Many preachers on TV today assure us that Christians are not supposed to suffer. The notion they are spreading is pretty simple and straightforward: Jesus came to save us, not just from our sin, but from the trials of everyday life. He came, they claim, to to save us from disease, poverty, bad relationships and trials of every kind. Here’s a clip that is illustrative of the point (the editorial comments are not mine but I agree with them).
What do you think of Pastor Osteen’s message? Does it square with what you know of scripture? What did Paul have to say about suffering in 1Thessalonians 3? With regard to trials or suffering Paul says the Thessalonians, and by extension all Christians were destined (or appointed in the King James) for trials.
But what kind of trials or suffering is Paul talking about? Well in the case of the Thessalonians I can think of two kinds: persecution because of their beliefs and/or persecution or worry on account of what was being said about Paul. Remember Paul left under a cloud having been accused of treason and sneaking out of town in the middle of the night, this after being run out of Philippi. Now while he was in Athens the rumors and whispers followed him and certainly what was being said about him filtered back to Thessalonica.
If you were a new believer how would you react to your parent in the faith being persecuted or having your reputation and faith slandered in the town square or worse? Was Paul living a less than victorious life when he was in jail, or to follow up on Pastor Osteen’s usage, was Jesus sacrifice for Paul in vain? And what of now when he speaks of “all our distress and persecution”?
Here is the truth, Jesus came to save us from our sins and for himself for eternity. He did not come to make us prosperous or healthy in this life. This does not mean we can never be healthy or that we cannot be financially well off, or that Jesus is opposed to those things. Nor doe it mean that promises of God’s provision are not to be believed. It just means that if God finds it necessary to allow us to suffer in order to save us from our sin and for eternity, he will do so. One commentary says this:
The truth is that affliction means that God loves us enough to give the best when we may only desire what is easy. The symbol of Christianity is the cross, not a feather bed. Affliction is just part of following Jesus; therefore Paul recognized that Christians are appointed to affliction.
So what are we in this for, why are we Christians? Is it just for what we can gain in this world or are our eyes on the real prize of eternity with Christ. What does it profit a man to gain the world and loose his soul?