After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:21, 22).

Certain statements quickly catch my attention as warnings. For example, I am in a first session of premarital counseling. Seeking to befriend the couple, I ask, "Why are you getting married?" As they look at each other with "goo-goo" eyes, this is their response: "We are in love!" Instantly, alarm bells sound in my head. Is love critical to an enduring marriage? Absolutely! Yet, hormones must not be mistaken for love!

In a similar way, I am very concerned when a person's primary reason for being a Christian is "to eliminate problems in my life." What problems? (a) If the answer is to eliminate guilt, accountability for past failures through forgiveness in Christ, hopelessness, and living for something more important than the here and now -- excellent! (b) If the answer is to guarantee a good job, a desirable lifestyle, a trouble free existence, lots of pleasure, and the money one thinks "I need" -- deplorable!

Christianity has never been about living what the physical world commonly considers "the good life." We follow a King whose coronation was achieved through crucifixion and resurrection after a life of service, rejection, and surrender. He lived as a servant in poverty. He died as a servant in poverty.

Consider life's key question. Is life about me or God? The answers to that question are extremely different. Being a Christian because of "me" provides one answer. Being a Christian because of God provides quite a different answer.

This society's popular answer is this: being a Christian places the focus on "me." Thus worship is commonly centered on what "I" find pleasurable. Ministry is focused on what "I" find plausible. Service is focused on "my" approval. The key evaluation of everything happening is "my take" on the spirituality of the situation.

In a spiritual climate that focuses on "me," the message of a health and wealth gospel seems powerfully plausible and most appealing. Why shouldn't those who belong to the Lord enjoy the best this world has to offer? Surely the "good life" should belong to men and women who belong to God!

Why should the "good life" belong to us? Christians exist as redeemed people in an unredeemed world. They dare to live between the tension and pulls of good and evil. They struggle with temptation as they live among forces that reject God. They get tired as they witness so much unrighteousness and injustice -- they weary of being different, not belonging, not fitting. How can those who dearly love the Lord be comfortable in a world that either ignores or hates the Lord?

Those daring to follow God soon realize this world is no friend to the righteous. "The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:17). We live to the praise of His glory. Life is about God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 15 August 2004

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