Posted by: Philip Rushton | March 27, 2010

When the Health and Wealth Gospel Falls Short: Ancient Wisdom on the Purpose of Hardship

It is hard to know where God is when things aren’t going right. My experience of disappointment and frustration with this year of waiting has made me more attentive to the reality of hardship of those around me. It is sort of like when you buy a red car and then start seeing red cars everywhere. My interpersonal radar is picking up on a lot of hardship this year. This has caused me to ask a lot of questions about God’s purpose in allowing us to face difficulty.

There are a lot of false prophets out there today that promise health and wealth. We are to name and claim the promises of God and expect blessing. The problem with this type of teaching is that it often fails to explain the type of blessing God wants to give us. God isn’t concerned with giving us BMW’s and fancy houses; on the contrary, God wants to bless us with the spiritual gifts of faith, hope and love. These blessings often result from enduring the very opposite of what these false prophets promise. It is through hardship and difficulty that we are able to confront idolatry and learn to trust solely in God.

The following quote offers some wisdom on how to discern the purpose of hardship. I should preface this by saying that this does not offer a complete answer to the problem of pain. The question of why we must face such difficulty requires much more discussion then this one quote offers. Perhaps we can talk about this in the discussion section. But I do find this quote a helpful contribution to the way in which God uses the trials we face for our spiritual gain. This comes from Francios Fenelon’s, “On the Right Use of Trials.”

“God never puts us to any pain save unwillingly; His fatherly Heart does not desire to grieve us, but He cuts to the quick that He may heal the ulcers of our spiritual being. He must tear from us that which we love amiss, unreasonably and excessively, or to the hindrance of His Love. And so doing, He causes us to cry out like a child from whom one takes the knife with which it would maim or kill itself. We cry loudly in our despair, murmur against God, as the petulant babe against its mother; but He lets us cry, and saves us nevertheless. He only afflicts us for our correction; even when He seems to overwhelm us, it is for our own good, and to spare us the greater evil we would do ourselves.”


Francios Fenelon (Archbishop of Cabrai 1651-1715)

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Responses

  1. Phil,
    We don’t like to suffer pain, do without what we’re accustomed to, or to be inconvenienced by unanswered prayer. I think the difficulty for me is trying to maintain my perspective of what Jesus is about in my life. When Jesus talked about the Beattitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, they weren’t about “things” or material benefits. But when Jesus tells the disciples in John’s gospel that whatever they ask of God, they will receive, my thought automatically goes to material things. When Scripture talks about God giving us the desires of our hearts, I have to seriously think about what is the desire of my heart.
    Thank God for his grace and patience!
    I know that when I am in the midst of a crisis or having to deal with a difficult situation, it’s hard to see the value of it or see what God is trying to do in my life. But on the other side of the crisis or situation, things become clearer. Hopefully, my response in the situation is to seek God’s help and understanding and then thank Him for his guidance and strength.
    Be assured that you and Julie are in our prayers here in Longview and that we are eagerly (and patiently?) awaiting your arrival!


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