I read the daily news with increasing agony. A mission partner in Myanmar asks for prayer as he copes with the death of 50 ministers in his region. The world is getting weary of battling strain after indefatigable strain. A dear elderly member at church tells me people are dropping like flies in India, including those within her own family.
The past few years have felt like a bleak moment in history.
For all the medical and technological advancement the world has achieved, the past few years have felt like a bleak moment in history. What a dreadful world we live in. Even as a Christian, I am tempted to despair like along with so many others. Why doesn’t the Christian life feel more victorious?
God’s word offers me comfort and perspective with these three truths:
1. Life Here is the Worst We Will Ever Experience.
How does knowing that this life is our worst life comfort us? Because, even though we are surprised and disappointed, God is not. He has already described this world as it is: in ‘bondage to decay’ (Romans 3:21); destined to be consumed. While we wait for God’s final judgment, the world continues in its rebellion, destruction and deadly indifference. Meanwhile, Christians have a particular struggle: ‘all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12).
I have everything I need, and most things I want. So, I am always challenged by the Christian call to suffer.
Living in the abundant and comfortable West, I have a good life. I have everything I need, and most things I want. So, I am always challenged by the Christian call to suffer. It’s something remote from my experience.
But it’s not remote from the Bible. Christ our forerunner was ‘a man of suffering, familiar with pain’ (Isaiah 53:3). He lived a short life; died a horrific death (Matthew 27:27-37). And he made it clear that his disciples should expect the same (Luke 14:28-33). As he described it, the Christian life is one of constant self-denial: we carry the crosses on which we will die (Matthew 10:38), we give away the things we love and think we need (Matthew 5:40).
If Jesus’ early disciples did not escape suffering, why would we?
2. The Good Life God Promises Us Will Come.
And yet, the Lord does not leave us high and dry. He promises that ‘the one who stands firm to the end will be saved’ (Matthew 24:13). What does the end of this life mean for believers? It is the beginning of a new, glorious, never-ending one:
- We will be ‘in paradise’ with Jesus (Luke 23:43).
- He will meet us and wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4).
- We will be given a crown of glory, (1 Peter 5:4) and new physical bodies that will last forever (Philippians 3:20-21).
- We will live in a beautiful city—among riches that will make all the wealth in this world pale in comparison (Revelation 21:18-21).
- We will be forever united with those we lost in the last life (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
- We will be able to do every good thing we missed out on in the last life because we gave that time, money, and energy up to serve God’s people.
But most importantly, we will be in perfect relationship with the Source of every good thing: our Creator, Saviour and Sustainer; the Maker of Heaven and Earth—God Almighty himself.
That good life is coming, it just isn’t the one we are living now.
3. Life Now means Thanksgiving and Sacrifice.
How then, shall we live? Two practices that ought to be the hallmark of every Christian’s life on this Earth are thanksgiving and sacrifice.
God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4). Therefore, it is so characteristic of him to continue giving us joyful memories, awe-inspiring moments, and beautiful friendships, even amidst the brokenness of this life. He continues to provide abundantly to those who do not deserve it (Matthew 5:45).
So let’s spend this life thanking him for every good thing he gives us in the midst of this broken life (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Let’s notice that, alongside all of life’s despair, he still promises us the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Let’s pray for, and cooperate with, the Spirit whom Christ sends to make us fruitful in our character and service (Galatians 5:22-23). Let’s learn to rejoice in our suffering (1 Peter 4:12-13). What a life-long challenge for all of us!
What do we actually give up when we sacrifice pleasure, enjoyment, and riches in this life for the sake of the next? According to the Lord, nothing that he will not restore.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
Let’s us spend our lives preparing ourselves and those around us for the life to come.
Let’s earnestly share the promise of a better world with people who are only saving up for this life.
- Let’s comfort the Christians around us who are suffering (Romans 12:15).
- Let’s partner with those who are serving the church in tough places (2 Corinthians 8:4).
- Let’s exhort those who are on the verge of giving up their next life for this mediocre one (James 5:19-20).
- Let’s strengthen those who are tasked with the challenge of shepherding God’s people.
- Let’s earnestly share the promise of a better world with people who are only saving up for this life. After all, what is the best life for believers of Christ will be the worst life for the rest. And the realisation of our deepest hope will be the realisation of their deepest terrors.
Knowing that this life will be short, momentary, and riddled with suffering, pain and disappointments, how will we choose to spend it?