I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this idea taught.
Like every other lie, it’s appealing – we want to believe that if we’re obedient, God will bless us. For some, the hoped-for blessing is financial; for others, it’s about relationships; for still others, it’s circumstantial.
This all stems from the American Dream that has influenced our Christianity. We equate being right with God as success. We think that if everything’s going well, God must be pleased with us. And when it’s not going well, something must be dreadfully wrong.
This is not to say that God doesn’t bless His children. He does. But He doesn’t promise that there won’t also be times of drought; valleys to offset the mountain top. And if we lose sight of the fact that hardship comes to Christians, then we’ll become bitter, frustrated, and depressed.
I once heard a teacher tell her children that Daniel knew he would be delivered from the den of lions because he had obeyed God. If that were the case, it would significantly diminish an important lesson in Daniel’s life – one that we see constantly through the pages in his book: The importance of doing what’s right, what God has commanded, no matter the cost.
- We see this in chapter 1, when Daniel and his three friends chose to reject the food given them and requested a different diet for his fellow Hebrews. The cook was terrified of what the King would do if Daniel and the others began to look or act weak. But God blessed them, and the king was pleased. Did Daniel know how the king would respond? No. I have a feeling the only king Daniel was thinking about was God.
- In chapter 3 we learn of the three Hebrew children (Daniel’s friends in chapter 1) who refused to bow and worship the statue of the king. Why? Because God had commanded them not to. The cost? Death in the furnace. When the king questioned them, they told him that their God was able to deliver them (right?), BUT, even if He did not, they still would not bow. So did the 3 know that God would deliver them? No. They probably highly doubted that He would. But they obeyed anyway. They were willing to die. They expected to die! The outcome did not affect the decision. You know the story — the king was so angered by their response that he turned the furnace 7x hotter than normal. But Jesus kept them alive and unharmed and brought an opportunity for repentance to the kingdom.
- And of course we see this in chapter 6, when Daniel refused to stop praying, even when he knew the penalty was being thrown into the den of lions. Daniel feared God more than man – and that’s what made the difference. I have no doubt he was probably a little worried about the outcome. But he chose to trust God and do what was right, come what may.
For these three stories, God worked miracles for the people and saved them. But what about some other people in the Bible?
- Job. “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” And yet, harm befell Job. He lost his children, his land, his wife; he lost everything he had. What happened? Did he mess up? Did he have some hidden sin that no one knew about? No. God brought a test to Job; He brought hardship and pain to Job. And Job had done nothing to “deserve it.” So Job had to make a choice in how to respond; either to accept it and praise God, or rebel, blame God, and become bitter by this “unfair” treatment.
“The Lord gave and the Lord took away; blessed by the name of the Lord.”
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
- How many times was the apostle Paul beaten, stoned, left for dead? How many times was he put in prison? Why did he have such hardships? Didn’t he serve God enough? If the apostle Paul couldn’t do enough to earn God’s constant blessing, what hope do we have?
” Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”
What about Cassie, who was killed in the Columbine shootings for not denying God? Did God fail her?
What about the missionaries all over the world who are beaten, jailed, and killed for their beliefs?
God is not in the tit-for-tat business. We are called to obey God and do what’s right, come what may. We’re told to not be surprised by hardships, trials and valleys. We’re told to expect persecution. These things are a natural and important part of the Christian’s life. But if we don’t recognize that truth, we will be shocked by the hardship and try to explain it away. We’ll become frustrated when we can’t find something or someone to blame, and eventually we’ll blame God due to our misbelief that because we have been faithful to Him, we must never experience anything but constant blessing. And as we blame God, we will become angry, bitter, and depressed.
By the way, what I’m speaking of is hardship for doing what’s right, not for doing what’s wrong — that’s called discipline & consequences of sin.
There will be times in our lives when we must stand up for the truth, and it won’t end well. We may be mocked; we may be physically abused. But the end result should never be a factor in the decision to make the stand.
What does it mean to be faithful to death? It means that you will keep doing right, even if it costs you your life.
Do what’s right.
Come what may.
In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas.