This post is the second in a series entitled, When Faith Doesn’t Work. If you haven’t read the first post, I encourage you to go back and read it first.
If you have been around the church enough in your life, you know that people attack faith often. Much of the time, there is some kind of connection to suffering in their attack.
“Your faith did you a lot of good when you got diagnosed with _________.”
“Where’s God in the natural disasters that are killing thousands?”
“If God is real and the Bible is true, why can’t I stop __________?”
What is typically meant by these is that a given person thinks faith “Doesn’t Work.” Something about it is broken, because any belief in an all knowing, all loving God can clearly leave no room for human suffering. I can totally understand why these people are frustrated, and maybe you can, too. Maybe you hold this view. It is, in essence, saying, “There’s no point in believing in God.”
I can sympathize with on a human level, but my answer to the question is that we may need to rethink what the goal of our faith is.
America, the land of the ME
Let’s face it, we live in a land that teaches us to focus on ourselves. Everything from Personal Pan Pizza (because Heaven forbid we all eat the same thing) to the recent emphasis on boosting self-esteem tells us that we get what we want. Even the founders of our country have been distorted; the foundation they forged with the nation’s best interest in mind has now been reduced to, “if I want to drink a 147-oz soda every day for lunch, I should be free to do that.” I love personal freedom, I’m just saying I don’t think that’s what they had in mind. We are a people of ME.
History tells us that humans are communal, that they are collective in nature. We are social creatures. And so we need to stop and reconsider — and at the very least be honest about and aware of — our tendencies to look after ourself. If we aren’t careful, the gospel becomes about Jesus loves ME, not Jesus loves US. Faith becomes about going to heaven and what God will do for ME. My prayers are about God fixing what’s stressing me out in MY life from illness to travels to exams to relationships). When we do pray for others, it is — again — about reducing stress level. We expect God to fix all the discomfort in our personal lives.
It’s no wonder we get so offended when that God would allow pain and suffering.
Young Bold and the Restless
The early church was relentlessly unified in their mission. Paul celebrated the success of other churches even while he was in prison (Phil 1:3-11). He prayed for them and asked them to pray for him. And what did he ask them to for? It wasn’t “Pray that God would deliver me from prison, since I’m here on false charges.” His request was that they would pray for him to be bold (Col 4:2-4)! After Peter and John received the beating of their lives from the Sanhedrin and were told not to preach, the disciples gathered and said,
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with Great BOLDNESS (Acts 4:29)!
When we lose sight of the mission we gain sight of ourselves. We need to raise our vision to Christ and his mission, rather than focusing on what troubles we have right in front of us.
Redefine what a “WIN” is
It is especially tempting to think that God’s goal is to bless us. We’ll talk about pain and suffering later in this series, but take a look at just a few verses to describe what the “purpose” of faith is:
- “In this world you will have trouble, but TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world!” -John 16:33
- “You are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:9
- “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” -Galatians 5:1
- “Imitate God, as dearly loved Children.” -Ephesians 5:1
God’s goals are not necessarily here and now, but eternal and big-picture. We should come to the table not saying, “Christ what will you do for me?” That reflects an unappreciative perspective toward what he has already done for us. Instead, we should come to him offering, “Jesus, what would you have me do for you?” out of appreciation and gratitude for the life he has given us.
Maybe faith “doesn’t work,” and maybe we are using the wrong metrics to measure it.
How do you hear people making this argument? Leave a comment in the section below!