Editor’s Note: The following post is the first in the series “10 Common Misconceptions Teenagers Have About Christianity.” You can read the others in the “Students” section on The Narrow Road Blog by Chris Jones.
1. Once I become a Christian, all of my problems will suddenly go away.
This is a very common thought among today’s teenagers. You might have heard of something known as the “Prosperity Gospel.” This is the belief that Jesus will somehow give you everything you ever wanted and that negative things will never happen to you. I recently heard a sermon by a popular pastor who was telling his crowd of thousands that Christians should never talk negative. He said if we talk negative, negative things will happen to us but if we talk positive, positive things will happen to us. The power of positive thinking. Crazy talk.
This is completely foreign to the Bible. Here’s a reality check — get prepared — the Christian life is not always easy! You will still face ups and downs, challenges and joys. Consider some of the leaders in the Bible. Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus and His disciples, who all faced tremendous difficulties and adversity. Their lives make it clear that we will have problems and troubles to overcome. Check out the following verses:
1 Peter 4:12-13
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Big word moment: Sanctification
Sanctification begins the moment we start the journey of following Christ. This means God begins the process of taking us from who we were before Christ to who He wants us to be. His Holy Spirit exposes the areas of our lives that need to change to conform to the image of Christ. He pushes them to the surface so we can deal with them. If we recognize God and obey His desire for us to change a behavior, it results in God being glorified and our lives becoming better. His goal is to make our lives rock the free world but by His definition. God is 100 percent committed to this task. This happens as we read God’s word, stay awake in church, through others God puts in our lives, and through circumstances in our lives.
Sometimes this is a really hard process. This might mean that God could cause difficulties in our lives in order to get the desired outcome. It can mean that God uses our difficulties in an effort to bring us more into His will for our lives. The more we fight against God’s desire, the more difficult it becomes. God loves us and wants the absolute best for our lives. This means that He often uses our difficulties to bring our lives in line with where He wants us to be for His glory and our good.
Check out what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul makes it very clear that God sometimes allows difficulties and hardship into our lives in the process of making them amazing and useful for His purposes. I love Paul’s response to his difficulties. He says, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses . . .” What! Yeah. You heard him. He is saying he thinks it’s awesome when he faces difficulties because he knows God is in control and is using the problems to make his life better. Awesome!
The other side of the issue is living in a fallen world. Sometimes our difficulties are the result of living in a fallen world that is full of sinfulness. Sin has consequences. Sometimes we are the victim of the consequences caused by others sin. I knew a teenage girl who was one of the most Godly teenagers I’ve ever met. She was so committed to God and His purpose for her life. One night, on the way back home from her boyfriend’s house, she was hit head-on by a drunk driver. She died instantly. In the aftermath, the question that many asked was, “Why would God do this to Alicia?”
Because we live in a sinful, fallen world, we are sometimes the victim of others’ sinfulness and suffer the consequences of their behavior. Children of divorced, addicted, or abusive parents are another good example. Even in these circumstances, God can redeem the difficulties for His glory and our good. At Alicia’s funeral, over 125 teenagers and adults gave their hearts to Christ. Over the years, as many retell the story of her death, thousands have come into a relationship with Christ.
The key is to remember that God loves us more than we can imagine and has the absolute best planned for our lives. He proved this once and for all through His Son, Christ Jesus. When the difficulties come, and they will, we know that God is present, in control, and using the situation for His glory and our good.
Chris Jones is a youth ministry consultant and blogger. He’s a firm believer in maximizing the youth culture “Window of opportunity.” He serves as a teaching and youth pastor in Huntsville, Alabama.
Originally posted January 26, 2012.