I long ago became disillusioned with most of what is practiced and preached as modern day Christianity in the western church. For many years, I struggled with the dichotomy of the verbal profession and/or mental ascent of believing in Jesus, verses seeing the actual gospel I read about in scripture walked out in individual lives and churches. I’m not even talking about the many sad stories of self-professed “Christians” who continue to live lives of compromise and sin. But just the lives I so often saw that “had a form of godliness, but denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5) in their day-to-day practical choices, decisions and living. So much of what I saw around me seemed to be a wimpy, watered down and even “impotent” version of what I read in the New Testament. I still remember the time in my life when I consciously made the decision to dare to believe that whatever the Bible actually taught was more than “nice in theory,” but truth for my day-to-day life. I continued to struggle with the fact that even the most well-meaning Christians and churches seemed to focus their attention on their own particular “pet areas” of the gospel, rather than a more complete, holistic embracing of the totality of its message.
Then a few years ago, through a roundabout way, I was introduced to what has now become my “virtual church” – Pastor Eric Ludy and the Church at Ellerslie, in Windsor Colorado. It is here that I finally heard power packed sermons that fed my spirit with the truth of the gospel message in its entirety. These messages, rather than “tickling my ears,” continually call me to “come up higher,” through aspiring to and intentionally pursing a life of “no compromise” in my faith and walk with Jesus. I’m quick to agree with the apostle Paul in saying, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12)
One of these recent messages led me to ponder again the role of and response towards suffering in our lives. And as the title of this blog post suggests, I think sadly, for many in the western church, the potential benefits of suffering get wasted. The Bible has so much to say on this topic, not the least of which is:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
We hear it, but do we really believe and live it? Compared to so much of the church throughout history and currently the rest of the world, we really know very little about suffering. But if this verse is true, it means that ALL our trials, both great and small, can be used to produce perseverance and mature our faith. I can look back on so many things that I’ve gone through in my life and see the fruit God has produced when I was willing to surrender to and cooperate with His purposes in it. Other times, I failed miserably, just seeing the trial as something to endure and get out of as quickly as possible. Jesus was very clear when he said, “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33) It’s not a matter of if, but only what and when we will have difficulties in this life. This is true for everyone on the planet. For the Christian, what a waste if we don’t allow those difficulties to be used to produce good fruit in our lives.
I think this message articulates so well this one of many “upside down” Kingdom truths of the gospel. I hope you will listen with an attentive ear and maybe choose to look at your current or next difficulty in life through a different lense: