The life of a Christian is not without challenges. Sometimes we think, now that I'm saved, now that I'm sanctified, now that I'm baptized in the Holy Spirit, that the difficulties will go away, that we will live a completely blessed life. But that's not often the case. We still struggle with addictions, with un-Christian-like thoughts, and with our own faith. Why then, do we Christians believe our lives should be any better than our fellow Earthbound sinners, and how should we act when those challenges hit close to home?
First, thinking that life should be "easy street" for Christians is not entirely folly. All throughout scripture we have examples of God-fearing men and women whose lives immediately improved once they were consecrated and dedicated to the Lord. The books of the Kings and Chronicles go so far to name those kings whose reigns were blessed because of their worship of God, and those whose reigns were cursed for their abject failure to recognize God's deity or their outright rejection of Him as the one true God. We know the story of David, but we also read of Hezekiah and Uzziah who were completely dedicated to the Lord. And we hear of kings named Amaziah and Jothan, for example, who knew the Lord but did not follow Him completely. From these stories and more in the Old Testament we learn that complete allegiance to God led to successful monarchies while incomplete allegiance or rejection of God led to troubles.
So, it isn't without precedent that Christians believe we should live blessed lives, but here is the thing that most Christians miss – David still faced challenges. Jehoshaphat still fought wars and still faced challenges despite his wealth, power, and providence. What we may ignore is that successful monarchies are built one success at a time. And to be frank, how many struggles has God kept from us because of our worship of him – we'll never know.
Given that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory (Rom 3:23) how do we, as Christians, face challenges and remain true to God in them?
Let's consider a hypothetical situation. Say you have a contract with your local Fitness center and the center changes up its services but still charges your weekly fee because the language in the contract gives them that privilege. They may have sold you on the specific service they no longer provide, but we all know those contracts are sufficiently broad to favor the business over the patron. How should we, as Christians, react?
Or maybe something a little more festive, considering the time of year? You and your friends have gotten up ungodly early on a Friday. You have fought traffic, the weather, and untold number of heathens to buy one specific gift for your child because the ad said it would be available and at an amazing price. When you reach the store you find they had that gift as advertised and at the price you saw online, but they only had a handful of them and you are not the first patron in the store. However, if you really like that toy, you can order it – at full price, mind you – and come back in a week to pick it up.
What do we do? Are we in the right to lose our minds for the inconvenience or in response to outright lies? God knows we can inflict monetary damage as payback for their unscrupulousness just by telling our story on one of the many social media platforms. But is any of that right?
If we are at all considerate of our witness for God, we should first pray, (Or be "prayed up" before we even get there?) then trust God and seek His wisdom, and never, ever, lose our temper. For those who have not been in similar situations, let me tell you, maintaining your witness in these challenging times is not easy. But the Bible gives us clear guidance whenever we are facing challenges, and those challenges need not be direct assaults on our faith to be worthy of prayer and praise. They can be challenges to our good nature, or our sanity, or our wallet even, and God still wants us to seek His face first and remember that even when the trainer misrepresents the company's services, or the Black Friday ad misrepresents the availability of the toy, God is still in control.
"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes 5:15-18, NIV)
"And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies." (Rom 8:27-33, NIV)
Ok, so I've been a little tongue-in-cheek with my examples, but if you have ever been there you know it is too easy to lose our temper and in turn lose our witness. While these challenges are nothing compared to those faced by the recent fires in California or the threat of stoning for being a Christian in Pakistan, they are challenges to our witness nonetheless. King Solomon was by God's own word, the wisest man in the history of men, yet after twenty years building the temple he still faced daily challenges from his own people.
While few of us will ever have to utter the words, "Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other" (1 Kings 3:25, NIV), our own daily challenges can be sufficiently daunting. So, my challenge to us all during this wonderful, Christmas holiday is to keep ourselves "prayed up" and be alert for Satan's attacks on our witness and our faith. Don't lose your mind and your witness all at the same time. Instead, seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that he is truly working all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
–Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.