Already AND Not Yet: Expecting God’s Blessing

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“Come to Jesus and all your problems will immediately disappear,” said no Evangelist ever, or at least I hope not!

Life can still be very tough for Christians. We experience every form of suffering that is common to other people. We are not spared. We feel pain. We grieve, get sick, or lose our job. But throughout all this God calls us to be a people of hope.

Our faith is all about hope of a better future that goes beyond the grave. And yet, hope is meant to be for the here and now too. It is not just about a glorious eternal future, but also a glorious present.

Something is meant to happen when we get saved, and indeed during our Christian walk. We are meant to expect God’s blessing, his healing, his restoration.

But in the middle of a time of suffering,  we often lose that perspective, or believe that God will only finally bless us when we finally die and our pain is washed away. Sometimes we might even be right. But should we give up all hope for the present intervention of God?

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? It seems that many Christians fall into one camp or the other.  When suffering comes, you will hear voices (perhaps depending on what kind of church you go to) who will be on one end of that spectrum or the other. Some almost sounds as though they are welcoming suffering itself. They speak of how God means it for your good, of the lessons he will no doubt teach you through it, and sound more like stoics than people of faith. Others are relentlessly positive. I remember when some of my friends said things like “Praise God you are out of hospital!” This was when I still felt very ill, was attending the hospital daily, and to be honest felt like I had been discharged too soon. Sure enough, I would soon find myself hospitalised again. Others said things like “I always knew you would be alright…”  I understood where they were coming from, and would have preferred that to someone saying negative things.  But what about the times when we are NOT alright?

Theologians talk about an over-realised or under-realised eschatology when we fall into two opposite errors that are easy sometimes for us to even swing between. On the over-realised side are those of us who basically believe that God will always bless us in the hear and now. Some charismatics and pentecostals believe that God will always heal us, give us a good job, more money, and basically act like a heavenly slot machine. Aint always so. Equally some, perhaps in the reformed camp have been so keen to limit God’s supernatural ability to act, one wonders what he can actually DO with the sovereignty they so like to emphasise. And the blessing, salvation, healing, freedom from sin, restoration, is all pushed into a future heavenly time.

The truth is, like in many spectrums, neither extreme is right.  We are called to wait for the coming of a glorious heavenly kingdom but expect the powers of the age to come to break in to the here and now, like a deposit guaranteeing our future inheritance (see Ephesians 1).

Throughout my recent acute illness I have never lost the hope that God was going to intervene. That this suffering would come to an end.  In a sense that is what the verse I have been looking at for a while now is all about. This suffering will pass.  And yet there is also a sense that our periods of suffering themselves will only finally come to an end on that great and final day when all pain, sickness, sin, and other forms of suffering will be banished for good.  You can read this verse two ways: one about a specific period of suffering, and two about a lifetime of periods of suffering interrupted by times when we forget we still live in a fallen world:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10)

We can expect that we will both experience suffering, and the glorious intervention of God during our lives. Lets not allow whatever difficulty we are going through to rob hope from us for Gods intervention in the here and now.  But let us never forget that ultimately it is only then when we will reach perfection and suffering will truly cease.

Lets never forget that it is not already OR not yet. It truly is already AND not yet that we should expect God to act to save us.

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