Many Christians believe that if we live like we are supposed to, we can avoid—or at least minimize—suffering. A related assumption is that life will, one way or another, inevitably turn out positive. The Bible offers a different approach. Rather than assuring God’s children that life will be free from suffering, Scripture actually promises suffering.
Salvation through Jesus Christ does not distinguish by ethnicity, economic background, education level, religious history, or moral blamelessness. Everyone who calls on God’s name will be saved.
There are only two approaches to God: the sweet tea approach and the try-to-sweeten-unsweet-iced-tea approach. In one approach, God infuses you with new life. In the other, we work our tails off trying to earn that life ourselves.
The “valley of the shadow of death” does not sound like a great place to live. For some people, their whole life strategy can be summed up as, “Stay out of the valley.” But that won’t work, because it’s inevitable that at some point you’re going to go through it. Your goal should be to say instead, “I can live there for a while, if I must, because God is with me, and he is stronger than anything in this valley.”
Christians believe that God has forgiven their sins. But what difference does this actually make in the day-to-day? What difference should it make? The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1–2 CSB).
The religious life sometimes feels like trying to hold a beach ball underwater. Every once in a while, we lose control, and that sin nature wriggles free and pops up, sometimes several feet in the air—metaphorically speaking. It’s embarrassing, so we grab and shove it back down under the water, trapped in the performing and pretending.