Sometimes our faithfulness to God will be a cause for suffering. Not all sickness and failures are symptoms of sin. And not all success is a result of faithful devotion to God.
If you have ever wondered why unbelievers who want nothing to do with God always seem to prosper while the most faithful suffer, you are not alone. I believe many Christians have asked this sometime in their lives. And we are in good company since Jeremiah, Job, and Asaph expressed the same thought.
“Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jeremiah 12:1b, ESV)
“Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? Their offspring are established in their presence, and their descendants before their eyes.Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.Their bull breeds without fail; their cow calves and does not miscarry.They send out their little boys like a flock, and their children dance.They sing to the tambourine and the lyre and rejoice to the sound of the pipe. They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol.” (Job 21:7-13, ESV)
“For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:3, ESV)
What I Believed
I’ve always had a hard time with math. I was a good student in school; got mostly As in every subject except math. I did my very best- spent hours trying to understand and figure out numbers and equations that seemed more Greek than math. Somehow, I did good enough on tests and assignments to earn Cs and sometimes Bs. However, when I got to Pre-Calculus in High School, math became a nightmare. I would get home from school, go straight into my room, took out my math homework, and spent hours frustratingly plugging and chugging numbers and failing. I always ended up in tears, frustrated, and mad. You see, school was important to me, and if I couldn’t do well in math, I felt like a complete failure even if my other classes went well. I absolutely detested math.
But there was one thing I could not understand. I prayed and prayed to do well on my math tests but I felt God ignored me. I saw other students who hated God do well without effort. And I did not understand how they, who did not live for God could do so well and I who prayed, devoted myself to God, and tried my best could fail math so miserably. In my 16-year-old mind, I was convinced that it wasn’t fair. How could unbelievers succeed, while believers failed?
What God Taught Me
I now understand that God has given unique abilities and talents to every person. And math was definitely not an ability of mine. What I had not understood then, is that God doesn’t owe us anything even when we are faithfully devoted to Him. We have the propensity to think that God must reward our devotion. That if we pray 5 hours a day, read the Bible, go to church, tithe, and love others, that God MUST give us cars, houses, money, vacations, and make all our dreams come true. When plans don’t go as planned, we get angry and wonder why God didn’t give us success. Even if our desires are not materialistic, God can choose not to give us what we want, because He is sovereign. Our faithfulness to God does not mean that we will get everything we want or that our plans will succeed.
I want to emphasize, that God does provide for our needs. If we seek Him genuinely with our whole hearts, He is good to give us what we need. God will sometimes pamper us by giving us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). He sees and tests our hearts and gives according to what is in them. So if your heart is riddled with greed God will not give you that Ferrari you want. However, what God gives is not a reward for our devotion to Him- our reward is in Heaven. And that alone is more than sufficient!God's gifts to us are not rewards for our faithfulness. Heaven is our eternal reward! Click To Tweet
Prosperity and Success
We also have to see what “prosperity” or “success” mean to God. When we think about someone becoming prosperous or successful, we have the tendency to think: career, work, finances, house, car, social accomplishment, awards, and recognition. However appealing these may sound, they are just material possessions. When we die, we die with everything we own and accomplished. And in 100 years from now, no one will remember us. Doesn’t sound very grand anymore does it?
God does promise eternal life for those who choose to follow Him in obedience and faithfulness. That is one prize no one should want to miss! Running this race of life without losing the faith, is success! (2 Timothy 4:7). If we seek a reward, let it be the reward of an incorruptible crown! (1 Corinthians 9:25).
We will suffer sickness, let downs, failures, persecution, and death in this life. Your faithfulness will not exempt you from it. But God does promise that He will never leave us. He will go into the waters and the fire with us! (Isaiah 43:2).
There are many reasons why God allows His faithful children to suffer persecution, sickness, failures, and trials. I will discuss just 4 of these that many Christians experience.
