As Christians we are called to know the word of God, to seal it up in our hearts, to carry it with us wherever we go. It's the gospel, and the gospel literally means the 'good news'.
We like that, let's face it we love that! I mean it's the story of how I don't deserve to be loved by God, but I am. It's the story of how I deserve hell, but I get heaven. There really is nothing better!
But, (and no that is not one of Dean's big beautiful buts he always talks about in his sermons) one of the things that I love most about the word of God is that God doesn't hide things from us. He doesn't tell us everything is sunshine and roses, then pull the rug out from under us when the bad part of life comes along!
God tells us throughout the Bible that we will have troubles, we will be sad, we will mourn, we will experience loss, and yes, we will know suffering. As a matter of fact in 2 Timothy chapter 2 we're commanded to share in the suffering of Christ.
This is something that we absolutely have to understand and expect. Unfortunately, there are those who preach a gospel that says all you have to do is believe more, trust more, pray more and all of the bad things will disappear. They teach you can control your world through the words you speak. They tell people that God wants all of his people to be healthy and wealthy and stress, pain and suffering free.
That sounds great, it can be very attractional to people....in the short run. The problem is that it's not a biblical concept. We see throughout scripture people who are well off and people who are poor that believe in Jesus. We see people who are physically well, people who are healed, but there are also people have physical ailments that they never overcome. (Didn't Paul have some kind of a thorn in the flesh...)
Equally some of the people that we see spend the most time in prayer, that have faith that oozes out of their pores still encounter suffering. I mean how many of the Apostles died of old age in a warm and snug mansion surrounded by people who loved them? Yeah, that number would be a big old Zero.
These were heroes of the faith; they endured all kinds of hardships and tortures because they wouldn't deny their beliefs or recant their testimony. What am I supposed to do, look at Peter hanging upside down on a cross and say, "Sorry, guess your faith wasn't strong enough!"?
If we are honest, none of us relishes the truth that Paul is sharing in the first part of 2 Timothy Chapter 2. The fact that as a Christian we are to participate in the suffering of Christ is not what we want to hear! But whether we want to hear it or not, it is the truth. To tell people anything else is to set them up for disappointment and to question a faith that is predicated entirely on a fairy tale story about an easy and suffering free life. When Tinkerbell's wings fall off, they are left wondering what else was a lie.
Let's be people who stick to the truth of what God's word says. We don't have to try and pretty it up or add sprinkles because the truth of God's word is enough. Yes, in this life I will know trouble. I may have to walk the valley of the shadow, I may have to make do with less money, I may have illness and disease- but whatever comes my way I will never walk that path alone!
The same God who took on skin and SUFFERED in order to make a way for me to have a relationship with Him, walks every path of life right alongside me. I'm never alone, I'm never unloved, and one day I get to walk down streets of gold where there will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more suffering. That's a word I can believe and count on, it will never let me down!