As a church consultant, I’ve worked with many congregations that are so comfortable, I would say they are risk-averse. The area of church life that shows up strongly on this issue is money. I’ve seen numerous churches that have a year’s worth of finances to run the church in the bank. Leaders even say, “It’s security in case something happens.” I’ve also observed churches that are given large sums of money from the will of a deceased member. The money is invested, and “only the interest can be used.” This thought occurs to me: “The church is not a bank.” It’s followed by speculation about: “What if Jesus would return today? What would He say?” Would He point to the lost people all around that church? And, knowing it’s too late for them now, would He wonder what those church leaders were thinking?
Most Christians are, likely, far too comfortable for their own spiritual health.
Remember Jesus’ story about the man who gave three different guys a portion of his wealth? Two of them leveraged it to get the Master more. The other one buried what he was given to
keep it “safe.” The Master praised the first two. But the second one? The Master threw him out as an undesirable!
In 2 Corinthians 1:6-11, Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth about an incident that was severe in Paul’s life. It occurred in the Asia province, but he never mentions what it was about. Apparently, the Corinthian congregation already knew about it. Or, the details of the incident were not as important as the lesson Paul learned. Whatever it was, it is clear from Paul’s description that it placed the apostle within an inch of his life—emotionally or physically.
The result? Paul—even Paul—trusted God at a deeper level. His lesson? “Don’t trust in your own strength or wisdom. Trust God—he is the one who has the power to raise the dead” (verse 9).
Life in the early Christian world was risky. Most of the church leaders died from persecution—and unjustified slaughter. It even happened to Paul.
As Christians, we shouldn’t go looking for the opportunity to suffer. However, if we aren’t facing some kind of resistance and pain, are we really “out there” where God wants us? If we don’t ever risk, would that be evidence of faith—but faith in ourselves?
Suffering is not all bad. If you are doing God’s work, it’s likely inevitable. Paul says that his suffering made him stronger in faith. You see, suffering is not always horrible, and as a Christian, you likely have no control over it. But you do control how you color it. The picture that Paul paints points to God and His work, which, even when we are uncomfortable, at risk, can increase our faith.