(2 Timothy 1:5)
God’s word gives us examples of faith in the fire, faith in the flood, faith when outnumbered by the enemy, faith when facing an indomitable foe, faith in prison, faith during torture, faith when destitute, hungry, and thirsty, faith on stormy seas, faith to lose everything and faith to receive it all back again, faith to procreate though infertile, and faith to die. In every instance of faith it is manifested in adversity or great need. However, there are no examples in the Scriptures of faith operating in a peaceful and bountiful climate.
Someone might contend that the peaceful climate is the result of faith. That may be true, but it is not faith in operation. Good health is the result of exercise, but it is not exercise. If our comfortable status is faith, then obviously we would never have adversity. Further, there would be no biblical examples of godly men and women exercising faith to overcome adversity.
The clear truth is that faith is relatively dormant in times of peace. We are sustained by the benefits of our relationship with God. However, if anyone believes that a true Christian can go through life without any adversity, such an individual is prepared to be “channeled”. What I mean by “channeled” is manipulated by Satan to avoid adversity. Satan makes it difficult and painful for individuals who are devoted to obeying God’s will.
If one intends to be a light that shines in darkness, one becomes a target of evil entities. If you stand up for and speak truth, you will suffer. If you accept, assimilate, and defend the values of godliness, you will suffer. If you refuse to go with the flow of nominalism (nominal Christianity) or worse, apostasy, you will suffer. If you refuse to deviate from God’s word in a time of great compromise, you will suffer. If you are a prophet, you might lose your life for Christ’s sake.
Consequently, I believe that it is safe to say that God’s army is small. His true soldiers are few.
There are professing Christians who recognize or have witnessed suffering of an individual being true witness. They may have possibly tried to do the same and experienced the consequences. As a result, they avoid manifesting any fruit of Christianity that causes contention, rejection, or persecution. They are considered some of the nicest, most gregarious, kindly, friendly, and positive people. Everyone loves them and speaks well of them. They are flexible—capable of mingling with any belief system. They are the type of people that are enjoyable to associate with. Secular and religious people of all ilks laud them as examples of true Christians. To be honest, I feel inferior around them.
However, they do not match the examples of true Christians in the Bible. In fact, they do not match the example of Christ. They are people who are being “channeled” by Satan and his imps to avoid the consequences of true Christianity by turning down their light to a non-offensive level. In fact, they are not actually lights, but shadows. They are somewhere between light and darkness. The path they walk weaves around every uncomfortable and inconvenient situation. Christ warned about this type of fruitless follower.
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” – Luke 6:26
The Apostle Paul described what would befall the ones who truly desired to live godly in Christ.
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” – 2 Timothy 3:12
Peter also wrote about the suffering of true followers of Christ. He mentioned the suffering of true Believers 18 times in his first letter.
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” – 1 Peter 4:12-13
However, the modern Christian believes it is strange to suffer and that it is not God’s will. They believe that they are supposed to be constantly happy, blessed, healthy, wealthy, and peaceful, while enjoying life in this temporal realm. The terms “happy, blessed, peaceful”, et cetera, are relative. Those emotions are based on a life ordered by them, not God. They avoid all negativity. They have no productivity because it is inconvenient. Heretics find a willing audience of these individuals because they never resist darkness. Their lives are “empty, swept, and ordered” (Matthew 12:44). They’ve maintained a shiny neon shell of godliness, but there is no substance inside. The will of God is not included in their order. Standing up for truth, being a true light that exposes evil, obeying God when the price is rejection, or worse, harsh persecution, are not in their order.
The focus of that type of professing Christian is on milking God’s word and kingdom of all the benefits without incurring the costs of genuine relationship. They are “professors”, but are not possessors. They never exercise faith because they avoid the situations where faith is needed. There is no sense of true victory in them. There must be constant stimulation from a source other than God.
It is no wonder that most “Christian” music is about being defeated, barely holding on to one’s faith, continually failing and falling, unable to rise up in victory, and of needing God to do all their work for them (Philippians 2:12). The reason for that miserable and decrepit spiritual condition is the lack of exercising faith. I do not believe it honors God at all to ignore all that He gives us for victory and then continually bring that failure before His throne as an effort of faith. To such people the substance of faith is more a happy thought or of luck and charm than it is a supernatural infusion of iron will to fight the good fight and win.
The damage of the so-called “positive confession” i.e. “Word of Faith” heresy has been to strip out the heart of a warrior and replace it with the heart of entitlement-mindedness. Even godly people are affected by this fallacy. When they suffer and feel alone and rejected, they wonder if God has abandoned them. That is actually an opportunity for faith to go from embers to blazing brilliance.
Beloved, as long as we are humans and children of God, we need the trials. When distraction and disfocus dims our view of God’s glory, or our humanity incrementally cools us to a temperature less than hot, we need the fiery trial.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:6-9
From my own experiences during fiery trials I can testify that the pain, the angst, and other suffering, are conquered the instant that I surrender to the flames. It is like falling backwards off a steep cliff into the hands of God. There is no parachute and no stopping halfway. If He doesn’t catch you, then you will hit the bottom and die. That is literally the goal of faith—to trust God with your life and everything in it. All that is not put into His hands is unprotected and causes us angst and suffering. However, when all is surrendered we receive a deep serenity that the fire will not burn anything except what needs to be consumed. That’s when the gold shines.
Remember, the destiny of Christ was a cross. Our destiny is also a cross. Only when we accept that destiny will we understand. Newness of life has its birth and growing pains. But the heart of a true follower of Christ holds this proverb by its roots: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)