The Dark Side of Godliness

Now that the title has led you to read the first line of my post, please understand that I won’t be telling you that godliness brings something bad to your life.  It can create a by-product that many people don’t like and try to avoid if at all possible.  And if we’re honest with ourselves (even as believers), most people would rank the experience of this biblical truth as being bad.  However, we must always remember that our perspective on bad/good doesn’t always follow what God says is bad/good.

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So here’s the fine print on godliness, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).  Ouch!

Remember that Paul was declaring the same truth Jesus expressed to his disciples when he said, “A servant is no greater than his master.  If they persecuted me they will persecute you also” (John 15:20).

You don’t hear those verses in evangelistic pleas inviting people to place their faith and trust in Christ and follow him do you?

A couple of thoughts from I Timothy 3:12 struck me when I read it this morning.

ALL  – That includes you.  Anyone, and everyone, who desires to live a godly life in Jesus Christ is referenced in that word.  This is a universal truth for believers whether they’re in America, remote jungles of Africa or South America, or in the arid plains of the middle east.  ALL who desire to live a godly life in Jesus Christ can expect persecution.

DESIRE – Note where spiritual life, spiritual growth, spiritual maturity, and spiritual fruit is born…in our desires.  How do we focus our desires on Christ and the things of God?  Through the practice of personal spiritual disciplines:  Bible reading and study, prayer, scripture memory, fasting, giving, and serving to name a few.  Spiritual Disciplines bring Psalm 37:4 to fruition, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the DESIRES of your heart.”  God doesn’t give you what you want, he gives you HIS desires, which move you to want what He wants, including “to live a godly life” (I Timothy 3:12).  See how that works?

Remember too, that our desires eventually lead to actions and behaviors.  Therefore, we need to fix our desires on the right things, so spiritual fruit is borne out of our desires.  Thus, when you seek God and he gives you HIS desires, those desires will lead to godly actions and lifestyles.

PERSECUTED – I don’t want to be overly dramatic or simplistic on this idea.  Persecution will most likely not come in the form of beatings, stoning, shunning, or imprisonment for many believers.  On the other hand, according to I Timothy 3:12, some form of persecution, or more simply stated – spiritual opposition, will occur for every believer who desires to live a more godly life in Jesus Christ.

David Platt said, “Clearly, there is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.  Suffering is one of God’s ordained means for growth of his church.”

Is there a dark side to godliness?  How can desiring, and pursuing, godliness be a good thing if it results in persecution, opposition (spiritual and/or physical), and suffering?

The answer is found in Jesus himself.  If we desire to live godly lives, then we pursue Christ.  When we pursue Christ we know him more fully.  Our experience and intimacy with him grows stronger and more abundant (John 10:10).  That will bring persecution, opposition, and suffering, but guess what – we’re closer to and stronger in Jesus because we drew close to him.  Therefore, we can cling to the promises that:  A) Jesus will get us through/over any suffering, trouble, or hardship we will experience on earth (Isaiah 40:31, Romans 8:37).  B) Even if we give all we can give – including our lives, then we get the greatest blessing and reward of all…WE’LL BE WITH JESUS!  

That’s what Paul meant when he wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means labor for me…But whatever I had gain, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 1:21-22, 3:7).

This is no “dark side” to godliness, because to say so would mean something bad occurs as a result of desiring, and pursuing godliness.  When we pursue Christ we find him and everything we find in him is good, because he is good.  That doesn’t mean we’re free from persecution, suffering, or opposition, but it does mean that we’ll know, and have, Jesus in spite of them.

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