Thirty percent less trials. Forty percent less affliction. Fifty percent less confusion. Seventy percent less pain. For those who prefer a Christianity that's less filling than the regular commitment, we recommend . . . Lite Christianity. It's everything you've always wanted from God ... and less."
For many people today, popular Christianity must sound something like this. And why not? We have light beer, light yogurt, light wine, and even light rock. It was only a matter of time before the Christian experience would be watered down and offered in a more culturally palatable form as well.
It's no wonder that we seldom hear verses like these: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body" (2 Cor. 4:8-10).
This isn't light at all. This full strength life thrown at the believer with full force. Conflict, pain, and struggle form an
integral part of the Christian experience not just for some, but all. The Apostle Paul here explains that the life of Christ is constantly being displayed amid the dying experiences of our mortal lives. He even restates this principle in the next verse in case we missed it the first time. "For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body" (v. 11). Notice the word "always." These struggles are a normal part of the believer's daily life.
Four areas of struggle are mentioned in this passage. Believers can expect them all.
1. Pressure. We all feel this. It may be financial, emotional, vocational, or the pressure of responsibility in a relationship. For me it's life in general. I grew up as part of the Woodstock generation a generation that was going to avoid the painful entanglements of the establishment. Now as a husband, father, homeowner, and taxpayer, I frequently find myself jumping into bed, grabbing my wife desperately, and crying out: "Does anybody out there really know what they're doing?"
2. Perplexities. There are so many things we don't understand. Someone loses a job. A close friend loses the faith. We're uncertain about an important decision. These are the ordinary perplexities of life, times when we find ourselves caught between answers, times when we put on a coat, walk out into the night, stare up into the heavens, and cry, "Why?"
3. Persecutions. No, the guns aren't at our heads (at least not yet), but the believer will know persecution. The price is paid in subtle ways, by social ostracism or discrimination at work. For some it may mean losing a job or a better position because of a stand against unethical practices. Students may be harassed by an unbelieving teacher because of their faith. My wife was recently ridiculed for her friendliness a God-given quality that she is free to express, but an attribute held in suspicion by a defensive world not free to receive or understand it.
4. Calamities. These are the real back-breakers: serious illness, death in the family, divorce, the onset of permanent disability, or mental breakdown. Sometimes the calamity means falling into a sin we never could have imagined ourselves committing. These are the times when God does His deepest dredging, bringing us to a place of utter helplessness. In these times. God performs open heart surgery, cutting out pride and independence.
For each of these struggles there comes a corresponding expression of the life of Christ to preserve us, showing Him to be as real as the pain. He says we will not be crushed in the pressure. We will feel the pressure on every side, but we will not cave in under it, because His life sustains us.
We will be perplexed and confused at times, but we will never be utterly without hope. The question we throw out into the night will be answered. "You do not understand, but I do. I am in control. Trust Me."
We will face persecution, but He will never leave us alone. Though rejected by man, we are never abandoned by God. We will always know His eternal presence in our lives; and when we are struck down, we will not be destroyed. "Down, but not out." Finally, even in death itself, there is ultimate victory. Through Christ we are indestructible.
Lite Christianity? Far from it.
If you want a less filling yogurt, fine. Go for the light stuff. But if you buy "Lite Christianity," you're going to get just that a much less filling experience.
Chapter 31 || Table of Contents