1. Persecuted to Glorify God
Christians are persecuted in over 50 countries worldwide. That is, 75% of the world population lives in persecuted countries according to The Pew Research Center. Thousands of faithful Christians are imprisoned, tortured and killed for their love of Christ daily. And many ask, if God is so good why would He allow His own followers to suffer like this? God is not capable of evil, but humans are. The suffering of these Christians glorifies God as the ultimate sacrifice for His Kingdom. In fact, dying for our faith in Christ is an honor, as many persecuted Christians will tell you. Sometimes our faithfulness to Abba will be a cause for suffering. And not all suffering is punishment for sin.Sometimes our faithfulness will be a cause for suffering. Click To Tweet
2. Increase Our Faith
You are very devoted to God, faithful to the end, in fact, your spiritual life is the best it had ever been and then suddenly a tragic accident in your family occurs. From a human perspective, it doesn’t make sense. But then it makes perfect sense. God wants to take you further in your faith. He wants to teach you to depend on Him 150%. He wants to hold you through the hardship, be a loving Father, and draw you closer to Him. Sometimes the answer to our prayers come in the form of trials. And your faith cannot grow stronger without being tried
Other times, God can allow sickness into your life to keep you on His path. Paul suffered from a chronic illness that God allowed so he wouldn’t become prideful (2 Corinthians 12). I repeat, not all sickness is punishment for sin, sometimes, it’s exactly what we need.
3. The Enemy is Mad
Remember Job? He was the most righteous man of his time. The Lord referred to him as “blameless” and “upright who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). He was the most faithful man, no one was like him. But the enemy wanted to break him; corrupt him.One day he went up to God to accuse him. So God allowed the enemy to touch Job, except his life. The enemy took everything away from him: his children, his riches, even his health. His wife and friends weren’t much help, they were used by the enemy. If you have ever read the Book of Job, you’ll remember that Job suffered faithfully. Though he did not understand why everything was taken from him, he remained faithful until God restored him. If you’re living faithfully for God and suddenly things start going haywire, the enemy may be mad. Because he lost his only chance at eternal life, he wants to corrupt and drag as many souls as possible into hell with him if; he can’t be in heaven, then no one else can.
4. God is Preparing You for Something Better
They fired you from your job. You did your best. You were a good testimony to your coworkers, prayed for them, witnessed to them. Your boss was happy with your work. It was a solid job but they fired you. It doesn’t seem to make sense. You had your dream job, you were happy and grateful. God is preparing you for something better. Job lost everything, but God restored him by giving him more than what he previously possessed. Don’t ever doubt that if God takes something away, he will replace it with something better. Maybe God is calling you for a different kind of work that will glorify Him and increase His kingdom. Who knows? What may seem like a lost and a failure, maybe your training for God’s work.
Success Does Not Always Equal Righteousness
The flipside of what we just discussed is also true. Just because everything is going fine in your life does not mean that you’re right with God. If you’ve been a Christian for a while and you haven’t encountered any test or trial, you should be worried! Because the enemy will not bother those who are deceived. The enemy can allow you to have success as long as you believe that you’re right with God when you’re not. Beware! Steer away from the mentality that because you prosper you must be doing Christianity right-this kind of thinking produces self-righteousness, pride, and leads to judgment and criticism of others. Success does not always equal faithful devotion to God.The enemy can allow you to have success as long as you believe that you’re right with God when you’re not. Click To Tweet
The True Heart of the Faithful
If we walk with a genuine heart for the Lord, He is always faithful to give us according to our hearts. God does not give to each equally, but as He pleases (Matthew 25:14-30). But beware that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). Like the parable mentioned above of the talents, if God has blessed you with much, He will require much from you. So the amount of success or failure is not a measure of our faith and devotion but the picture of the sovereignty of God.
If a brother is suffering, do not become like Job’s friends who instead of helping him, beat him more. Suffering is not always a punishment for sin. And prosperity does not always mean complete faithfulness.
Let us look toward heaven for our reward-this world and all it has to offer is fleeting. But eternal life is the ultimate prize.
Enjoyed this post? Share it on Pinterest!