It’s election season and that means politicians are getting up in front of crowds, making emotional speeches and promising the world to their constituents. Many of these promises will never be fulfilled, hampered by political obstacles or possibly the candidate is just making a huge, empty claim to get the votes. In any case, we tend to become enamored by these men and women, seeing them as the sole solution to the problem we face. We take these promises at their word somewhat naively. It’s just something we are prone to do.
Unlike, election-time candidates, Jesus never made any promises that he couldn’t keep. Jesus came to inaugurate a kingdom and His kingly agenda will never fail. Rulers and presidents may fall, but God’s Word reigns forever (Psalm 119:89).
This is why as much as we must hold fast to the promises Christ gave us, we must also remember the things He didn’t promise us. The world makes promises that we tend to believe align with the promises of the kingdom. Reading the Gospels, we get a very different idea of what Christ actually promised and we must never forget that while we live in this world, we are citizens of a kingdom that transcends United States politics or cultural rhetoric.
Here are five things that we must remember that Jesus never promised us:
A faith that frees us from grief
On it’s face, this seems like a pretty simple one. However, I’ve come to realize that when the torrents of tragedy and despair rain down on me, I have a sort of “spiritual amnesia” and I forget that God promised me the exact opposite of a “happy go-lucky” life.
In John 16:33, Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
My father-in-law passed away at the beginning of this year and it hit my family like a train. My wife and I could only reach out to God during that time because we knew that this is exactly what Jesus told us would happen. Doesn’t make it easier, but it does make our eternal hope much clearer.
English writer C.S. Lewis had this to say after his wife, Joy, died, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”
Life isn’t easy, but neither is our faith.
He’d make us wealthy
I could spend a lot of time dispelling the notion of a “prosperity gospel” and many of you readers might very well write me angry letters with specific scriptures pointing to God promising actual prosperity. While I take issue with your reading of said scriptures, I think that if we focus on Christ’s words themselves, he never once promised his followers wealth or perfect health.
This touches my first point, because we need to remember that if we are citizens of a kingdom, we must hold fast to the words of the king. Jesus wasn’t opposed to money or to material goods, but he wasn’t for it either. Jesus saw us through God’s eyes, as fallen creatures squabbling over petty earthly things. So, when the crowds were hungry, he fed them (John 6). When the taxes needed to be paid, he paid them (Matthew 17:27). But not once in the gospel accounts can we find a single justification for God being an advocate for wealth. In most cases within the gospels, wealth was actually shown to be a hindrance to following Him.
He’d make us physically healthy
As far as health goes, we know Christ healed numerous people. He promised that his followers would do even greater works than his miracles. (John 14:2)
He also would often heal a person, but he wouldn’t really focus on the bodily healing as an end unto itself, but the healing was more of a testimony. In the case of the paralytic man he said “Your sins our forgiven”. (Matt. 9:2) And in the case of the blind man (John 9), he said it had nothing to do with the man’s sins or the sins of his family, but “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”.
Jesus seemed more concerned about a healthy spirit than a healthy body (Matt. 9:12) and we know that even if our bodies are healed, that would be great for now, but this “meat sack” will still one day fall to corruption, like everything else, until the day when Christ returns and resurrects us to eternal life.
His Church would be filled with perfect people
One of the many character flaws I happen to suffer from is that I always tend to believe I’m right and even when I have facts laid out before me proving I’m wrong, I still continue to believe I’m right. (I’m working on it.) I know many people who are afflicted with this as well and it seems to be a part of that stubborn human nature of ours.
Jesus recognized this in some of his apostles and he’d constantly correct them on it. The worst offender often seemed to be Peter, (a.k.a. The Rock), who I happen to believe is the “Patron Saint of the Bullheaded”. Peter, like a kid who raises his hand first in class, was always eager to offer the right answer. He wanted to prove he was a good student, had studied hard and had faithfully listened to Jesus’ words. Then, Jesus himself tells Peter, you’re going to deny you ever knew me three times before the crack of dawn. Peter was aghast! He knew everything about being the best disciple and best follower there was. It seemed utterly impossible!
Jesus was then taken before the authorities, crucified and all of Peter’s knowledge blew away like chaff in the wind. He denied Jesus three times, just like Jesus said.
However, Peter’s lesson in humility didn’t stop there. When Paul came to Jerusalem and met with the apostles, Peter sat with the Jews, separate from the Gentiles, like he was better than them. Paul called him out on it and Peter was once again humbled. Peter, a man who was closer in proximity to Jesus than any of us are, had to be humbled.
We’ll be loved by all for following Him
Jesus actually promised the opposite and said that we would be reviled by the world for following him. (John 15:18-20). While its sad that many Christians forget this fact in our culture today, bowing into the world and compromising the truth of God for comfort, its also said that some groups are hated for speaking “the truth” rather than displaying the radical love of Christ. We should not fear the world, but we must also not provoke the world against Christ by inflaming anger through our own righteous indignation. Paul said we should try to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12) and never repay evil with evil, but to reach out to the world with the love of Christ.
I do sincerely believe that if Christians were to unilaterally follow Christ’s teachings into this world, we’d find a world that is hostile towards the Kingdom of God, not because God is too harsh a master for the world, but because he’s not harsh enough and his love threatens the established order more than any violent political revolution of the past several centuries. God’s love is one of the most disruptive forces in the universe.
There are many things the world may promise us that God has not, but the world’s promises are so much more impoverished. God has given us his son, Jesus Christ, and through unity with him, we find the fulfillment of every promise we may ever want or need.