It’s a disease that’s rampant in the culture and in the church. People are inundated with messages from powerbrokers, media, entertainment, TV evangelists and bestselling authors that say joy is inextricably bound up in material prosperity, physical health, relational success and all the comforts and conveniences Western society provides.
For most people, joy and suffering are incompatible, Storms noted.
Thus preachers have a difficult task at hand in communicating to such a culture a genuine joy found in Christ.
The so-called prosperity gospel that teaches wealth and good health is a sign of God’s favor and blessing is prevalent in the church, Storm lamented. Underlining the seriousness of the problematic theology many preachers have picked up, the Oklahoma City pastor called it a “corrosive and disintegrative pox” on the church and “a disease far more infectious and ultimately fatal to the soul than the worst bubonic plague and the affects it might have on the human body.”
“We have to fight this infection in the body of Christ,” he emphatically told pastors at the Desiring God conference in Minneapolis.
“I want to lay it (the blame) at our feet,” he said.
“It’s the pastors and leaders of the church today who fail to explain from the biblical text how hardship and tribulation are actually used by God to expose the superficiality of all the human material props on which we rely,” he explained. “We failed … to show … how hardship and persecution and slander compel us to rely on the all-sufficiency of everything God is for us in Jesus.”
That failure has left most professing Christians unable to grasp “the simple truth” that “infinitely more important and of immeasurably greater value than our physical comfort in this world is our spiritual conformity to Christ,” Storms noted.
And conformity to the image of Christ is orchestrated through trials and hardship.
“If I suffer it is because God values something in me greater than my physical comfort and health that He in His infinite wisdom and kindness knows can only be attained by means of physical affliction and the lessons of submission and dependency and trust in Him that I learn from it,” he said.
“That’s how suffering serves joy.”
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