God, Find My Car Keys
It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake . . . Philippians 1:29-30
When I encounter some life trial, it’s natural for me to ask God to take the struggle away. Even in my addiction, when I was running from God and not praying much at all, I still prayed enough to beg him to remove my addictive appetites. Today, I’m not wrestling with drug use, but I’ve got other life problems and still, it’s just natural for me to go to God, asking him to remove them from my life.
It’s not wrong to ask God to help me in my need. I do think though, that my expectation for God to simply remove every trial exposes a misunderstanding of faith. I often view faith as a magical path to the easy life. In a hurry and lost my car keys? Just pray and presto! God will make them appear.
In today’s passage, Paul seems to suggest that, when it comes to life’s trials, faith means the opposite of what I think it does. In the passage, which he wrote from prison, Paul told the Philippians that believing in Christ almost guaranteed them more suffering and conflict. What? Why?
From his own experience, Paul knew that his faith put him in opposition to the world. In picking the right side, he faced conflict with the wrong one. God didn’t just magically remove Paul’s hardships, but rather used them to shape Paul and to further his plan. While in prison, Paul was able to share the gospel with the entire prison staff. Yes, it was a hardship, but God used it for his purpose and to further transform Paul.
We may not encounter a lot of persecution for our faith. Following God though, naturally puts us at odds with the world. If we want to follow Christ, we must count the cost. Following God means that we must abandon our way, which means sacrifice, hard work, and conflict. Before we followed Christ, we may not have felt any guilt about our greed, lust, anger, or addiction. Now, though, because we want the new life, instead of the old self-destructive one, we will naturally have conflict with ourselves and the world.
We want God to fix all our life trials. God however, frequently uses those life trials to fix us. We usually don’t change unless we must and so, God uses our struggles to shape us. It’s not wrong to ask for God to take away our pain, but often, we must go to God, asking what he wants us to do with it first. Then, even in the trial, we must follow him.