The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon commenting on Acts 14:22, specifically where it says, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God,” (ESV) said something that most American Christians don’t want to hear – you will suffer. Yet you walk through your typical Christian bookstore you will invariably see books with titles that proclaim the opposite.
From Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional:
God’s people have their trials. It was never designed by God, when he chose his people, that they should be an untried people. They were chosen in the furnace of affliction; they were never chosen to worldly peace and earthly joy. Freedom from sickness and the pains of mortality was never promised them; but when their Lord drew up the charter of privileges, he included chastisements amongst the things to which they should inevitably be heirs. Trials are a part of our lot; they were predestinated for us in Christ’s last legacy. So surely as the stars are fashioned by his hands, and their orbits fixed by him, so surely are our trials allotted to us: he has ordained their season and their place, their intensity and the effect they shall have upon us. Good men must never expect to escape troubles; if they do, they will be disappointed, for none of their predecessors have been without them. Mark the patience of Job; remember Abraham, for he had his trials, and by his faith under them, he became the “Father of the faithful.” Note well the biographies of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and you shall discover none of those whom God made vessels of mercy, who were not made to pass through the fire of affliction. It is ordained of old that the cross of trouble should be engraved on every vessel of mercy, as the royal mark whereby the King’s vessels of honour are distinguished. But although tribulation is thus the path of God’s children, they have the comfort of knowing that their Master has traversed it before them; they have his presence and sympathy to cheer them, his grace to support them, and his example to teach them how to endure; and when they reach “the kingdom,” it will more than make amends for the “much tribulation” through which they passed to enter it.
I’m currently in a period of trial on a number of fronts, and yet I know my “suffering” is nothing compared to what my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ have endured over the centuries. God never promised me an easy life. He never promised health, wealth, and earthly joy.
Spurgeon’s words are a rebuke to the prosperity gospel that has gained traction within the American church.
We will suffer. We will face trials. Life on earth will be hard. We will experience loss. We will grieve.
God uses these trials. Remember James’ words. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4, ESV).
These trials also make us long for heaven, our true home, and as Spurgeon said, it will more than make amends for the temporary suffering we endured in this life.