Sufferers or Pampered|
Here and Now
Q. I hear many televangelists like John Hagee, Joyce Meyer and Fred Price say God wants us to have nice things like good jobs, success, nice homes and expensive cars because we are children of the King and the King's kids should act like royalty. God wants His kids to have nice things. Why do you think this is not scriptural? Why should Christians have to put up with ridicule or suffering needlessly? What is the point? I apologize for asking this. I just wonder why all the verses about taking up our cross and testing of believers.
A Valid Question
No need to apologize - this is a valid question. What surprises many of us is to learn that there is an answer. The Bible is very clear about why we are to "turn the other cheek," "give to him who asks of you," "love your enemies" and suffer abuse for His namesake. The Apostle Peter even tells us that because we endure many trials during our lives we will have great joy in the future (1 Peter 1:6).
Training for Reigning
The answer in a nutshell is that we are being given on-the-job training for ruling in the kingdom of God. It's called "training for reigning."
For example, legislating and ruling in our United States government require certain skills (or should). Most congress persons have spent time in school and governing cities before they move on to more responsibilities.
When we serve with Christ in the future, ruling and dealing with angels and men on the New Earth in a new universe will also require us to develop people skills and managerial abilities.
Pampered or Well Trained?
Look at it this way. The televangelists are often rich, self-serving, arrogant people (not always - just often). So what kind of ruler do you think such a person would make? Can he handle difficult people? Has he ever done so? Does he understand experientially what it is like to be poor?
How can a pampered preacher empathize with his subjects if he has never lacked for anything? Has he learned the skills of relying upon God for his needs and praying daily? Does he avoid drugs, drinking, gluttony, greed and other weaknesses that make him or her ineffective in battle?
We were originally meant to rule on this earth - managing animals, nations, resources and the environment. But, we blew-it!
So now we are in "boot camp" learning to prepare to overcome forces hostile to God throughout the universe. We are learning to trust God through our prayers and faith in Him, and to overcome evil with good. Those are God's requirements and techniques for success in the new universe.
Our goal will be to reconcile all things to the Lord "so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10).
We will be doing missionary work throughout the heavens. Perhaps we should call this "celestial missionary" or "reconciliation work." In the book of Hebrews we read,
"You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him" (Heb. 2:8).
This is the goal and summary of history - to subject everything to the Lord. Clearly, this is unfinished business as of now. But, it will be done once Christians rule with Christ and suject every living being in the universe to Him.
By the way, this verse follows a fascinating quote from Psalm 8:4 which tells us we were meant to rule everything - the stars, moon, the heavens (meaning the same "heavens" God created in Genesis 1:1), ruling over everything that is the work of God's hands.
What are the works of "God's hands?"
"When I consider Your
heavens, the work of
The moon and the stars,
which You have
What is man that You
take thought of him,
And the son of man that
You care for him?
Yet, You have made him a
little lower than God,
And You crown him
with glory and
You make him (man) to rule
over the works of Your
You have put all things
under his feet…"
(Psalm 8:3-6, NASB)
Notice that the end of this passage, "You make him to rule over the works of Your hands," refers back to verse 3 which calls the "heavens, the moon and the stars" the work of His fingers. In other words, we were meant to rule over entire galaxies! Awesome!
A "Futurist" Memory
Perhaps this is a reason why so many of us love Star Trek, Stargate, and Star Wars. It stirs a futurist "memory" in our souls telling us we were meant to do the kinds of things accomplished through the heroic leaders in these science fiction stories. Surprisingly, several current day scholars hold to this viewpoint including Randy Alcorn, Joseph Dillow, Erwin Lutzer, Grant Jeffrey and many others.
But, for us to rule successfully will require military precision and the ability to keep order.
…"and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you so that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:29, NASB).
Conferring a Kingdom to Us
In other words, Jesus has conferred a kingdom on His followers. Those who have served Him faithfully in this life will rule to varying degrees in the Kingdom of His universe.
Degrees of Rewards
On the day He rewards us according to our service on earth, He will say to His dutiful followers, "Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things - enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21).
If we "endure (suffering) we will also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12). That is a magnificent statement. It means that none of our sufferings or hardships is for nothing. Instead, every trial we endure and commit to our Father's will is a patient acceptance of those things required for us to become excellent future leaders.
In that future government there will be a social hierarchy. But, it's doubtful there will be any relational hierarchy as there is here on earth. We will be assigned to use our varying gifts in different ways. In that day "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11). In essence, the lowly janitor who faithfully cleaned the church restrooms may go to the front of the line while the Robert Schullers of the world may be last. There will be divine justice.
The frequent mention of crowns in the book of Revelation always refers to ruling. Many of these verses are directed to the 7 churches which represent churches today.
"Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
Recently, a Voice of the Martyrs story quoted a Pakistani believer who was beaten and left for dead. He says that he heard these words as Muslims attempted to kill him: "Be faithful even to death."
We can be reasonably sure that he will receive this special crown of life when he stands before Christ in judgment for his works on earth (Voice of the Martyrs 2009, 6).
Other verses to the churches state, "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end I will give authority over the nations" (Rev 2:26).
"I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown" (3:11).
"To him who overcomes I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne" (3:21).
Representatives of all nations, races, languages and cultures will reign with Christ on the New Earth. "Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9, NLT). (Alcorn 2006, 142).
Service Here - Rewards There
In other words, service here means rewards there. Those who put up with insults, persecutions, difficult circumstances and trials now for the sake of serving Christ, will reign in glory and authority later in the kingdom of God.
Christ leaves no mystery as to who will be the greatest in His kingdom. He blesses people who are "poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew chapter five). "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble…" Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time" (1 Peter 5:5-6). (Alcorn 2006, 136-144).
These are reasons enough to embrace "pushover policies" and "doormat theology." We ignore these at our own peril. For our benefit Dr. Bruce Wilkinson lists 7 things starting with "S" that will be rewarded. They are worth memorizing:
1. "God will reward you for seeking Him through spiritual acts such as fasting and praying (Matthew 6:6, Hebrews 11:6).
2. God will reward you for submitting to your employer as a faithful steward (Matthew 24:45-47, Eph. 6:8, Col. 3:22-24).
3. God will reward you for self-denial in His service (Matthew 16:24-27).
4. God will reward you for serving those in need in His name (Mark 9:41).
5. God will reward you for suffering for His name and reputation (Luke 6:22-23).
6. God will reward you for sacrifices you make for Him (Luke 6:35). In fact, Jesus said that every person who sacrifices to follow Him will be rewarded a hundredfold (Matthew 19:29).
7. God will reward you for sharing of your time, talent, and treasure to further His kingdom (Matthew 6:3-4, 1 Timothy 6:18-19)."
(Wilkinson 2002, 38).
Agreed? Let's all get to work learning to be faithful servants and good stewards of all God has given to us.
Maranatha! (Come quickly, Lord).
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.
—-The law of rewards. 1989. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.
Dillow, Joseph. 2006. The reign of the servant kings. Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing.
Missler, Chuck&Nancy. 2007. The kingdom, power&glory. Coeur d'Alene, ID: The King's High Way Ministries.
Voice of the Martyrs. February, 2009. Available from: www.persecution.com.
Wilkinson, Bruce. 2002. A life God rewards. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.