The most popular preachers in the United States today all have one thing in common, which is a focus on receiving things from God, instead of a focus on God Himself. It is a sad reality, but many people today do not want to hear about loving God and sacrificing greatly for the One who gave Himself for them, rather, many just want blessings from Him.
Millions of books are sold every year from popular communicators telling people how to be happy, how to make every day a Friday, how to have enough faith to get stuff from God, etc. People listen to these supposed “men of God,” and think if they just had more faith, they would not get sick, be broke, or have problems. That could not be farther from the truth.
If there was anyone who should have been blessed with a problem-free life, it was Jesus. He was perfect in every possible way, but suffered most severely. In fact, any person we read about in the Scripture or in church history that was ever used mightily of God, was tested in the most severe of all ways. Nearly every one of Jesus’ disciples were martyred and tortured for their faith. They probably had more faith in their little finger than I have in my whole body.
If Jesus suffered, and His closest followers suffered, why would anyone think that they would be exempt from suffering and hard things? Why would anyone think that everyday should be a Friday? The answer? Because people want blessings from God without really wanting God Himself. It is sad, but true.
When my seven-year-old son, Trey, passed away with cancer, I was confronted with the harsh reality of whether or not I believed everything I had ever preached or taught everyone else. Would I continue to love and trust God in the midst of such severe pain? This is the journey I have been on the last three years. I can honestly say that my faith in God and love for God is deeper than it has ever been. I think the reason for this, is that I have learned the greatest thing I need from God is God Himself. A friend of mine recently said it best, “The highest reward of the Gospel is not that we get forgiveness, but that we get God!” I love this truth. Yes, as followers of Jesus we get forgiveness of sin, peace in our heart, and ultimately eternal life, but beyond all that, we get God Himself.
A virtual certainty of life in a sinful, fallen world is that hard things will happen. Disease, destruction, and death are all part of this world, but there is hope. In our deepest pain and suffering, God comes to us and gives us Himself. I love what Joni Eareckson Tada, a paraplegic for over forty years, recently said, “No other religion promises new bodies, hearts, and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope. It’s tempting to try to discern the reason for suffering. God doesn’t always give explanations, He gives Himself.” That is a beautiful reality. Christianity does not offer you a problem-free life. It offers you the presence of God in life’s hardships.
The truth is, God will one day wipe away every tear from our eyes because He understands suffering. He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to live a perfect and sinless life, but the world hated, rejected, and then crucified Him. God’s Son suffered the worst death imaginable so that you and I could have a real relationship with God. It is through the suffering of Jesus that we are healed. What a powerful reality! The God who is well acquainted with grief, comes to us in our grief, and gives us Himself. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” The only blessing we need from God is God Himself. Do not ever forget that.