My friend Tom loves to quote these oft-repeated words taken from
the late Bill Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws: “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” He then goes on to recount how his own life went from contentment to chaos once he became a Christian. To be fair to Mr. Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, God does have a wonderful plan for your life (it certainly isn’t a “terrible plan.”) But we put those words out there to attract non-believers with its comforting promise, because who wouldn’t want a “wonderful” plan, as opposed to the terrible things they are presently experiencing. But Jesus never made such a promise to any of his followers.
In fact, Jesus said: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother...a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” He also went on to say: “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-38) . That is hardly the “wonderful plan” we had in mind when we felt the tug of the Spirit upon our hearts. We despise the “bait and switch” approach that is practiced by so many con men in our society, so why do we Christians use this same deceptive approach to seekers who have not yet become disciples? When those living outside of the gospel come to Christ on the basis that “everything is going to get better” in their lives and then suddenly experience the alienation of their former friends, family and associates, they often begin to think “God has lied to me. He has reeled me in only to desert me!” They then add their names to the growing list of “former“ Christians.
When Jesus preached his most famous sermon at the beginning of his ministry he outlined the kind of character he demanded in his followers, pronounced them “blessed” when they live that way, and told them plainly of the rewards such character would bring. He concluded his appeal with these words: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12). He wasn’t saying “this may happen on some occasions to a few of you.” He was telling them plainly that when you truly come to me as a disciple (life-long follower) you WILL experience these things. The Apostle Paul plainly told hisflock: “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). We do no one a favor by candy-coating the appeal for people to renounce their sins and turn to Christ for salvation. Difficulties of many kinds are a part of the package we sign on to when we confess our faith in Christ. It has always been this way. But something else has always been that way—the protective and loving guidance of the one who inspired these words: “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” So true. And He always will be, in spite of the difficulties that will come.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship