Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene

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I had quite the busy and interesting weekend.  I wrote an article that was posted in the Green Bay Press Gazette Faith Perspective column on Friday and it stirred a lot of discussion.  The article I wrote had the original title of “Salvation—A Free Gift and What it Costs Us”.  But the editor changed the title to “Salvation—Not Just a Gift—It Must be Earned”!  The article goes on to say that while we cannot earn salvation on our own efforts, we have a responsibility when we take the free gift of salvation—a responsibility to seek holiness, obey God and live a life that brings glory to Him.  In fairness, the editor had no hidden agenda in the change of title—it was just necessary to shorten the title so the entire column would fit into the allotted space.  But it made for an interesting weekend.

I watch a great deal of what is called “Christian television” on networks like The Church Channel and WORD Television.  And while some of the teachings are solid biblical meat for Christians, an increasing amount is “marshmallow Christianity”.  An increasing number of television preachers seem to be making a good living preying on the hopes and fears of Christians facing tough economic times or illness.  One man claims if you send him $130 he will send you an anointed prayer cloth and if you pray over it, God will make you financially prosperous and heal any sickness you face.

A scripture these preachers often misuse is from John 10:10:  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”  They claim this as a verse that says Jesus does not want us to be poor or sick—he wants us to be rich and prosperous.  Now, is God capable of delivering us from poverty or sickness—of course!  But there is great danger when we twist scripture to use it as a secret formula for wealth and health.

What about the faithful man who prays for years that God would heal him of an infirmity—and God answers him as He answered Paul’s similar prayer—“My grace is sufficient?”  Or the mother who prays for her child faced with a terminal illness—and God chooses to bring the child home to heaven?  When we falsely prop these people up—telling them if they only have enough faith that God will do anything they ask—are we causing them to stumble when God does not answer their prayers as they desire?

No doubt God is capable of doing anything consistent with his nature.  He can heal the sick, provide financial security and even raise the dead.  But he is God—and he alone knows what is best for each of us according to his perfect will.

Perhaps we should challenge and ask ourselves just what we mean when we say we have faith in God?  Do we mean we have faith that he will provide for all our wants and desires?  Or do we mean we have faith in him that he alone knows what is best for us, no matter how our prayers are answered?  Jesus never promised us a life of comfort or wealth.  In fact he warned us we would face trials and tribulations.  But these days more and more are preaching that life should be a pain free journey where God is our genie in the bottle—just waiting to fulfill every desire if we just believe it enough.

Yes, one day God will provide us a life free of stress, pain and death—and that day will come when we are in heaven, living an eternal life in his glory.  But for now, many of us will face hardships, trials and tribulations.  And how we respond to those troubles says a lot about where our real faith is.