What has God promised Christians in this life? A smooth and trouble-free existence? To be sure, God could give every conceivable physical and material blessing to all of His people at this time. He could here and how grant their every desire. He could make their lives problem free.
He could. But he doesn’t. Nor did He ever promise that He would! You will search the scriptures in vain for a godly person who lived a consistently smooth, cushy life. God’s servants from Abel to Christ and on through the New Testament to modern times have experienced difficulties that might seem to be at variance with what some scriptures promise. But is that possible?
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My word will by no means pass away,” Jesus stated in Matthew 24:35. God always keeps His promises. His Word cannot be broken (John 10:35).
The difficulty arises when people misunderstand various scriptures. They assume these scriptures to unconditionally promise what in reality they do not at all promise.
Take for example, Psalm 34:9. David wrote, “Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.” Can a Christian look at this as an unconditional promise that he or she will never be in physical or material need of any kind? If that were the case, how could the apostle Paul write that he “learned to suffer need” (Phil. 4:12)? The fact is there were times when he was “in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness” (Ii Cor. 11:27.
Psalm 34:9 is not an unconditionally binding promise of physical and material plenty. David himself, the author of these words, certainly met with his share of serious problems and disappointments in life.
What God’s people are assured of not lacking, though, is anything that is really important. Important for what? For their uninterrupted physical comfort or enjoyment? No, for their ultimate good – for their eternal spiritual welfare. That very eternal, spiritual welfare, though, may at times require being in need physically. Paul said, “When I am weak (physical wanting), then I am strong (spiritual)” (II Cor. 12:10).
It is important to understand that many passages in the Bible are statements expressing not what God unconditionally will do now in every case, but what God can do and would like to do for us. The fulfillment is always conditional on it promoting God’s plan and being in our best interests. What is more, God doesn’t always specify exactly when He will act.
God “gives food to the hungry, gives freedom to the prisoners, opens the eyes of the blind, raises those who are bowed down the way of the wicked he turns upside down” (Ps. 146:7-9). Such verses describe God’s greatness. Our God is the God who does these things. That’s the kind of God he is. But He doesn’t do them now in every case, as is easily observable. He does them or will do them in and when it is appropriate if and when it is best.
When you ask God for something, have faith and trust in His wisdom, His love, His mercy, His power, His care. Have faith that at the right moment He will do what is appropriate, what is for the ultimate good of everyone concerned. “Trust in Him at all times” (Ps. 62:8). He knows what he is doing.
The Old Covenant was based on physical promises. But the New Covenant is different. Its most important provisions are not for this life, but for the life to come. It is based on better promises (Heb. 8:6).
Under the New Covenant, what matters most is not physical comfort and material wealth in this life, though many Christians have these. What is most important is the next life and preparations for it. Though God does bless His people physically such blessings are conditional. God simply does not bind Himself to grant all physical blessings in this life to all Christians in all circumstances at all times.
If we may not be assured of receiving every physical blessings in this life, though, “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) is available.
“The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11). Material blessings may not always be good for us. But the blessings of God’s Holy Spirit and the fruits it produces are always good for us. The Holy Spirit is the good gift the heavenly Father gives “to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13).
Are you being tested right now? Are you undergoing some trial and affliction? Think about this. One of the following must be true. Either God is not aware of the difficulties you are facing, or He is aware but doesn’t care. Or He is aware and does care, but is not powerful enough to help. Or – and this is the way it is – He is aware, He cares and He is almighty. He is actively and intricately involved in what is taking place in your life.
God’s most fervent desire is to bring us into His eternal Kingdom. Of course, He also wants to bless us in this life. Many scriptures express this. But if a choice must be made, in spite of how much God loves to bless His people materially and physically, here and now, His concern for their eternal welfare is so great that He will forego blessing them that way now – even allowing them to suffer “if need be” (I Peter 1:6) – in order to more abundantly bless them later.
God is committed to the plan He has begun for the purpose of enlarging His Family. Our future is so important to God that whatever lesson is needed in this life, or whatever it takes to help us build holy, righteous character, God will bring it about.
