The Christian faith and happy circumstances don’t always go together.
AUGUST 10, 2023
The Christian faith and happy circumstances don’t always go together. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown, and this is Key Life. We’re dedicated to the teaching that the only people who get any better are those who know that if they don’t get any better, God will still love them, anyway. Steve is an author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, and I’m not going to do it again, but I didn’t read all of the verses in the text we’re going to be studying this week and probably, and certainly into next week. It’s Acts 21:17 through Acts 23:11. It’s the grand finale of the apostle, or the beginning of it, of the apostle Paul’s ministry. And we have seen that he’s going home, and at home he expected commendation. And everything to be copacetic and everything to be wonderful as he and his brothers and sisters in Christ rejoiced with what God had done on Paul’s three missionary journeys. And it didn’t happen that way. There was a riot. There was anger. He got arrested. I mean, it’s just not working. Only way he got out of it, he almost got beaten to death. The only way he got out of it was to claim that he was a Roman citizen, and he was a Roman citizen. And Roman citizenship had perks to it. And one of them was you had to go to Rome when you wanted to go to Rome for a trial, and he demanded that. And so, they put him on a boat, and we’re going to see it later on. He makes his way, and that wasn’t exactly wonderful either. What do you do when you’ve failed? Well, there are things that you ought to notice as you go through this particular text. And the first one is this, it’s an observation. The Christian faith and happy circumstances are not synonymous. Look at the 22nd verse of the 14th chapter of Acts.
Paul went to the churches strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
I’ll give you some other Scriptures. Scripture, John 15:18 through 20.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world will love its own; but because you’re not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours too.
“In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
I Peter 4:12
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.
One of the most dangerous things you can do is to believe the person who led you to Christ and said if you want to be happy and together and healthy and wealthy and wise, then follow Jesus Christ. Let me tell you something, that was a lie. Blood, sweat, and tears is often the definition of what it means to follow Christ. Now, I don’t want to go, you know, the danger of teaching this particular thing in the context of this particular text, is to go too far and miss the truth that there are really good things that do happen, that God sometimes heals people, that God sometimes gives his followers and his children great material goods. Remember when Peter said to Jesus, what’s in it for us? And if I’d been Jesus, I would have said, that’s an inappropriate question. Take up your cross and follow me, Peter. But Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus said, and it is so cool that he told him what’s in it for him. You’re going to have really cool stuff happen to you, because you follow me, and later on in heaven it’s going to be all good. So, this is a pretty good deal. So, I don’t want to go and say that if you follow Jesus you’ve got to be miserable. In the book My Utmost for His Highest, the one who wrote that devotional book wrote a poem when he first became a Christian. And this is Oswald Chambers, by the way. You know what he said in that poem? A poem prayer.
Hush, hush. I hear the sound of weeping. I must spend my life in tears.
No, no, you don’t. You’re going to spend a lot of your life laughing. You’re going to spend a lot of your life enjoying the benefits of being a Christian, but don’t go so far as to think that that is the definition of walking with Christ. It’s not. Sometimes, you’re called to walk through the fire. Sometimes, you’re called to face failure. Sometimes, you’re called to go through the pain. And when that happens, and you fail, that’s bad. No, it’s good. And so, the observation is simple. The Christian faith and happy circumstances are not always synonymous. Blair Richardson was a friend of mine. And I doubt whether you have ever heard that name. Blair was an incredible young man. This has been years ago, and I can close my eyes and I can picture him. He looked like a Greek god, and he was a prize fighter. And he had won a championship in prize fighting, then he came to Christ. And God used him in such wonderful ways. He would go down to some of the bad areas in the city and he would set up a fighting ring, with ropes and everything and then he would demonstrate things that were important about prize fighting and he’d get a crowd. And then he would tell him about Jesus. The same week he was supposed to speak at the Young People’s Organization of the church I served in the Boston area, he had a brain tumor and he died. I told God that was not a good thing to do. We needed Blair. If you treated the kids you had a little bit better, you’d have more children. And God, in his calmness, said, watch what happened. And what happened was absolutely amazing. Let me tell you about Blair’s wife. My friend John DeBrine said to her, you know, when you talked about becoming a Christian, people listened to you and they said, You know, if I had what she had, I would be a Christian too. Her life is so easy and so copacetic and so together. She’s married to a Greek god. She’s pregnant. Her husband is now a professor. He had been a prize fighter. Tremendous witness for Christ. Everybody thinks they’re wonderful. I’d be a Christian too. And John DeBrine said something that was powerful to Bev Richardson. He said this, they were listening then, and they’re still listening. They were listening then, and they are still listening. Now, we’re going to see this as we go through these particular verses of the grand, the beginning of the grand finale of the apostle Paul. And I want you to remember, they listen when you laugh, they listen when everything’s going well, they listen when your life is together, they listen when your family is wonderful, they listen when you’ve got a great job, they listen when you are successful. When you fail, they’re still listening. When you fail, they’re still listening. And so, you’ve got to know that in this particular text, nothing is going right for the apostle Paul. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would have left. I would have said a pox on all your house. I’m out of here. I’m going to go back to my tent making business where I was making good money. And I’m not doing this anymore, but not the apostle Paul. And you know why he didn’t do that? Because the apostle Paul knew they were still listening. And they do, they listen when we have joy, but they listen when we have tears. And I believe, and John DeBrine taught me this, that every time a Christian goes through a divorce or an unbeliever goes through a divorce, a Christian does. An unbeliever gets sick, a Christian does. An unbeliever has pain, a Christian does. So, they can see the difference. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. That wraps up this week’s tour through the Book of Acts and tomorrow join us again for Friday Q&A, that’s when Steve and Pete will answer this listener question. What in the world do I do with my anger? Be sure to tune in or I will be furious. So, I’m not naming names, but in my growing up years, I received a handmade sweatshirt from a certain relative, on the front and iron on image of a Koala, decorated in enamel paint. And did I mention I was 15 at the time? Every now and then we get a gift we’d rather not have, how about the gift of addiction? I know it sounds crazy, but addiction can drive us to turn to God and admit our need. And in that, we experience the greatest gift of all his presence, his kindness, his forgiveness, and his peace. Author Erik Guzman writes about this in a special mini-book called The Gift of Addiction: How God Redeems Our Pain. Get your free copy right now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that mini-book. Or to mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Just ask for the free mini-book called The Gift of Addiction. Last thing, if you value the work we do here at Key Life, would you help us do that through your giving? Just charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or simply pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. Just text that to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.