C.S. Lewis, in an essay entitled, “Answers to Questions About Christianity” in God in the Dock, made a statement that is really at odds with what we see in the prosperity circles and even mainstream evangelicalism.
I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.
Our comfort doesn’t seem to be part of God’s purposes for us. Instead he prepares us for suffering.
Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” (Matthew 5:11-12, ESV, emphasis mine).
James said that we are to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2, ESV, emphasis mine). Why are we to do this? Well it is because God uses those times for our growth, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness,” (James 1:3, ESV).
Why does God put us through this? Peter gives us some insight into it when speaking to those who have endured various trials about why they can rejoice, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious that gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 1:7, ESV). What’s the end objective? The praise and glory and honor given at the revelation of Jesus Christ. That God would be honored and praised through our faith being found genuine, and our growth as trails produce steadfastness.
It makes sense. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is in direct conflict with much of what is taught in society today, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
It really isn’t about us, but look at you much of what is taught in churches and what is popular in Christian bookstores; I’m not so sure that most would draw that conclusion. Michael Horton in Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church said something that I think many will reject upon first hearing.
As heretical as it sounds today, it is probably worth telling Americans that you don’t need Jesus to have better families, finances, health or even morality.
As radical as that seems, think about it… isn’t that what many of our churches have become in order to be “relevant.” Self-help driven? We seem to be about making our lives better, and while that isn’t bad in and of itself, it isn’t a solely Christian pursuit. You may ask, doesn’t Jesus want us to have an abundant life? Yes. Yes He does because He has promised to give us life and life in the fullness, (John 10:10), but that abundant life will include suffering and trials. He also gives that abundant life in the context of a right relationship with Him. We will never experience that abundant life if we don’t first die to our sins and live in His righteousness, and that wouldn’t be possible if it were not for the cross, (1 Peter 2:24). Horton continues:
Coming to the cross means repentance – not adding Jesus as a supporting character for an otherwise decent script but throwing away the script in order to be written into God’s drama. It is death and resurrection, not coaching and makeovers.
Lewis is right that if you are seeking to be comfortable, don’t look to Christianity. It isn’t about us, it isn’t about our success, our comfort, our lives even. It is about His glory and His gospel.