"Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus
will suffer persecution."
(2 Timothy 3:12 nlt)
"God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!"
This is a typical slogan I hear so much of in evangelicalism. It is used by Christians witnessing to potential converts. I'm not questioning the sincerity of Christians who use this slogan in sharing their faith. What I am questioning is this: Is this a realistic promise that we should make to unbelievers?
Does the Bible promise this kind of happiness, health and wealth to everyone?
Can I make a suggestion? Let's restate the slogan this way with a slight modification:
"God loves you and in the future His wonderful plan for your life may include that you sit on death row suffering for your Christian faith!"
"Yikes!" Can you hear the reaction to that promise? "Hey, I didn't sign up for this!"
For over 1000 days now, Pastor Youcef has been sitting on death row in Iran. His crime? Converting from Islam to Christianity. He just recently celebrated his 35th birthday. His life has been anything but wonderful and just recently his lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dakhah was sentenced to nine years in prison. He was accused of acting against national security and keeping banned books at home. Dakhah was also the attorney for the 12 Iranian Christians who stood trial on Easter Sunday.
In a personal, open letter to his congregation, Youcef described his captivity ordeal as "the exam and trial of my faith" and though he desires it would soon end, he has quietly surrendered himself to God's will for his life.
The Scriptures seem to promise a whole different way of life for the Christian in contrast to the popular slogans that we hear today in evangelical circles. The Apostle Paul writing to Timothy makes a promise of anything but a "wonderful life". He writes, "Yes and everyone who wants to live a godly life will suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12)
Jesus warned his disciples that if they truly want to follow him that they must be willing to, "turn from their selfish ways and take up their crosses daily." (Luke 9:23)
So how did we stray so far from what the Bible actually teaches?
I think in our zeal to get numbers and not offend people, we have "mass marketed" the Christian faith and given a false promise that in the end will only serve to misrepresent the true teaching of Scripture.
I don't think Pastor Youcef was ever told that God had a wonderful plan for his life. In fact, I believe it was just the opposite. In Iran, Christians know following Jesus could cost them their very lives and yet they boldly take a stand for the gospel.