Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Think about this for a moment. Jesus died on the cross for our sin some 2,000 years ago. Since then, more and more people have trusted in him for their salvation. Exactly none of them have been immediately raptured out of this world and taken into heaven to be with God. Instead, he has left all of us here to continue living out our natural lives. And, if your life has been anything like mine, it’s been a bit of an up and down journey.
The question I have is this: Why does God leave us here? We know his ultimate purpose is to take us to live in eternal bliss with him in glory. So, why not cut to the chase? Why allow us to endure all this pain and hardship in the meantime? What is his purpose, anyway?
The answer I’ve always been given to this question is that he wants more people to be saved, and he wants us to tell them the gospel. I get that. But, it doesn’t really work for me. If that was his main purpose in leaving us here on earth, wouldn’t more people be saved? And if he keeps us here primarily as a way of bringing others to faith, the strategy seems a bit backwards.
Imagine if everyone went directly to heaven within 24 hours of trusting Christ. You repent and believe in Jesus and you know that in one day you’ll be walking on streets that are golden. Wouldn’t you take the 24 hours you have left to share the gospel with everyone you know?
“Hey, Joe, I only have two hours left, and I really want you to join me with Jesus. Trust him and within one day all your problems will disappear. You’ll see God face-to-face and enjoy his gifts and blessings for all eternity.” That’s an easy sell. Everyone I know would sign up for that. Especially if people were disappearing 24 hours after trusting Christ. You know, what’s a hard sell?
“Hi Joe. If you trust Jesus right now, the rest of your life will be filled with trials and tribulation. You’ll be afflicted. People will make fun of your faith. Yeah, that’s all. Want in?” Heck, no! I don’t want that. Who would?
So if the primary reason God leaves us here isn’t to spread the gospel, what is it? There is one aspect of our lives that God is more concerned about than anything else. The Bible is actually pretty clear about this, but somehow we often overlook it.
“How did I ever miss this?” asks Pastor Little John
Here’s how the author of the book of Hebrews talks about it.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
There is only one thing that the Bible says you can’t live without. One thing that, if you don’t have it, it is impossible to please God. That’s faith. To God, the most important thing about you is your faith. He wants you to have a strong, robust, unwavering faith. So much so, that he takes the time throughout our earthly lives to build it in us. Here’s how the apostle Peter puts it.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
Whenever you ask the question, “Why this, God?” You can know that in every situation of your life, God’s purpose is to build your faith. In many cases he’s doing more than that, but we can be assured that one of his main purposes is that we have a strong, robust, unshakable faith in him.
Why did God allow this pain into your life? To build your faith. Why does he allow evil people to succeed? To build our faith. Why do bad things happen to good people? To build our faith. Through every success, every failure, every high, every low, God is building our faith. In all the good times, all the hard times, through loneliness and friendship, health and sickness, God is building our faith. Understanding what God is doing makes it so much easier to endure this broken and pain-filled world. Nothing is happening by accident, everything is happening for the strengthening of our faith.
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