There are a lot of people out there spreading the false idea that Christianity is all about gumdrops and daffodils. A lot of people are afraid that the ‘not so fun’ part of being a disciple will scare people away. I mean, let’s face it: who out there really wants to hear about how many God-fearing Christians are dying of disease or are facing persecution despite having unfaltering faiths? It happens. The problem with overlooking the more challenging aspects of serving God and following our convictions is that it trivializes God’s true power.
Paul resonated with this message. In his first letter to the church at Corinth, he opened by saying…
God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words. (1 Cor 1:17 MSG, Source: Bible Gateway)
Paul realized that when we used pretty language and glossed over the harsh realities of life as a Christian that the Gospel loses a bit of it’s power. It is only when we acknowledge that we face great trials that we can show the power, authority, and mercy found in Christ’s love.
I am reminded of a church back in my hometown in North Carolina that admitted to avoiding speaking of or even acknowledging the presence of Satan. Seriously? If you’re a Christian, isn’t that kind of a major character in the ‘story’? What this church was struggling with was trying to sugar-coat life in their attempt to gain more members. The result? That church continued to lose members over the next several years. What were the members missing? I mean, they were getting their music, their rituals, a happy-go-lucky message… what more could you want? My theory: the people were leaving because the gospel lost it’s true meaning. Where there is no evil, no sin, and no Satan, there can’t really be a message of irresistible grace. Grace becomes little more than a word in a catchy song on the radio.
Now, let’s compare that with the testimony of several Kenyan pastors that visited Caroline County over the last few months. These individuals shared with us the extreme poverty and plight of many of their people. They told us about sickness, illiteracy, and other problems that their children and adults faced. Despite all of that, they worship their savior day and night, knowing that He is the ruler of their lives. Their message drew the attention of church members who I have rarely seen grace the doors of our sanctuary. Why was their message so alluring? Because they didn’t hide the ugly truth of what a lost world is and because they were open to sharing their vulnerabilities and their pain, they were able to share how mighty and powerful our God is.
My message to the students was simple: we serve a mighty God and we shouldn’t be ashamed of letting people know when we struggle because overcoming that struggle becomes an opportunity to show people the truth power of Christ. Christ is bigger than any challenge, any pain, and any struggle and when we go through those trials, we should be quick to acknowledge how truly helpless we are and awesomely powerful He is.