I have often heard Christians say that we ought to be content in Christ, and not ask for anything outside of Christ. I think they are on to something important, but I worry that they might be misunderstood. Yes, Paul “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Phil. 4:12), and the letter to the Hebrews commands, “be content with what you have,” linking that to God’s presence: “because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'” (Heb. 13:5). But if this is the case, why do some people hear “you should be content in Christ” as a disappointment? (more…)
In a local Bible study group, we just read 1 Peter, and this time through I was struck by how consistently the theme of judicial persecution of Christians remains near at hand through the whole letter. Indeed, seeing more of the letter in light of this consistent theme forced me to revise my understanding of several passages. These re-assessed verses include every reference to suffering in the letter, as well as two very famous verses, the one most often cited by Evangelicals as the clarion call for apologetics (1 Peter 3:15) and the one warning about the devil’s activity (1 Peter 5:8). I thought I’d chart here some of this new (to me) reading of Peter’s letter in light of persecution. (more…)
The Psalmist wrote:
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress!
My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing;
My strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away.
Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors,
And an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind,
I am like a broken vessel.
For I have heard the slander of many, terror is on every side;
While they took counsel together against me, they schemed to take away my life.
Someone remind me: why do we expect the Christian life to be easy and comfortable?
This post is not actually about 2 Corinthians 1, from which the title phrase is taken, but rather about 1 Peter, which I was reading recently.
Peter is writing to Christians scattered throughout what is today Turkey to encourage them because “is necessary for a little while now that you be grieved by various afflictions” (1:6), whose faith was being tested (1:7). He praises their faith and counsels reverence for God and holiness in life. He describes their relationship to God with some amazing language which bears repeating: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, so that you may declare the excellent qualities of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light, you who once were ‘not a people’ but now are God’s people, who had ‘not received mercy’ but now have received mercy” (2:9-10).
And he simply assumes that Christians will be hated and will suffer because they are Christian: (more…)