I will admit that there are certainly times of difficulty in the life of the believer. As is said in Job, “Man is made for trouble as sparks fly upward.” So no one is going to deny that there are times of testing when the believer is doing all he/she can do just to stand firm. During these times the believer leans heavily on the Lord and calls on His name for help and strains every faith muscle they have just to be steadfast and immovable. Yes, there are times of difficulty when we need for the Lord to provide us with sustaining power.
But when the Lord delivers us from those times of testing; when the Lord sets our feet upon a rock and holds our footsteps firm (Psalm 40:2), then we are to once again brandish our sword and set our face like flint to vigorously gain enemy ground. As soon as the time of trial has been completed, the believer is to rejoin the battle and take the offensive and press toward the goal for the prize (Phil. 3:14).
When you think about it, the vast majority of the believer’s life is relatively trouble free. O yes, there is some momentary light affliction (2 Cor. 4:17) and there are the mere external things (2 Cor. 11:28; like shipwrecks, beatings and an occasional stoning), but most of the life of the believer is free of great difficulty and thus the believer is free to engage in fruitful labor.
What I am saying is this: In the rare times when you are being tested and your faith is wavering, then you are to lean into the Lord, draw on His strength, and claim His promises as you stand firm and strive to give up no ground. But in all those other times when you are not being severely tested, you are to strive with all your might to bear kingdom fruit and claim enemy territory. So most of the believer’s time should be spent in diligent labor, not praying for perfect health.
Jesus chose us and appointed us to go and bear fruit (John 15:16). He did not save us so that we would constantly be staying in the same place and praying for safety. He saved us so that we would bear fruit. There are too many prayers for safety and for healing from sniffles and scraped knees by believers who should be boldly charging into the enemy’s camp. The problem seems to be that we as believers have confused our roles. Spiritually speaking, we have a runny nose and a band aid on our finger, yet we pray like we are patients in ICU. The New Testament model, however, is radically different. We are to boldly live for Jesus and proclaim the gospel and tell about Jesus unless we are physically or otherwise unable to do so, and our prayers should be for Holy-Spirit power and faithfulness to the task so that many are won to Christ.
2 Cor. 12:15. “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.” Paul is concerned to spend all his energy and all his resources for the spiritual growth of his disciples, with barely a thought to his own comfort or rest or safety. The cause of the gospel was supreme and his life was to be spent for that cause, regardless of the personal cost to health or bank account or social status. We would be well-served if we took a similar attitude.
Phil. 1:21-24. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh it will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” Here again we read of the apostle Paul and of his striving to serve the Lord. Although Paul knows that his death will usher him into Christ’s presence in heaven, and “that is very much better,” he also realizes that as long as he has breath he is to be involved in fruitful labor. O how he longs for heaven, but he knows that his life is given to him to be given away for others. He ignores minor inconveniences like imprisonment and beatings and instead seeks to be useful to the Master. Just so, as soon as the Lord delivers us from difficulty, we should give all our energy to Kingdom service.
2 Cor. 11:23-27. Here in this third Pauline example, we see that the Apostle views all of these trials and all this suffering as mere distractions from the primary goal, which is the proclamation of the gospel. Whatever personal pain he endures is immaterial. The most important thing is the gospel.
Brothers and sisters, let us all strive to bear fruit and to be involved in fruitful labor and let us be “poured out as a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:6) for the sake of the gospel. RMB 4/29/2015