A recent conversation with a colleague we touched on a topic that is often mentioned, but perhaps rarely discussed. The topic was evangelism, or more specifically the manner in which Christ is presented to non-believers. As my colleague stated (and as my pastor often shares) a lot of evangelism efforts these days start with the fact that God is the solution to your problems. While, ultimately this is true if the problem you are talking about is sin, that’s not the place most people start. Usually, there’s a Earthly circumstance that is not the way we would like it to be – a broken marriage, a ill relative, a tough economic situation – and God is presented as a way to make you feel better about what’s wrong in your life. In other words, God isn’t meaningful to your life because He is the Creator of you and is the reason for your existence, He is simply important in that He has the power to change your temporal circumstance. If another solution can also change what’s wrong with your life, than well that’s just as good. The altogether-differentness (i.e. His holiness) is more of an after-thought rather than the reason why our lives should be centered around praising Him, and the reason we need Him to save us.
The problem with this approach is that not only does it lead to a misunderstood view of what a right response to God looks like (our whole life offered to Him for His purpose) it also misunderstands what God is up to in the life of His people. In discussing Christ’s promises, B.B. Warfield writes “prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, adversity of the New.” In other words, before God sent His Son to the Earth to be a living sacrifice for our sins, He demonstrated His pleasure, His closeness, with His people through material possessions. This is why many of the Proverbs extol the virtues of the rich man. In His Son’s descent, however, He provided the greatest gift He ever could. Therefore, His promises His church not a good life here on Earth, but trials, persecutions, and situations that will refine them to make them more like Him (see John 16:33, John 15:20, James 1:2-4). We present Christ as a way to make this life better, and He is, but only in so much as He changes our focus from the temporal life to the eternal. His blessing is that through the trials of this world, we are better prepared to enjoy what’s in the next – His presence, everlasting.
God’s still blessing His people, but oftentimes is not in the way we would imagine. How have you experienced God’s new blessing? May we, like the apostles, rejoice when we are found worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5:41).