On Trials and Suffering

While discussing our religious beliefs with some Christian friends, I detected an interest in the so-called Word of Faith Movement. My friends were convinced that the advocates of this heresy teach sound doctrine; and one of them was certain she had not been saved, that she was still wandering in that dark land of shadows wherein dwell the lost souls doomed to eternal damnation. She based this belief upon her understanding of salvation, as taught by ministers of the Word of Faith Movement. When asked what I thought of this phenomenon, I had to reply that, at that time, I did not know enough about the concept to hold a meaningful opinion.

When I returned home, I determined to look into what Word of Faith Movement gurus were teaching. I discovered concepts that chipped at the very foundations of Christian beliefs. I wrote a very brief examination of the doctrine, as I had found it to be, and sent copies to my friends.

Word of Faith

One of the ways the Word of Faith Movement has defrauded the Church has to do with the oft-repeated theme that trials and suffering have no part in the life of the true believer. If this were true, we must believe that every person who adheres to Word of Faith Movement doctrine will never know the discomfort of disease, the hardship of poverty, the anguish of emotional stress, etc. According to Word of Faith teachers, anyone who experiences personal discomfort patently is not walking according to Scripture.

The Word of Faith teachers lie!

A careful examination of Scripture, using sound hermeneutics, will quickly reveal the errors in Word of Faith teachings. Of course, were one to approach Scripture intending to prove that a preconceived false doctrine is true, it would be a simple matter to distort, by selective editing, the truth of Holy Writ. Word of Faith heretics tell us that we are in control of our own lives; that we can have whatever we desire, simply by commanding God to provide it (in Jesus' Name, of course). We can be healthy, wealthy and wise, simply by claiming so and invoking our Savior's Name. We can overcome any hardship, spiritual or carnal, by compelling God to "take care of it.".

Can we really make God do something, simply by gathering together in ritual prayer and invoking the Name of Jesus?

Word of Faith Movement gurus remind us of the promises in Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 21:22, and elsewhere. I suppose they forget that the Scriptures interpret themselves, or they choose to overlook the limitations mentioned in I John:

13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
--1 John 5:13-15 [ y emphasis]

Think about it. If Almighty God can be compelled to grant every request placed before Him by two or more believers (as Word of Faith teachers say), then He is controlled by His creation. If Almighty God can be commanded to do anything, then He is neither Almighty nor God. And, if He is not God, all our faith has been in vain.

Examine the ministry of Jesus as reported in the Gospels. Not even Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, healed everyone who attended his teachings. He only healed one person at the Pool Bethesda, for example (John 5:1-9). There were occasions when He healed people who had not asked for healing, such as the man who had been blind from birth (John 9:1-7). Certainly, dead Lazarus could not ask for healing, after moldering four days in his tomb, but Jesus raised him up again (John 11). Our Savior sometimes healed all that were brought to Him, as when He was beginning His ministry (Matthew 4:23-25).

What motivated Jesus to heal? Surely His great love for His Father's Creation prompted our Lord to ease the suffering of many hurting people, but I believe the primary purpose was to confirm His ministry and divine nature.

As a Christian, I believe that God still heals people who call out to Him in faith. However, I do not believe He cures every person raised up to Him for healing, for that would imply God is under compulsion to do our bidding. Rather, I believe He determines according to His own Will and grants healing to those whom He chooses to bless in that manner. Some are healed at once, others must bide a while before their suffering is relieved, and some will get no relief this side of Eternity (and that's okay, too).

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (Romans 9:15,16)

Three times, Paul asked God to remove the thorn in his side, and three times God denied him; saying, finally: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness"; (II Corinth 12:9, NIV). Would Paul have passed the Word of Faith Movement's test of salvation? Where do Scriptures promise an easy life for the believer? Perhaps this would be a good time to review some of the hardships Paul endured (II Corinth 6:3-13 and 12:16-33).

Think about the persecution and suffering of the early Christians; their lives are not testimonials to the trouble-free existence the Word of Faith Movement promises. How many of those early believers will wear a martyr's crown?

What should we do when life comes down hard on us? Should we just "take our medicine" like good little kids? Of course not! I believe Christians should reach out to God in prayer, telling Him of our need, and then submit ourselves to His Will. That's what Jesus did, on the night before His great trial (Matthew 26:39). Do we couint ourselves greater than our Savior, that we should desire to force God to take some action contrary to His divine Will?

Once we have placed our burden at the feet of the Almighty, I believe it imperative to leavue it there. Having submitted our need to God's Will, we must let go of it, and allow Him to act as He chooses. Should the trial continue, take comfort from God's Holy Word, written apparently to sustain the Jewish Christians in their troubles:

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:7-11)

In this passage, I believe the Lord refers to hardships arising from the Jews' acceptance of Jesus as Messiah, but the application appears valid for believers who are passing through other worldly trials. In any event, no matter how badly things seem to be going for us, can we not take comfort in knowing that " ...all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28).

We are sojourners, and will only be here for a little time. Soon, all our trials will be forgotten, and we shall gaze into the face of our Most Holy God. Certainly, the prize is worth the effort.

When confronted with the unbearable, why not abandon it at the foot of the Cross? "Oh, my God! I am sorely afflicted. My suffering is more than I can bear. I bring my burden to You. If it be in your Will, please ease my suffering; if not, then still must your Will be done."

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