Of all the things God promised, and there are a lot, it’s telling that the things the contemporary church clings most ardently to are proclamations God never uttered and promises He never made. You have to really be trying when you assert God promised something, and it turns out not to have been so even though He promised some three thousand things throughout the Word.
As I thought about it, it would be easier to start out with the things God didn’t promise rather than the things He did. That way, if I get distracted or go off on a rabbit trail for a few days, you’ll be able to call a flag on the play as early as this morning if you hear someone waxing poetic as to how the Lord Himself from on high decreed that you will prosper in 2023! Yeey, indeed, the Lord Himself said, you would sit at the table of the rich and eat the food of the wealthy.
The rich and wealthy are eating quinoa and kale nowadays, followed by coffee enemas for dessert. I think I’ll pass, mister preacher man, but thanks all the same. How do I know? One hears things, then they are confirmed, and if confirmed enough times, a pattern emerges, and as improbable as it may sound to ordinary folk, it turns out to be true.
The danger of clinging to promises God never made is that given enough perceived failures on God’s part for having not kept up His end of the bargain, people grow cold and distant toward Him. The Lord promised such and such and never came through, then again and again, and eventually bitterness sets in, and what was once a reciprocal relationship becomes something very different.
God never promised us a walk that was suffering-free. He never intimated, hinted at, implied, or insinuated that we would have no hardships if we followed after Him. Oddly enough, He explicitly stated the opposite.
John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Some people don’t do well with being hated. They would do anything to avoid it because it feels uncomfortable and unpleasant. Yet, Jesus said that it would be inevitable since they hated Him before they hated us. That we would try to avoid a situation that Jesus said we were certain to encounter if we were no longer of the world is a worthwhile exploration into the human psyche and its desire to insulate itself from rejection and pain, but we can save that for another time.
Being hated isn’t even the worst of it. Jesus also said that we would be persecuted for His name’s sake. What that persecution entails differs from person to person, but the definition of the word persecution excludes the notion of it being pleasant or pleasurable.
Jesus sets the table and outlines what our expectations ought to be. Yet, here we are two thousand-odd years later, insisting that He didn’t really mean all those things, but rather what He meant to say was that we would live lives of luxury and excess if only we supported the lavish lifestyles of His representatives here on earth, in the form of bishops, pastors, and televangelists.
John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”
Jesus had just gotten done telling His disciples that He would no longer be with them. He had just gotten done telling them that whoever kills them will think they are offering God a service, then informs them that He told them all these things that they might have peace.
Try as we might to sensationalize the disciples of Christ, they were still ordinary men called upon to do extraordinary things by the indwelling power of Christ in them. They still possessed the same fears, apprehensions, worries, and concerns, and after hearing what Jesus had told them would happen, their peace was waning.
Thus the reason Jesus reinforced the notion of having peace despite the tribulation they would soon face. If Jesus knew that they would have to endure tribulation, He also knew that they would be able to overcome it. If He knew they would have to endure suffering, He also knew that they would be strengthened through it. That was the encouragement, and it was enough for the disciples because they believed Jesus at His word.
When people try to convince you that God promised something He didn’t, the elation of the statement is always temporary, but the sour taste it leaves in its wake after what they said God promised doesn’t materialize is permanent. You choose whether you believe the hard truth or the comfortable lie. No one can force you to believe one or the other.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea, Jr.
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