No price is too great, even to the sacrificing of His own Son. How profound is the love of God? “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out” (Rom. 11:33)!
God promises, though, that no trial will be greater than what a person can stand (I Cor. 10:13) and that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). So don’t think it strange if you are being tried (I Peter 4:12-13). Rejoice! God is dealing with you as His child (Heb. 12:7).
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov. 18:10). God promises to safeguard those who belong to Him. But some have wondered then, why serious or fatal accidents and mishaps from time to time occur in the lives of even God’s own elect.
God is the perfect parent. He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matt. 6:8). He is intimately aware of every aspect of the lives of His children. Nothing escapes Him.
David realized this. He wrote: “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence” (Ps. 139:1-7)?
Jesus declared that God’s attention encompasses the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matt. 6:26, 28-29). “Are you not of more value than they?” Jesus asked his followers, potential immortal members of God’s Family. Of course, there is no comparison. Considering the tremendous investment God has in you, you can be sure He watches over you carefully.
No one is assured of a “charmed life.” A life free of all accidents and mishaps, though God allows such events to happen for our ultimate good. Time and chance happens to all even to Christians (Eccl. 9:11). But in the lives of God’s elect, time and chance are not allowed to interfere with God’s purpose. He doesn’t just keep His distance and permit every event in your life to come to its own natural conclusion even when harmful. He is aware of and ready to take a hand in what transpires in your life.
The watchful surveillance of His angels is part of the attentive care God has for His people: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11).
So what happens when an automobile wreck or some other untoward incident suddenly occurs in the life of a true Christian? Are God’s angels looking in the other direction at that moment? Are they somehow distracted long enough for something to happen that interferes with God’s purpose?
No, such events don’t “sneak up” on God or His angels. God is in control. For one thing, we must remember that God is not limited by time as we measure or count it. If a day to God can be as 1,000 years (II Peter 3:8), what is a split second to us can be long enough for God to make any decisions He may need to make, even while an accident, for example, is taking place.
We find a striking demonstration of this time differential in the accounts concerning Jesus’ resurrection. One moment His followers were not allowed to cling to Him (John 20:17). Shortly thereafter His disciples could hold on to Him (Matt. 28:9). Between those two points, close in time, Jesus ascended to heaven, was received by the Father – a momentous occasion that certainly was not rushed-- and returned to earth. The point is, no untoward event, no accident can hinder God’s will. He “who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11) is able to make all situations turn out for the good of His elect.
One of the reasons we mortals often panic when we are faced with huge problems is that we tend to view them from a very human perspective. Being physical, we are deeply aware of physical limitations on everything around us. We fear going beyond what we can understand. But God is spirit. He knows no limitation. “With God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). It is never too late for Him to do what is appropriate.
God allowed Daniel to be cast into the lion’s den before He intervened (Daniel 6:10-23). He allowed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to be thrown into the midst of the burning fiery furnace before he saved them (Dan. 3:8-29).
Jeremiah was not delivered from neck-deep slime at the bottom of a cistern until he was first put down there and left to suffocate (Jer. 38:6-13). Paul was not freed from imprisonments, shipwrecks, deprivations and numerous other hardships until he first got into them (II Cor. 11:23-27). These servants of God came through such predicaments because it is never too late for God to do His will.
When Jesus was informed that His beloved friend Lazarus was very sick, Jesus didn’t rush right over to be with him. Jesus stayed where He was for two whole days, during which Lazarus died (John 11:5-6). Poor Lazarus. Did that mean it was too late for Jesus to help him, as various individuals thought it was (vs. 21, 32, and 37)? Of course not. When Jesus finally arrived, He raised Lazarus from the dead, for even death does not hinder God’s purpose!
God has the last word. He does “whatever He pleases,” whenever He pleases (Ps. 115:3). We need to learn that whatever God pleases to do in our lives, whenever He pleases to do it, is good for our good. Remember this when trials and tests overtake you.