem for many believers is we don’t think big enough in terms of what is good for us. Many believers (including myself if I am truly honest) often think that the best thing for us is being free from trouble and worry (i.e. a healthy family; good jobs; solid marriage; relatively nice house with low maintenance). Instead, God ordained that what is good for believers is to conformed to the image of Christ. And there’s the source of the inherent clash between us and God: We differ in terms of what we believe is good for us. In order to be conformed to the image of Christ, God may allow certain things to happen that will clash with our opinion of what is good for us. In the midst of this clash, God did not call believers to stay static in a cocoon or just to muddle through life. He will go to great lengths to ensure that His transformative work is kickstarted in your life. He’s going to accomplish in His sovereignty whatever He wants. Think about it … If God conceived of this whole idea for you to be transformed into Christ before you even existed, is He really going to stop if you pitch a royal fit about it?

Transformation is difficult. Sometimes the process of change really stinks. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it seems unfair. How many times have I questioned God in the midst of struggle with questions like: “Why now? … It’s not the right time!” … “Why is this so painful to go through?” … “Why does it seem like God has left me stranded here?” … “I get the point, God! Pull me out of this pit already!” These questions were extremely difficult when I felt that God called me into ministry in 2006. As a family, we had a good thing going: a church we loved … a thriving youth ministry filled with kids we adored … the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood … jobs that both my wife and I loved … great lifelong friendships … financial stability. But I was convicted that God had called me to give all these things up to pursue God’s calling. It hurt more than pulling duct tape off a hairy arm.

In addition, a proper understanding of Romans 8:28 saves believers from a bunch of spiritual boogeymen and flat-out false beliefs. An improper understanding of Romans 8:28 leads many believers to blame God and to be indignant and angry with God for absolutely every minor problem and pratfall. Instead, many sufferings stem from unrepentant sin, our fallen world and some extremely bad and foolish choices. The non-believing future star of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” can claim that everything happens for a reason, but that reason is probably a poor decision at her boyfriend’s house. The couple that decided to divorce merely because “they’ve fallen out of love with one another” should not point the finger back at God when their family winds up being strained to the breaking point. Sin causes 99 problems but God ain’t one. Similarly, the Christianese platitudes of “God can even use your sin” or “God will work something good through your sin” are abhorrent because they gloss over the horrendous nature of sin. God’s desire is for you to cease sinning and to mortify (read: kill) your sin nature. He doesn’t want to make due with your mediocrity or lack of effort.

Which brings us full circle to our original funeral scenario. Most believers don’t need to hear this verse during a time of horrendous, unconsolable loss. Please stop. Quoting Romans 8:28 has unfortunately turned into a inconsiderate, condescending Christian way of saying this platitude: “Everything’s going to be OK.” The grieving Christian mother that just lost her infant child three days ago does not need to be told to cheer up and buck up. She needs to hear that the incarnate Christ truly understands her sorrow and pain, and He openly wept over the cruelty and horror of death and illness (Hebrews 4:14-16; John 11:35). She needs to hear that God is source of all comfort and that He is near to the brokenhearted (2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Psalm 34:18). She needs to know that her church family loves her and will be there to support her in her time of grieving and loss. She needs to know that God heals, restores, resurrects and makes all things new.

One of the most beautiful and breathtaking tombstones ever conceived is the Ayer Lion in Lowell Cemetery in Lowell, MA. The life-size lion sculpture is resting on top of the grave of a local pharmaceutical magnate. As you look at the sculpture, the lion looks peaceful, contemplative and serene. It appears to be waiting to spring forth into life. The good news is that believers don’t have to share the same fate the Ayer Lion. We don’t have to lie around lifeless and inanimate in a cemetery, waiting for someone to come spring us forth into life. When Jesus comes into our lives, the process of healing, restoration and reconciliation immediately begins in our lives and will continue until Christ’s return. Jesus is already roaring within us like a lion. To crib terminology from the great scholar C.S. Lewis, I believe that God is in the process of transforming every agony into a great glory for the believer in the grand scope of eternity. The bright and glorious light of Christ enthroned in Heaven will cause every stain, sorrow and hurt to quickly fade away. God had this glorious hope in mind for believers before any believers ever were.

