Back in 1983 there was a song by Naked Eyes called “Promises, Promises”. (I realize I just aged myself)
The song started off like this:
Never had a doubt
In the beginning
Never a doubt
Trusted too true
In the beginning
I loved you right through
You made me promises promises
Knowing I’d believe
You knew you’d never keep
You made me promises promises
Knowing I’d believe
You knew you’d never keep
Second time around
I’m still believing words that you said
You said you’d always be here
“In love forever”
Still repeats in my head
You can’t finish what you start
If this is love it breaks my heart
Do I have all my 80’s teenagers singing along now? Your welcome – That song will be stuck in your head the rest of the day!
While I do get some amusement out of knowing there will be a bunch of “forty-something’s” walking around today humming along… “prom-i-ses, prom-i-ses” that’s not why I mention this song.
Go ahead, one more time, belt it out… “PROMISES!!!” Good thing Lionel, Katy and Luke weren’t around to hear that.
The reason this song comes to mind is because unfortunately, the lyrics ring true for a lot of Christians today.
Once you accept Christ as your Savior there is usually a period of time where you walk with your chest out and with a bit more confidence.
…until that point when life punches you in the face.
When that happens some believers are like “Whoa! What was that?! That’s not supposed to happen! I gave my life to God! That’s not what I was promised. We’re supposed to be insulated from bad things!”
This is going to be a little controversial, but I believe part of the issue is the prosperity gospel teachings. Now before you start yelling at the computer screen because some of your favorite televangelists are prosperity teachers, let me qualify what I am not saying. What I am NOT saying is that teaching the promise of prosperity is inherently wrong. What I AM saying is that the teaching of prosperity theology without teaching the entirety of scripture can leave new believers scratching their heads wondering “What happened?!” when things start going sideways in their lives.
Now that I’ve clarified that take a breath. In… and out…
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.”
We need to ensure we are preaching the entire message of God and not only the parts that fill the seats in the sanctuary. Filled seats are important, but more important is getting the entirety of God’s Word out. Preach the truth of the Word and God will take care of the rest.
Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southwest Christian Church in Louisville, writes in his book “Not a Fan”:
“Many churches have become companies that measure success by the number of customers they have attracted. And how do we get more customers? By trying to make the customer feel more comfortable, important and happy. We want the product (in this case following Jesus) to come off as appealing and as comfortable as possible.”
The context in which Kyle is writing is how some churches have gotten away from Christ’s message of denying yourself and in turn having a church full of fans rather than true followers. I believe his message is very applicable to churches that preach only or primarily the prosperity gospel. I don’t think they are intentionally trying to mislead or misguide people, I simply think they are using the more appealing scriptures to reach people. The problem with that is you are left with a bunch of Christians who don’t know how to deal with adversity and risk them walking away from God.
Christians are just as susceptible to the pitfalls of life as non-believers. In some cases more so. Before you were a believer Satan had you right where he wanted you. You were chugging along through life not giving much if any thought about God so Satan left you alone. If he thought you might turn a corner and see God, he’d whisper something in your ear to grab your attention to keep going straight. Usually something self-serving. You barely even noticed you were being led in the wrong direction. Satan is a slick one.
Once you gave your heart to Christ, Satan now finds himself down a man. Satan doesn’t take to kindly to losing, so he fights and he can fight hard. He’ll fill your head with so much fear and so many lies that if you aren’t rooted enough in your faith he can turn you around quick. This full court press can be quite the battle for a new believer that isn’t fully rooted and not surrounded by other believers to support him. It’s a huge distraction for some. So much so that they may walk away or at the least begin to question God.
The truth is that God never promised us to have pain free lives. What He does promise is that He causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) In short he can take the good, the bad and the ugly and use it to His greater glory and to prosper and bless you.
Now I understand there are tons of scriptures that talk about God’s blessings. But all to often I believe our perspective is off on what those blessings should be. We think that our lives should be free from pain and suffering, we should be prospered financially, we shouldn’t have health issues, we shouldn’t fight with our spouses, our children should be perfect, loved ones shouldn’t die prematurely, you name it. We tend to grab on to the world’s view of blessing and prosperity instead of having an eternal perspective.
In Matthew 6: 19-20 Jesus gives a good picture of where we should be looking for our blessings. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” We need to shift our perspective.
In 1961 in his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
I think another part of the problem is many Christians need to apply President Kennedy’s call to their Faith. They dive in and say “Ok, I’m a believer, now what can Jesus do for me?” when in fact the question should be “What can I do for Jesus?” Living your life in a manner in which you ask Jesus daily what you can do for Him, to glorify Him, is living with an eternal perspective.
When you decide to live with an eternal perspective and make the choice to live your life for Christ you will have challenges. It’s not going to be all roses and rainbows. God never promised you that it would be.
Perfect example in the New Testament is Paul. Paul (once Saul) persecuted Christians. After a radical encounter with Christ he turned his life around and became a believer. Once he set out to live his life for Jesus and to preach the gospel his life couldn’t have gone more wrong. Paul was imprisoned, stoned, beaten with whips and rods and left for dead on many occasions. Paul could have easily said, “You know what, I know I had that pretty cool meeting with Jesus, but this just ain’t worth it. I’m out!” But Paul didn’t do that. He understood the eternal impact of living for Christ and spreading the gospel.
He spells it out clearly in Romans 8:18: “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later”. In other words, our blessings in Heaven will far out weigh the little bit of pain we may experience in the world.
We read in Acts 7 when Stephen accused the Jewish religious leaders of resisting the Holy Spirit they took him out and stoned him. Just before he was stoned the scripture says “ But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Most scriptures refer to Christ in heaven as seated or sitting at the right hand of the Father. (Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1) In this scripture Stephen states he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God. This paints the beautiful picture of Jesus standing with us when we stand for Him.
A few verses down in Acts 7 we learn that Paul (then Saul) was present during the stoning of Stephen. I can only imagine after he was saved that he recalled what Stephen said just before being killed allowing him to clearly understand that Jesus stands with his followers.
There’s another scripture from the Book of Daniel that also paints an awesome picture of God standing with us during times of trials.
“Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames. But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied, “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire.
God stands with us when we are in the fire! POWERFUL!
The Bible says in Philippians “I can do all things through Christ strengthens me”. It doesn’t say a couple of things or some things, it says ALL things.
Stand with Him and He will stand with you giving you the strength you need to get through WHATEVER trials you are facing.
That’s eternal. That’s the promise.