I believe God wants to bless us and I believe in healing for our physical bodies. I believe God is capable and willing to bless people financially. I don’t believe any of these are the central focus of the Gospel. They are parts, but not the center. However, in the past 50 years, American Christians have focused a great deal of thought and attention to wealth and health. Certainly, we have a better understanding of healing and blessing as a result, but I suspect we have also wandered from our primary mission and lost any understanding of the theology of suffering.
Have we created a theological ideology that eliminates any discomfort and marginalizes any element that would cause us pain or even death? To be clear, I am not suggesting that we look for persecution or that we pursue suffering because it is my opinion that persecution and suffering will find us without us looking for it. But, have we, as pastors, teachers and leaders prepared our churches for difficult times? Have we created a sense of entitlement among our people that lead them to believe that any hardship is a direct reflection on their capacity of faith or the result of some secret sin?
I do believe that unbelief and sin can cause bad things to happen to us, but I also believe rough times can happen to even the most devoted of followers. When it does, Jesus said to “take heart, for I have overcome the world.” So while Jesus is trying to help us regain our courage and move forward, we are being bombarded with messages from well meaning people that difficult days were probably our fault. This has to stop or we are going to shipwreck people with an incomplete theology.
I suggest we keep teaching on healing and we continue praying for miracles. I suggest we keep teaching people that God wants to bless us financially, especially those who are willing to use those resources for the building of His kingdom on the earth. But, let’s not avoid the difficult teachings of Jesus and the Apostles that clearly describe seasons of suffering and loss.
God promised to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death and Jesus promised to enter into our suffering to comfort us and protect us. Jesus guaranteed persecution but He also said we would always have the right words to say when brought before our persecutors. He promised us the Holy Spirit, who would teach us, lead us and guide us.
My challenge to pastors and leaders is teach all of Scripture and not avoid the tough questions or sensitive issues. To preach and teach only on the comfortable topics is setting up our people for failure when their lives are not comfortable. Prepare the people for healing, blessing, suffering, and persecution and then the entire Gospel is really being taught.