One area we discussed caught my attention and amazingly enough as I read my Bible over the course of the week, some things popped out at me.
As Christians we try to follow the Bible, do good, live right, etc... basically, stay out of trouble. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, in fact it is what we should strive to do, sometimes we get caught up in a fallacy. A fallacy that because we do as God says, or because we follow the Bible, nothing bad should happen to us. After all, the Bible says in Joshua 1:8
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."
It also says in Psalm 1:1-3
"1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers"
This type of verse is found in many other places in the Bible, speaking about how God will prosper those who follow him.
It is easy to see how we might "get lost" somewhere along the way. As *Dan Denton from Kingdom Principles For Successful Living put it...
"By studying the Scriptures, you will come to understand that the prosperity of God is multi-dimensional. It is God's will for us to prosper financially, to be in health, and for our souls to prosper (3 John 2). This is the three-part blessing of being obedient to His will and commands...We were not designed to live with strife, fear, danger, poverty, sickness, hate and all the other results which go with the law of sin and death."
Now before you write yourself off the list of those that might fall under this mind set, I want you to think about it for a moment. Have you ever had something bad happen to you, and you asked God why? Why did this happen? How could this happen to me? I'm a good person, so why me?
What did I do wrong?
Who has not said this before?
That question, "What did I do wrong?" , is a result of the belief that because you follow God's teachings nothing bad should happen to you. However, as soon as you put it into these words it begins to seem a little silly. After all, does not the Bible also say in Matthew 5:45
"...He causes his sun to rise on the eviland the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
So how could we ever think that would would be exempt from bad circumstances or situations. Amazingly enough, this silly little belief is one that is well rooted, and I say this perhaps wrongly, in all of us. As I said just a moment ago, who has not said, "what did I do wrong?" This is almost a knee-jerk reaction to circumstances that have gone awry.
One reason for this reaction is because of where our minds are. We have all grown up being punished for things we have done wrong. This punishment was meant to teach us that what we did was bad, and we shouldn't do it again. We now have a set standard to go by. We do something wrong we get punished. Its that simple.
I find that many Christians, knowingly or not, tend to carry this standard into how God interacts with us. Which seems utterly ridiculous when you think about trying to squeeze God's vastness into a tiny little man-made box. This of course, is beside the point (at least at the moment). The point is simply that it is very, very, easy for even an extremely intelligent Christian to fall into this category of thinking simply because from before we can remember this standard of wrong=punishment is how we learned and progressed.
Now God can't literally come down and slap us on the back of the hand... well he could, but he doesn't. This doesn't mean that God is a static God, sitting up in Heaven watching what goes on below. No way! God interacts with his people, God teaches his people, even to this day.
He teaches us. Ahah... here comes the part where we try to stuff God into a little box. Remember how we learned right from wrong growing up? Well this is how we try to relate that to God.
We read in the Bible that if we follow God's rules and his "way" then we will prosper. So if bad things are happening, and we're not prospering, the logical conclusion would then be that we are doing something wrong! Hence the question, "what did I do wrong?!"
See? Not so ridiculous anymore, is it?
Here's the thing we've got to remember, the ultimate comforting thought. God does not act like us. He doesn't fit into our little man-made box. He doesn't "punish" us to teach us a lesson. Why? Well think of it this way. When we do something wrong, what is that? Sin. Another lesson that goes back to our pacifier days. Sin=doing something wrong=Bad=punishment.
God doesn't punish us for our sin. Not that he can't, but he doesn't.
Because Jesus already paid the price for our sin. God has already punished Jesus for our sin. He can't punish us as well, or Jesus' death would have been pointless. Because the price for sin is death.
So we know that when bad things happen God is not punishing us for something we did wrong because:
1) When Jesus climbed up on that cross and took all of our sin upon himself, he got punished for it. He has already taken our punishment for our sin, all of it, everything we did in the past, will do in the future, and maybe even are doing now. Jesus was already punished for that.
2) The punishment for sin is death. (Romans 6:23) You are not dead, therefore, you are not being punished for something that you have done wrong, i.e. your sin.
Now to wrap up. The whole point is that when bad things are going on in your life, circumstances aren't what you would hope them to be, and your searching for a reason to why this is happening to you, STOP as soon as you think "what did I do wrong?" Because that is not the answer. God does not run on a Quid Pro Quo basis when it comes to sin.
We need to remember that God sends rain on both Christians and Non-Christians a like, we are not exempt from suffering simply because we follow God's laws, or at least try to. As **Timothy J. Keller put it,
"If God himself was willing to become involved in terrible suffering of life... then we should not think ourselves exempt... Jesus suffered, not that we might not suffer, but that when we suffer we could become like him."
Just take a moment and re-read that quote because there are some extremely powerful messages there and I really want you to be able to take it in.
The first is this:
1) We should not think ourselves exempt
This speaks to the whole purpose of this note. Our natural reaction to finding out that the bad things that happen are not a result of something we did wrong would then be to ask, "Well then, why me?!" Why you? Its not just you, its everyone. As The bible says in Matthew 5:45 everyone sees sunshine, and everyone sees rain. There is no distinction between good people and bad people, and good things and bad things. Jesus, God's own SON, perfect and holy, was not exempt from harsh times and circumstances, so then why should we be?
Some people might say, "well then why did he even come? wasn't that the whole point of his coming, and his suffering?"
The second message I'd like to bring to your attention is this:
2) Jesus' suffering is an example to us.
In reading the Bible we can learn how Jesus handled bad circumstances and situations and see his humbleness, his grace, and his faith during these times. Because Jesus suffered, we have something that we can look toward to show us how to act and react when bad things befall us. When we suffer we don't have to get bogged down in the disparity of it.
We can learn from Jesus while we suffer, because he suffered first and showed us how to live in a way pleasing to God during those times.
Isn't that neat? We no longer have to thing, "what did I do wrong?" or "why me?" Instead, we have something we can turn our eyes to. We have a freedom we didn't have before. The suffering your going through, its not about you! Its not about something you did wrong, its not because God has some grudge against you. It is simply a fact of life. Yet, Habitual as it may be, it gives us an opportunity to learn how we can become more like Jesus. This opportunity is only open to us if we are in a situation of "suffering". Now I'm not going to go so far as to say suffering is a blessing, but I will say that a weight can be lifted off of you if you think of it as an opportunity to become closer to Jesus. Wouldn't you like that? Being closer to Jesus? Isn't that what we strive for?
Think about it.
*Copyright 1987, by Daniel R. Denton, Beaufort, SC. http://www.prosperinlife.com/
** Copyright 2003, by Timothy J. Keller, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, NY.