The most damaging and painful hits are often the ones that we don’t see coming. I’m sure we’ve all gone through a time when we were blindsided by something and it was so surprising and so hard that we felt like laying down for the count. The force of the hit, the surprise of the hit add together to knock the wind out of us. We’ve all probably also gone through experiences where we saw the hit coming and were able to brace for it. While it was still painful and hard to deal with, it was better than being caught off guard.
This is also true in our spiritual life. When we expect health, wealth and ease from our Christian lives and then get something else, it brutalizes us. This is why we have to be honest about the fact that pain WILL come into our lives. Let’s look again at what we see in Hebrews 11, Faith’s Hall of Fame.
“…others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented…” Hebrews 11:35-37 (NKJV)
Look at the pain these heroes of the faith endured. They were tortured, mocked, scourged, chained, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two with the implication this happened while they were alive, tempted, killed with the sword, destitute, afflicted and tormented. Even without knowing all the particulars of these things, it sounds really really bad.
Look at what pastor and author Erwin McManus said about this passage. “Although the first group of the faithful have names that will be known throughout history, the others remain nameless. That is not because they lived a life of lesser faith, but because there were so many more of them.” I really like that. The people that pressed through the pain to finish the race were not named because there were too many to name.
We don’t want to develop a defeated and discouraged attitude about the certainty of pain. But we don’t want to deny the reality of it either. We have to be able to face the brutal truth that we will have to push through the pain without losing heart. The brutal fact is that Jesus promised that pain would come into our lives (John 16:31). The brutal fact is that Paul wrote that we would have to endure the pain if we were to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:2).
Any teaching that says God’s absolute and total will for our lives that we are healthy, wealthy and free from pain is false and foolish. It is unbiblical, ungodly and pure evil. It doesn’t hold up to the scrutiny of Scripture or reality of the world we live in. Think about Jeremiah the prophet. He absolutely did what God wanted done and still ended up tossed in a muddy hole and hated by his people. Think about the prophet Isaiah. He absolutely did what God wanted done and ended up sawn in half by a wicked king.
Think about Jesus. For any teaching to be Christian, it must be able to be reconciled to Jesus. Jesus absolutely did what God wanted done and yet He ended up beaten and crucified. Now some will say, “Wait, that doesn’t count because Jesus came for the specific purpose to die for our sins.” True enough. However, did you know that 1 Peter 4:1 tells us to arm ourselves with the same mind that Christ had and be willing to suffer in the flesh? Jesus suffered and so we should be ready because we will have to suffer as well.
Think about the Apostle Paul. He absolutely did what God wanted done and suffered hunger, beatings, mocking and other horrible trials. Think about the early church. They suffered horrible persecution under the Caesars because they wouldn’t deny Jesus. Think about the reformers. Many of them were burned alive because they refused to stop preaching the Gospel of grace and they wanted to put the Bible into the hands of the common man. There are Christians all over the world today that will starve, be beaten or martyred for their faith in Christ.
Are we really to believe that in every instance these people were outside the will of God?
Are we really to believe that none of these people had a strong enough faith in Jesus?
Are we really to believe that God was angry and punishing every one of these individuals?
Or, is it more likely, and really more Biblical, that pain comes into everyone’s life, even those who are in the middle of God’s will?
We have got to understand that any teaching that says we can avoid the pain that comes in this life is false. Pain is an inevitable part of living in a fallen sin curse world. If we do not expect the pain it may destroy us when it comes. When we expect that pain will come, we will be better able to push through the pain and finish the race set before us.
For further study read 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 and 2 Corinthians 11:23-29.
How does Paul describe his experiences in these passages?
Do you think Paul expected to live a pain free life or did he expect the pain to come?
Why do you think Paul pushed through the pain?
 Erwin R. McManus The Barbarian Way, pg 40-41