So I was talking with a friend yesterday and he said something quite singular. He told me that if someone had enough faith that they would not have any medical problems. He thought that this is what “overcoming” meant–that the problem would disappear. When I asked why he thought this, he said that God is a good God and all He wants is for us to be happy.
Now, I have already talked about health in a couple of blogs last year (Christians and illness, Parts I and II–found in the ‘Misconceptions’ category) so I won’t go into that again. What I do want to discuss is the idea that the main thing God wants is for us to be happy.
Yes, I realize that some may raise their eyebrows at what I’m going to say next but here it is: God’s goal for us is not for us to be happy, but rather for us to be holy.
This is a very important distinction. This defines God’s purpose in our lives. Let me explain.
If above all else God wants us to be happy, then why can’t we just live our lives the way we want to? Why can’t we just do as we please? Why does He interfere with our lives by telling us to “love our neighbours as ourselves?” (Mark 12:31).
Do you really think that Abraham was happier leaving his home to travel to a land that he’d never seen before (Genesis 12)? Don’t you think Joseph would have been happier to skip out on being sold into slavery and ending up in prison in Egypt (Genesis 37, 39 – 46)? Would Moses not have been happier living as a prince in Egypt instead of wandering in the desert for 40 years (Exodus)?
For that matter, would not Christ have been happier staying in heaven and reigning as the Son of God than living on earth and dying on the cross? If all God wanted was for His children to be happy he would likely not have sent Christ to this earth at all.
So why did God let these things happen to these His children? Because He wants much more for us than to be “happy.” He wants us to grow, to mature, to aspire to holiness, to become more than we even imagined that we could! Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1b NIV
Imagine Esther’s surprise at being picked by the great King Xerxes as his wife in place of Vashti! But do you think that she was made queen so that she would be happy? When the Israelites came under attack, even though it would put her life at risk, Mordecai, her uncle, encouraged her to petition the King. He said to her, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NIV
And what are we told about Christ? “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Hebrews 5:8,9 NIV
We hear Christ say that “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NKJV
So it would seem that as the children of God we can expect hardship and difficulties. We can expect suffering that tests our faith. This does NOT sound very nice or encouraging. It’s actually rather disheartening. But listen to this encouragement…
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3,4 NIV
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2 – 4 NIV
So, it kind of sounds like we should not only expect suffering, that we should look forward to it because God uses it to mold and mature us! To help us to become holy like Himself. I don’t know about you, but this process doesn’t make me overly happy. In the end, however, we will earn more than a little happiness–we will have pure joy!
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh. 22
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”
Luke 6:20 – 23
Now that it has become clear that we will suffer as Christians, we need to realize that our hardships are for a higher purpose, not only to build us into stronger and better people but often to improve things for those around us. Consider what Joseph said to his brothers after they had sold him into slavery and finally found him in Egypt as the second in command to Pharoah: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” Genesis 45:6 NIV
And from Paul: “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. Philippians 1:12 – 15 NIV
But do not lose heart. We don’t have to do this on our own strength. Christ said in Matthew 28:20b, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIV
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” NIV
We may not always be happy, but we will be working on holiness with every hardship we persevere through, with every illness we overcome, with every obstacle that we navigate through. So it is not because you lack faith that these things come your way; it is to help you gain faith!
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 NIV
Holy is much better than happy! 😀