By Contributing Writer, Molly Evert
I make promises to my children every day.
I promise to pour one child a cup of juice right after I finish making the oatmeal promised to his brother. Then I am off to read to their little sister, as promised.
Often I fail to make good on my well-intended promises. I get distracted, fulfilling a myriad of daily tasks. The promised oatmeal burns, and the promised juice is forgotten in the aftermath.
My children don’t forget my promises though. They are quick to remind me to fulfill my every word to them, unless I have delivered an “unpleasant promise.”
Like Brussels sprouts forgotten on the stove, there are certain promises my children don’t remind me about. When I promise to discipline them when we get home, they hold their breath, hoping I will forget.
I am no different, as a child of my heavenly Father.
His promises are precious, and I rightly remind Him of many of them in my prayers. But some of his precious promises are not as pleasant to me, and in my humanness, I wouldn’t mind a bit if they weren’t fulfilled.
Jesus said, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” (John 15:20 NASB). Paul warned, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom,” (Acts 14:22). We are also told that we will share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings (2 Corinthians 1:5).
The promise of suffering doesn’t carry the same appeal as what the prosperity preachers offer us. But Jesus taught that self-denial and suffering would be the mark of a true disciple when He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it,” (Luke 9:23, NIV).
If we would be His disciples and bear the fruit of a changed life, we will suffer the loss of our worldly lives and all their trappings. We cannot live according to the flesh now and still have Christ later.
Paul Washer said it well:
“If your Christian life meets no resistance from the world and worldly people, meets no resistance from your flesh, meets no resistance from the devil, then you are on the broad way. Regardless of what comes out of your mouth, you are on the broad way.”
Christ has promised that following Him will cost us.
It will cost us a price that seems steep and which, in our flesh, we are loath to pay. It may cost us financially, our reputations may suffer, we may be rejected or humiliated or lose relationships over it. For some believers, fidelity to Christ will cost them their lives.
The promise that “in this world you will have trouble” is not a promise I want to claim. Jesus suffered the eternal wrath of God and saved me from myself, saved me from God’s just judgment, and saved me from an eternity in Hell, yet in my sinful selfishness I don’t even want to “suffer” inconvenience. I want the Lord of heaven and earth to open up parking spaces for me and turn every stoplight green.
On the other hand, if the Bible says I must suffer in this life, then let it be merely the suffering of inconvenience. I’ll take the “suffering” of walking ten extra steps to get into Walmart; no rejection, humiliation, or grief for me, thank you very much.
Here’s another one of His promises: we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him,” (Romans 8:17, ESV).
We want to skip the part about sharing in his sufferings and cling only to the part about being glorified with him. In that way, we want to be greater than our master, and we need to repent of that.
We need to embrace these “unpleasant promises.”
They come from our Father who loves us more than we can imagine and who has ordained all our days from before time began. We read in Romans 5:3 that we should “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.” And in Philippians 1:29 we learn that we are to count it a privilege to suffer for Christ.
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” (Philippians 1:29, ESV).
Instead of running from suffering, Paul prayed that he would “know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Phil 3:10, ESV).
Our flesh wants to run as far as it can get from these promises and to deny that suffering is meant to be a normative part of the Christian life. The world and the devil keep trying to convince us that this passing-away-world is as good as it gets, so we had better make sure it is awesome. But this is not the message of the Bible, dear sisters!
This fallen world is as good as it gets for the unbeliever. “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” (2 Thess. 1:9, ESV). But as believers, our best days are yet to come! Our worst days of suffering here are the closest we will ever come to experiencing Hell, and our best days here are mere shadows of the inconceivable joys that await us in glory.