A certain degree of suffering can be expected as Christians live holy lives and deny themselves bad things indulged in by those caught up in the wicked spirit of this world. Sometimes trials of faith come, and these can be very unpleasant. But some suffering is unnecessary, avoidable, and downright destructive to faith.
There is a legalistic “suffering doctrine” going around today which oppresses Christians and repels people who need true fellowship. “Deeper revelations” of spiritual mysticism are woven from flawed interpretations of scripture. All the little legalisms preached by various groups supposedly “crucify the flesh”, but they are only man’s effort to EARN righteousness which comes only through faith in Christ alone (Phil.3:9). Struggling to measure up to some religious ruler’s tough standards of behavior, outward appearance, and attitude toward trials can lead to frustration, anxiety, and feelings of condemnation. Sick saints are made to feel ashamed for going to doctors “because they aren’t willing to suffer to prove the truth of God’s Word.” Embracing personal suffering as a means to merit salvation and/or sanctification is a devil in disguise. Some sincerely think they’re doing God’s will by pushing this deceitful doctrine. And the worst of legalistic preachers will do everything in their power to keep the saints properly miserable. Rather than relying exclusively upon Christ and walking in love through the power of the Holy Spirit, the church people must “earn points” with God. They might be expected to wail at the altar, fast frequently, avoid all movies, confess their sins out loud to the whole congregation, volunteer even when it hurts their family life, and above all, tithe and give “special offerings” on top of tithing. Their opportunities to “suffer to prove their faith” are endless.
Say “Loco Luke” is ordered by his boss to brand Old Smokey, the prize bull. The cowpoke is a hard-working ranch hand who wants to please his boss. But Loco Luke gets the funny notion that the purpose of branding Old Smokey is to make him suffer, and this must be what pleases the boss. Loco Luke reasons that if a little pain makes the boss happy, he might get extra pay if he inflicts a lot of pain on the bull! So Loco Luke performs surgery on the bull without anesthetic.
The boss barely gets back from lunch before Loco Luke finishes . The boss asks him, “What in Sam Hill’s goin’ on here, Loco Luke? All I wanted you to do was brand Old Smokey!”
“Well, Hank, sir, I thought you wanted Old Smokey to suffer real bad so I went the extra mile to make you happy! Ain’t ya mighty proud of me, sir?”
The ranch foreman was a big guy who never, ever cried, but this time he bawled like a baby. “The owner of this ranch is gonna kill me! Are you loco, Luke? Mr. Granger’s gonna hold me liable for this! I’m responsible for all that goes on at this ranch, and I put YOU in charge of brandin’ Old Smokey! Mr. Granger paid ten grand for this champion stock bull! You never should have added to what I ordered you to do! You didn’t do your job right, so the bull can’t do his either!”
Legalists only weaken the Church by adding to God’s requirements.
You go ahead and preach, this is an awesome article and I appreciate everything you had to say in it. I left a cult about three years ago called Victory Chapel , you described alot of what was happening there. Amazing Grace is supposed to be amazing but some people call it greasy grace. Jesus died so we could live by grace through faith that springs forth love in our hearts.
If you get a chance check out my Victory chapel is a cult poem I think you'll find it interesting.