The good news is you're going to heaven. The bad news is that you're going to have to go through some tribulation before you get there.
Whoa! Wait a minute. Did I sign up for that? That must have been in the small print of the travel brochure, because I didn't see it. If I had known about the tribulation part, I would have given this whole good news thing a second thought.
In chapter 14 there's an interesting conflict going on that I think I have always struggled with. It is the same tension that causes many to accept Christ, then walk away from Him. It involves the good news of the gospel and the bad news of tribulation or trials. You see, in this one chapter we have the apostle Paul sharing both. Yet most of us want to accept the reality of the one, and reject the possibility of the other.
The Good News
We all could use a little good news once in a while. And the good news (euaggelizzo in the Greek) that Paul shares is what we refer to as the gospel. Luke refers to it three times in this chapter:
and there they continued to preach the gospel - Vs 7
we...preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God... - Vs 15
After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples... - Vs 21
The gospel literally means to "bring the good news." It is the good news regarding Jesus Christ. That He is the Son of God, sent by God, to reconcile mankind to God. He became a man so that He might live the life we were meant to live -- a life free from sin. Then in spite of His sinlessness, He willingly paid the penalty for our sinfulness, by dying in our place on the cross. He became the sinless sacrifice that God required. He did what we could not do. He satisfied the demands of a holy, righteous God. He was put to death, so that we would not have to die. But God did not leave Him dead. He raised Him back to life just three days later. The same power that restored Jesus to life is what now makes it possible for us to be restored in our relationship with God. We can have forgiveness of sin and freedom from guilt and condemnation. Just by accepting God's free gift of grace through His Son Jesus Christ. And that's good news.
And just as in Paul's day, that good news message has been eagerly and gladly accepted by those who hear it. Including me. But the good news comes with what appears to be bad news. At least it seems that way to us. So we ignore it. We act as if it isn't really there. We even refuse to tell those who accept the good news that there might even be any bad news. So when it comes, which the Bible says it will, they become confused.
The Bad News
We get the bad news in verse 22. There we learn that Paul was "strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying,
Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Wait a minute! How could talking about tribulations bring any kind of strength and encouragement to a group of new disciples? What could possibly be encouraging about hearing that our path to the kingdom will be a tough and possibly unpleasant one? What was Paul thinking?
Paul was thinking about the kingdom. And he was thinking about the reality of the conflict we face as Christians as we try to live as citizens of God's kingdom in this kingdom. This world is not our home. We are aliens and strangers. We are simply passing through on our way to some place much better. And while we are here, we will stick out like a sore thumb. As children of God, we will live differently than those around us. We live according to a different standard and obey a different set of kingdom rules. All of which will puts us in conflict with the world in which we live. We have an enemy, Satan, who hates us and wants to destroy us. We live in a world that opposes us and also hates us. Then we struggle with our own flesh, that does everything in its power to convince us to live according to its will, not God's.
You see, God never said this would be easy. In fact, we are warned throughout His Word that trials and tribulations are a part of the Christian life. Peter tells us:
Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. - 1 Peter 4:12
Jesus Himself told us:
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. - John 16:33
Paul reassures us in Romans 8:35-36:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Tribulations and trials are a real part of our walk here on this earth. We all know it because we experience them daily. But we spend so much time questioning God when they come. We pray for Him to remove them. We plead for release from them. We act as if they are an anomaly, a mistake of some kind that shouldn't be part of the life of a believer. But they are. Jesus promised it. Paul confirmed it. Life proves it.
The bad news really is good news.
In Romans 5, Paul gives us a little more insight into this issue of the good news and bad news. Here is what he said:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. - Romans 5:1-5
According to Paul, our trials and tribulations have a purpose. They are an integral part of the maturing process we call spiritual growth. They can both break us and make us. They can drive us to our knees and into the arms of God. They can reveal our weaknesses and God's power. They can force us to take our eyes off this world and focus them on eternity -- where our real hope resides and the best part of the good news awaits us!
Father, I want to thank you again for the good news of Jesus Christ and all that it means. But I also want to learn to thank you for the tribulations and trials of life. I want to see them as part of the good news, instead of just a lot of bad news. Help me to see your hand in it all. You can and do use anything and everything to make me like Your Son. Thank you!!! Amen