As we study Scripture, we encounter many truths and promises that God makes to us as His children. On one hand, there are promises of blessing and prosperity and on the other, warnings about persecution and hardship. Both are true, the Bible tells us in many places that God blesses and prospers his people and it also tells us that persecution, hardship and suffering awaits those who follow Jesus.
The problem with emphasizing persecution, hardship and suffering and bypassing promises of blessing and prosperity or vice versa is that it does not present a complete picture. It is possible to build a ministry around a truth and miss a greater truth that God intends for us. Could it be that we miss the main truth when we place too much emphasis on a doctrine or truth at the expense of missing out on what God really intends for us in this life. A truth is not always, “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” How can we ensure that we do not place too much emphasis on teaching, while true, might prevent us from pursuing the truth that has a greater priority?
It would be foolish to deny that God promises to bless those who are generous, faithful givers, but perhaps, instead of always giving with anticipation of a blessing we would do well to remember how awesome the blessings we have already received are. Isaac Watts put it this way: “Were the whole realm of nature mine. That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” Instead of always giving with an expectation of blessing and prosperity we would do well to remember the blessings that are already ours.
Alternatively, to only emphasize suffering and persecution would be to deny that God wants to give us prosperity and abundance in order to bless others. We are not called to a “Woe is me” existence and it is probably not healthy to live in constant anticipation of trials and trouble. The truth is that God does bless and prosper his people and we can also rightfully expect that there will be trouble in this life.
As Paul was preparing to leave Ephesus for the final time, he told the people: “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:27 (ESV). The whole counsel of God encompasses the whole spectrum of truth. Some truth blesses and encourages us while other truth warns us of danger ahead. Our experiences, our teachers and other factors can influence the amount of emphasis we place on one truth or another, but we are called to proclaim an overarching truth which encompasses other truths.
Paul knew that he left Ephesus the tribulation and imprisonment awaited him. “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24 (NKJV). The truth that motivated Paul was Christ. Neither blessings nor trouble moved him from his goal. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12 (NIV). He was empowered by a truth and a hope beyond his present circumstances. “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:14 (NLT)
Whether we are blessed by trials and adversity or we are tested by prosperity and abundance, we should not be deterred from always pursuing the one who is the Truth, the Life and the Way. God may bless us with material possessions, He may bring us through the fire or, most likely, at one time or another we will experience both blessing and trial. The priority that Paul had for those who were in his care was this:“Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.” Galatians 4:19 (NLT). “…And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.” Colossians 1:27 (NLT)