In their book Health, Wealth, and Happiness David Jones and Russell Woodbridge, open by saying,
A new gospel is being taught today. This new gospel is perplexing. Instead of promising Christ, this gospel promises health and wealth…According to this new gospel, if believers repeat positive confession, focus their thoughts, and generate enough faith, God will release blessings, upon their lives. This new gospel claims that God desires and even promises that believers will live a healthy and financially prosperous life.”
While these authors ultimately go on to show that is false teaching, there are many people who believe what these authors have described. Some even come to faith in Christ because they think it will provide them with a life of ease – a life free from pain, worry, difficulty, and hardship. But is that the case?
Does a Life of Faith Always Lead to a Life of Ease?
Well, I believe when we look at the latter part of Hebrews 11, the teaching is clear: A life of faith does not always lead to a life of ease (Heb. 11:32-40). If you remember, chapter 11 is considered the hall of faith. The chapter highlights for us the faith of the great saints of old. Near the end of the chapter as the author begins to wrap things up, he recounts for us in rapid fashion some of the things the saints of old faced. We are told they experienced war, injustice, lions, fire, torture, imprisonment, hunger, and even death.
If you remember, chapter 11 is considered the hall of faith. The chapter highlights for us the faith of the great saints of old. Near the end of the chapter as the author begins to wrap things up, he recounts for us in rapid fashion some of the things the saints of old faced. We are told they experienced war, injustice, lions, fire, torture, imprisonment, hunger, and even death.
Even though they faced these things, some of these faithful saints, by the power of God prevailed. Beginning in verse 32 we read,
“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (Heb 11:32–34)
However, if you keep going in the text, you see a different picture. Beginning in verse 35, we learn that:
“…Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Heb 11:35–38)
Reading the latter verses may cause you to think that the faith of those who suffered and died wasn’t as strong as those who conquered, but that is not true. Their faith was just as strong. They made it into the hall of faith after all. What this teaches us, then, is that living a life of faith doesn’t always mean we are going to live a life of ease.
What About Those Who Preach a “Best Life Now” Theology?
Those who preach and teach a “best life now” theology for the faithful are simply preaching a false gospel. One that is foreign to Scripture. Scripture never claims that our life if going to be great now. After all, the founder of our faith was lied about, attacked, and ultimately nailed to a cross. As His followers, we can expect something similar. Jesus tells us just that in John 15:20,
“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (Jn 15:20a)
Living a life of faith, then, doesn’t always mean we are going to live a life of ease. It is crucial we take hold of that truth as we enter these tumultuous times.
The Times are Changing
As Christian Americans, we have experienced a number of years of freedom and peace. For the vast majority of us, persecution has been limited to sneers, jeers, and name calling. Times, however, are rapidly changing. Just consider some of the current headlines:
- Pending legislation in California (SB 1146) could mean the end of comprehensive Christian education in California.
- Schools that request a Title IX exemption are being blacklisted by the secular left.
- The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is threatening to silence church pulpits on LGBT issues.
- The Democratic platform is pushing to eliminate the Hyde and Helms amendments, so abortions can be funded by taxpayers [See also 2].
As these headlines from the last week make clear, the cultural and sexual revolution is pushing forward at an unprecedented pace. A pace that is causing Religious Liberty and Erotic Liberty to clash head on. As these two ideologies collide, persecution of the faithful is bound to occur, just like it did in biblical times and throughout Church History. A life of ease for the faithful, even the relative ease we have experienced in this country, may soon be coming to an end.
As we see the slow (or rapid) fade of a persecution-free life take place before our eyes, we need to think hard about what we believe because a “Best Life Now” theology won’t provide the hope, encouragement, and strength we need to hold fast to the faith when persecution is knocking at our door.
Question for Reflection
- Does your theology provide you the hope and strength you need to face persecution?
 Health, Wealth, and Happiness David Jones and Russell Woodbridge, 14-15.
 See also for in-depth commentary on these issues http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/08/02/briefing-08-02-16/ and http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/08/03/briefing-08-03-16/
Post adapted from my sermon: Is a Life of Faith Always a Life of Ease?