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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Affliction

In the Wednesday morning group we have been in 2 Corinthians this year, in the last few weeks we have been in chapters 6 and 7.  If you take a couple of minutes to skim those chapters you will notice that Paul talks a bit about affliction and tribulation.  This morning Psalm 34:19 fairly jumped off of the page.  Normally it is the second half of that verse that grabs me, not this morning.  The first half of the verse is the context for the second half.
Contrary to some thought and teaching affliction is normative for those following Christ...
As believers there seems to be an undercurrent in our thinking, much teaching, and a lot of the songs we sing that if I follow Christ life somehow smooths out.  There is an expectation that if life has not been smooth sailing up to the point that we met Christ, trusting Him will calm the storm.  I have even heard messages using the gospel accounts of Christ calming the storm as validation of this notion (Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 8:18, 23-27; Luke 8:22-25).  We focus on the calm with the result that when life gets rough something must be wrong.  That is even taken to the extreme that if one is in a prolonged season of affliction, there must be sin or one is not walking with Christ.

While it may be the case that one in prolonged affliction may need to assess their walk with God, Psalm 34 and 2 Corinthians 6 - 7 indicate that service to Christ is liberally seasoned with affliction and tribulation to the extent that if one is not experiencing that regularly one must wonder if one is on the right track.  Jesus warned us of this in Matthew 10:24ff.

Affliction for those following Christ is normative not exceptional.

2 comments:

  1. This post is strong antidote to the modern Evangelical "health, wealth and welfare" theology that seems to undergird,many times unrecognized and submerged in our consciousness. I continually fight the automatic response in my soul to respond to the most minor inconvenience with, "Why, God??"

    It seems there are several possible reasons we might experience difficulties in this life: we sin, and God out of His love refuses to allow us to go on in it; we live life in an environment "subjected to futility, condemned to frustration" (AMP, Rom.8:20; on this see also Genesis 3:17b-19 - and Paul didn't even know anything about computers...); because we have a real, active and perverse enemy we live in a state of constant warfare (unless we've capitulated in our comfortable life-styles); and because "...it is appointed for men to die once...(Heb.9:27); and many times just because God wants us to deal with spiritual hindrances and get to know Him more intimately (c.f. Job 1:1,8 with Ch.42:4-6) to name some.

    But it seems like Paul in Mike's passage is living out another one, one to which I've, at best, just dipped my spiritual toe into the barest bit - that his afflictions and God's deliverance multiplied gratitude to God because many had been involved (see Ch.1:8-10). Or, we might say, God was glorified, revealed, magnified by Paul's obedience and sufferings. Paul's constant focus was fidelity to Christ, to see God glorified in him and to demonstrate Christ's life so that Christ can be seen - regardless of the apparent results.

    Don't think I'm doing so well at this, myself.

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