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RV (Jeremiah 29:11)

The retired senior pastor at my church recently told me the true story of a local RV dealer. A very religious man walked into the dealer’s lot one day. Being a good salesman, the dealer approached the man and asked him how he could help. The religious man pointed to a particular RV and stated, “I prayed to God and He wants me to have this RV.” The dealer replied, “Unfortunately for you, God hasn’t told me anything about it yet.”

Arguably, the most misapplied verse in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11. It’s plastered across the pastel walls of virtually every Christian bookstore. It’s sold on coffee mugs, picture frames, bookmarks, rings, books, decals, necklaces, t-shirts and baby “onesies.” Based on this verse, many Christians will argue the following: (1) God has plans for them; and (2) God’s plan is for them to prosper. While most Christians would not be brazen enough to state that God wants to give them an RV, they would still be willing to say that God wants them to “prosper.” But what does it mean to “prosper”? For the average American, “prosperity” means a healthy marriage, good and obedient kids, free from illness, monetary success and a vacation to Disney World every now and then. Living the “good life.”

Here’s the problem: If you actually read Jeremiah 29:11 in context, it doesn’t even remotely say that. It’s the pinnacle of bad interpretation. If you pull any single verse out of the Bible and ignore the context and author’s intent, you can make any verse say virtually anything you want. So context and the author’s intent are critically important to proper Biblical interpretation. So let’s look at Jeremiah 29:10-14 in context:

[29:10] “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. [11] For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. [12] Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. [13] You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. [14] I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. – Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV

(NOTE: The NIV translation chooses the word “prosper” instead of “welfare” in verse 11.)

In the case of Jeremiah 29, the prophet Jeremiah is speaking to Israelites who are about to be held in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. After these 70 years, the Israelites would return from exile. God speaks through this passage to assert that He has not abandoned the Israelites during their exile. In the midst of sorrow, God brings a promise of hope and restoration. God has not and will not abandon the Israelites during the exile. He’s still got plans for them. Hundreds of years later, the ultimate plans for the Israelites would be revealed in the coming of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. Most importantly, the passage is immediately about the Israelites during the Babylonian exile.  So how does this verse apply to Christians? Believers should remember that God’s redemptive plan continues even in times of suffering and sorrow.

So how is this verse misapplied? It’s not that God does not have plans. The Bible affirms that God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient and has plans for this world as revealed through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 3:1-13). The misapplication is that God’s plan is for you to “prosper.” The insinuation commonly made is that God’s plan is for all Christians to physically prosper in this life. Maybe not Beverly Hillbillies rich … Just the traditional 1950s “Leave It To Beaver” white-picket fence American suburban lifestyle with a happy household where no one gets ill or really suffers.

Right off the bat, we know this is farcical. Look within your own church. Not every Christian is rich, healthy, free from suffering and 100% happy. Christians aren’t the “shiny happy people” that R.E.M. sung about in the 90s.

Moreover, we would have to reconcile the existence of suffering amidst God’s people with God’s purported plans for prosperity. What about the young boy being sexually molested by a stepparent? The middle-aged father who has never smoked a cigarette in his life and lies dying in a lonely hospital bed of lung cancer? The female college student that was date raped and relives that moment over and over in her head? The baby born with a genetic defect or rare life-threatening disease? The grieving parents whose child was brutally murdered? The woman who gets beaten every night by her husband who tells her she’s worthless? The town flattened by an F4 tornado? How would you reconcile these horrible everyday scenarios with a God who desires all Christians to prosper?!?

