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Strong faith brings more than short-term benefits

Mar 22, 2013 - By Ian McFarland, Riverton Ministerial Association

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus spoke those words in John 16:33. It took me a long time, but I think I finally appreciate them.

I grew up in the church. Naturally, I assumed my church was the best. I assumed my teachers were the smartest. I assumed the lessons I learned were inerrant.

But I've grown to understand that no one has all the answers. I've grown to distrust those who pretend that they do.

As a child, I remember attending a number of different church services where the speaker said something to the effect of, "If you do this, God will do that."

I developed the misguided notion that being a good little boy and following the rules meant God was obligated, more or less, to take care of my every need and give me a safe and enjoyable passage through life.

That was before I learned of other church members whose kids were killed in accidents. That was before I saw middle-aged moms and dads die of cancer. That was before I went through my own seasons of suffering and doubt.

I've learned this: God doesn't promise to spare me from trouble; He promises there is something better waiting at the end of it.

David, the Old Testament King, was once so hopeless that he wrote these words: "Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction" (Ps. 30:9-10).

David certainly wasn't perfect. A few of his mistakes have lived in infamy, but he was a lot closer to God than most will ever be. Yet often times his writings reflect deep inner turmoil, even despair.

Now, please understand, it's not that there are never any tangible benefits to serving God. I have known many.

But the fact remains that this world is fraught with trial and heartache, and trusting in God won't make all your troubles magically vanish. That's not what it's about. Trusting God is about believing that it's all leading somewhere better.

By His death and resurrection, Jesus has overcome the sin and death into which we've all been born. That means there's life beyond the grave. That means there's hope beyond my sin. That's why He tells me to take heart.

When it comes to faith in God, if I'm just in it for what I can get out of it here and now, then sooner or later I am going to be thoroughly disappointed.

However, if my faith exists to draw me unto my Maker and the home He has prepared for those who trust in His Son, then bring on the storms. For one day, the morning will dawn ... bright, beautiful and everlasting.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

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