Should the Gospel Have a Warning Label?

On a recent flight I received the perfunctory peanut pack and noticed this odd warning.

Packed in a facility that handles peanuts.

Disclaimer: I am totally sensitive and supportive of warnings for those with peanut allergies. But it seemed a bit odd to have to disclaim that the place where peanuts are packaged handles peanuts. I remembered seeing this warning on a brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook on the end: “Harmful if swallowed”. I am sure many large mouth bass would agree.

There is another warning that we might consider posting for those who choose to follow Jesus.

Caution – “In this world you will have trouble”.  (Read the small print in Mark and John, this truth IS in the brochure)

Perhaps the most insidious tactic of the Enemy is to suggest that troubles demonstrate that God is not there or that He has abandoned us. I think one of the most dangerous ideas that Christians communicate is that coming to faith in Jesus will make life trouble free. Coming to faith does not remove the trouble from our lives. Jesus is not a money back guarantee for perfect health, unlimited prosperity, and non-stop giddiness. Trouble is a part of life. Problems refine or ruin us. No one gets out of this life untouched by sin and sadness. In fact, trouble is where Jesus becomes most real.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

Jesus was preparing his Apostles for troubles they would face and assuring them that He would be provide peace in the storm. That is what I have discovered in my journey with Jesus. When life delivers the inevitable I can be assured, deeply at peace, and even unshakable. It is not like He tried to cover up the cost of discipleship. In one of His best known messages Jesus proclaimed that “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

We all want to be like Jesus but without the process. Rick Warren writes what that looks like. “Since God intends to make you like Jesus, he will take you through the same experiences Jesus went through. That includes loneliness, temptation, stress, criticism, rejection, and many other problems.”

I wrote this in Waking Up Slowly.

God does not promise that everything will be perfect. Far from it. You and I are pretty much guaranteed to have some degree of suffering; none of us gets out of this life unscathed. Here is what God does promise:

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:4-5

The idea of suffering for Christ does not get people to buy prayer cloths, miracle water, and books. However, God’s promise to shower me with comfort should give me confidence that I can make it through trials.

Perhaps I should amend my earlier idea. We don’t need to warn new followers but instead assure them of the promises found in the finished work of Christ.

His comfort is constant.
His grace is always sufficient.
His love is unconditional and eternal.

I leave you with these words from a follower of Jesus who experienced his share of suffering.

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:17-18)

I am leaning on that promise today.

Want to be more connected to God? Join me in the journey.