Many Christians attempt to reconcile the notions of suffering and prosperity by arguing the problem is you. If you have abuse, cancer, rape, disease, murder, catastrophic weather or any other suffering in your life, it’s your fault. God wants to bless you but you’re getting in the way. Many faith healers and television hucksters perpetuate the notion that all illness and disease is always a result of unrepentant sin in your life. For example, I once had the opportunity to meet a faith healer who stated that he could tell what unrepentant sin was in a person’s life by what type of cancer they had. Similarly, most prosperity preachers will argue that a lack of material wealth comes from a lack of faith. If you just believe hard enough, kick your ruby slippers together, recite a magical incantation and claim it as your own, you too can get your own RV. It all boils down to one shockingly incorrect point: You are the obstacle to God bringing prosperity into your life.

Job confronts this issue dead-on in Job 21:4-16. Job’s “friends” (and I use this term generously) assert that the reason that Job is suffering is because he has sinned and been wicked. Job correctly points out the evident inconsistency in this argument. Look at the world around you … the wicked do prosper … the upright do suffer! Evil people live long lives, have children (and grandchildren), have nice well-protected homes and “spend their years in prosperity” (Job 21:13). The quality of one’s life is not determined by one’s moral standing, level of sinfulness or degree of faith (or lack thereof). There are plenty of immoral and ungodly people that could get their homes featured on MTV’s “Cribs.” Conversely, good people do experience suffering. Example #1: Job (see God’s description of Job in Job 1:8). Similarly, I recently had a childhood friend (who was a senior pastor) suddenly die in his late twenties, leaving a wife and two kids behind. More recently, I had another pastoral friend from my time in New England die abruptly in her early 30s from esophageal cancer. Bad things happen to beautiful and Godly people.

A Christian friend once told me about an experience that he had while living in all male dorm at a Christian college. He came down with a serious illness that everyone in the dorm knew about. One evening, all of the men came to his room to have a sort of intervention. They didn’t gather to offer prayer and support. They communally pronounced that the reason that he was so sick was because he had unrepentant sin in his life. They refused to leave until he confessed the sin and repented, so that he would be healed from the illness. My friend kept telling them over and over: “Dude … I’m just sick.” Fail.

In my current role as pastor, I’m blessed to be able to talk with many people about what’s going on in their lives. It’s one of the highlights of my job. When unwelcome and sudden suffering happens and peoples’ world starts to completely fall apart, Christians often ask me: “What did I do wrong?” In most instances, my answer is unequivocally “absolutely nothing.” And it’s a shame that Christianity has philosophically reached this point. It’s a shame that Christians walk around blaming themselves for suffering. We cannot control whether suffering happens. The true lesson of the book of Job is not whether suffering will come but how we approach suffering when it comes. There is a tremendous freedom that comes in finding that we cannot control whether suffering happens but we can control our response to suffering.

Moreover, suffering and trial is normative for the believer. It should be expected. Consider the overwhelming number of passages about Christian suffering and trial in the New Testament (including words of Jesus): John 15:18-24; John 16:33; Romans 8:16-17; 1 Corinthians 12:26; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10; Philippians 1:29; James 1:2-4; James 1:12-15; 1 Peter 1:3-9; and 1 Peter 4:12-14. In particular, I think that we’d do well to consider the words of the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-19 as prophetic. We’re living in a generation where Christian suffering is now considered strange, dark and problematic.

The ultimate problem is eschatological (meaning: regarding the future). When is everything going to be perfect? When you become a Christian or when Jesus returns? Through the power of the Holy Spirit, your life will dramatically improve once you follow Jesus Christ, but nothing will be perfect. Not even remotely. We still live in a broken world crying out for God’s restoration (Romans 8:18-25). Everything will become perfect and as God originally designed when Jesus returns. Inwardly, we are groaning and longing for this time of restoration, realizing that everything is out of place in this world. When Jesus comes back, everything on this earth will ultimately give way to a new creation where believers will finally dwell eternally with God (see Revelation 21). He will wipe every tear from our eyes. No one will die anymore. There will be no more mourning, crying or pain. We will be fully satisfied worshipping Him. Everything will be beautiful on that day.

Our hope does not lie in health, wealth or prosperity. Our hope lies in Jesus Christ. May He return quickly to bring a final end to suffering in this world.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Amen.

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