I’m always very careful when I write something like this. I want it to be clear that I LOVE the Body of Christ- His church. But this issue has been on my mind for several weeks, and every time I pray about it, my heart pounds in my chest. I don’t have all the answers, but I feel the intense need to write about it. 

Christians Lie

I passed a church sign a few weeks ago. The message was uplifting and encouraging; they meant well… but I didn’t think it was exactly true. Or was it?

“Jesus will add years to your life, and life to your years.”

It’s a nice Hallmark card, but is it the truth of the Gospel? What about the single mom who has just been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer? Will Jesus add years to her life? What about Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who spent three years in an Iranian prison for becoming a Christian? Has “life” been added to his years in the sense that we think about it in America? What about the mother who just lost her 4-year-old child in a freak accident?

How about Paul? John the Baptist? Joseph? You?

My pastor just finished preaching a series on Joseph. Remember him? He was sold into slavery by his brothers, and spent years in an Egyptian prison. Paul was imprisoned and killed simply for spreading the Gospel. Paul was plagued with some sort of illness – a “thorn in the flesh” – and he was not healed. And it was the will of God. How can it be the will of a loving God for his servants to be enslaved, imprisoned, sick or murdered?

My mind cannot comprehend it, and the only answer I can give is found in Romans 11: 33-36: For His Glory.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Many times in our culture, we present the Gospel as a solution to our worldly problems.

We tell unbelievers that if they will just accept Jesus, he will put their lives in perfect order. Is that true? In a way. When I was saved in college, I was on a self-destructive path from which only Jesus could rescue me. Jesus came into my life and saved me from self-destruction. Sin-destruction. Has my life been without hardship since? No. I am not complaining, though. As hard as I think my circumstances are, there are others suffering much worse than I.

There is one difference in my life before and after I knew Jesus: HIM. That’s it. It’s so simple, but it means so much. With Him, I can face life, death, imprisonment, sickness, persecution. (Please don’t test me on all those, Lord) I love this temple He created, so I don’t abuse it with alcohol and drugs. Is that lifestyle bringing “life to my years”? One could argue so. But it’s not always the case.

We are already created as eternal beings.

In Matthew 25: 46, it says that those who do not know Christ will “go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  Even Jesus doesn’t add years to our lives. Maybe the lifestyles we live add years to our earthly lives, when we avidly try to throw off sin and live for Him. But sadly many lives on earth have been cut short – because of following Christ.  Paul said it best when he said “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21)

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. Psalm 139: 16

Perhaps it was my own Western interpretation that led me to doubt the veracity of this statement.

Or perhaps we need to refine our message when presenting the Gospel to those in our comfort-loving American culture. Is our initial presentation one reason many new believers grow disillusioned with the faith?  Is that why some believers feel guilty for not being physically or emotionally healed? It’s not easy to follow Christ. If it were, the way wouldn’t be so narrow. But it is RIGHT. In this culture of “tolerance,” will anyone heed our message if we say, “Follow Jesus because it is right, and the only thing you may get in return is Him”? HE is enough!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Does Jesus add years to our lives on earth? Maybe. Maybe not.

Does Jesus add life to our years? YES! But not the way you might think. In Christ, we have unspeakable joy, peace beyond our understanding, hope for the eternal presence of the Father. He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us. We can truly rejoice, in the midst of any circumstance.

If you don’t yet know Jesus…

I can’t promise you that your life will be easy, that you will be physically healed, or that you will live longer on the earth. But there is a promise which is much more powerful than that!

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5: 6-11.

I’m always open to other points of view. What say you?

12 Thoughts to “When Christians Stretch the Truth”

  1. This was so good Sarah! I also appreciate the way you stated that you are careful to judge believers and that you love the body of Christ. I just love your heart! Thanks for writing this!

    It was fun sitting with you at Allume for dinner!

    1. Thanks, Traci! It was so great to meet you, too.

      PS. I just read your “Date Your Husband” post, and it is brilliant! In fact, I have a home-date with my husband tonight!

  2. Oh Sarah, thanks for sharing your heart and your insight. I have seen that same church sign and every time I pass by it I think to myself, “There is something not right about this.” But, I have not thought about it long enough to write a post about it. Ha! Anyway, I think this is so true. God does not promise us a long life here on earth, yet he does eternally Thankfully. Thanks for sharing truth and I pray that it continues to stir hearts.

    1. Thanks, Becky. I was afraid of coming across too critical, but I just want to see people set free by the truth, and not try to live up to a human vision of Christianity.

  3. Tiffany Christian

    Well said!

  4. Sarah, thank you for writing this! Yesterday I drove for miles behind a car with a HUGE bumper sticker across its back window (illegal, btw…*face/palm*) that said this:

    “If you die tonight, are you going to HEAVEN or HELL?”

    I thought really, Christian friends, this is how we’re hoping to bring people to the truth and salvation that is Jesus our Lord? With scary, larger than life bumper stickers?

    I feel the same way about the prosperity preachers and those who put up gimmicky sayings on their church signs. The Word makes it very clear that they will know we are Christians by our love. I don’t think it said anything about our yachts or our long, healthy lives.

    Well said, Sarah. 🙂

    1. Yes, Amy! We have to speak the truth in love. Our pastor just set forth a vision for deliberately meeting needs in our community in 2013, and I am so excited to get started.

  5. Oh Sarah, this was wonderful. My Pastor always says that surrendering to God’s will may not mean that life here on Earth will be kind to us. The Devil runs rampant here, so we will always be on attack. What Jesus does is create a love in your heart to put life into the great things we experience here, and even the trials we endure. Once we reach the gates of heaven, all that we’ve had to encounter during the years God gave us will be put into perspective. He didn’t die on the Cross to make it easy, but to make us appreciate the hardship.

    1. Amen! And the fact that we have HIM throughout everything is so freeing.

  6. Shana Hess

    Perhaps we could interpret it this way: Since Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and since he came so that we could “not only have life, but have it more abundantly,” do we ever truly HAVE life without Jesus in the first place? In that sense, knowing Jesus brings us to life, and what could add more “years to our life” than an eternal life from knowing Christ as our saviour?

    1. That’s a really good point Shana. I wonder if people who don’t already believe would perceive it that way. But you are right, that’s a good way to look at it.

      1. Shana Hess

        I think a non-believer’s perception of that quote would depend on the state of their heart at the time. A non-believer far away on the pendulum from God could likely take this quote entirely literal from a world view on “life” and laugh at its absurdity. While a non-believer in a more receptive spot on his/her Faith journey might easily be intriqued by its possible interpretations and look for answers. Christians do need an awareness of how they are perceived by non-believers, but for those antagonistic non-believers we are to know we have made an effort in sharing our faith and “shake the dust off our feet.”

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