Eternal perspective

Psalm 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

If one verse should sound a death knell to the “health and wealth” prosperity gospel, it is the one above from Psalm 34.  To hear some TV preachers tell it, if you are a Christian, God wants nothing for you but pockets full of money, a big house, a nice car, and perfect physical health.  To them, that’s what Christianity is all about.  And it will go even better for you if you will send in your “seed” money, for God will make you rich if you just help make these preachers rich.  It’s a twisted view of eternal things, but that’s the message that is so prevalent in some circles today. 

However, the Bible tells us that the righteous are certain to have many afflictions.  Jesus reiterated this with these words: “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).” Paul said a similar thing in his instruction to Timothy that “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).”  You see, whenever a person determines to follow Christ, he or she has determined to follow a path that is at opposition to this fallen world.  One aspect of that fallenness is that “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward (Job 5:8).”  This trouble is a part of every person’s life in one way or another, regardless of whether they are a believer or an unbeliever.  But the believer has the added trouble of an enemy that constantly works to thwart their efforts to live to the glory of God.  We have been told to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).”  The book of Job speaks of the ways he may do this through various calamities that can bring great storms into our life. 

But why does God allow this for “the righteous,” the very ones He loves and who are the apple of His eye?  There are many reasons for this.  Some we can have understanding of now, and some we will have understanding of only in eternity.  God works through our trials to test us, to strengthen us, and to prepare us uniquely to minister to others who are going through the same kinds of suffering (1 Peter 5:9).  Sometimes God is working in our lives through suffering to teach us to trust in Him and Him alone, for it is in that trust that the deepest joy is possible.  Regardless of the reasons, and whether we understand those reasons or not, the promise the righteous have from their Savior in this fallen world is that no matter what the afflictions may be, “the Lord delivers him out of them ALL.” 

What an awesome promise this is if we look at it from the eternal perspective for which it is meant.  Indeed, the entire Bible has been given to us to provide the righteous with that eternal perspective.  Deliverance from trials: it’s a certain thing for the one who trusts in God.  Every sickness, every sorrow, every pain, and every loss will find a place of redemption in the end.  Sometimes God, in His grace, rewards us with deliverance in the here and now. However, ultimately, we are confident that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).” Like Paul as he wrote the following words from a place of suffering in a Roman prison, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).” 

It is only the righteous, i.e., those who have been made righteous with the righteousness of Christ, that can say such a thing.  But, wonderfully, it is what every single believer can, with great confidence, say.  But for the unbeliever, the one who cares nothing for the righteousness of Christ, the one for whom it is only life in this world that matters, the afflictions of this life, whether great or small, or not worthy to be compared with the afflictions to come.  May God give us an eternal perspective of all things, for an eternal deliverance from all afflictions is what awaits those who, like Moses, are “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25).”

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