The Myth of If-Then Christianity


We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Here’s a question for you:  Should a life lived following Jesus be an inherently better life?

Christian marriages falter. Christian-home-raised kids wander. Christian leaders fall…hard.  And we disappointedly ask, “Why?”

Our confusion is the result of believing in “deterministic obedience,” say authors, Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert.  It’s easy to have “the oversimplified belief that if I’m a Bible-obeying spouse or a faithful parent, then my spouse will be faithful and my kids will be obedient…God will reciprocate with immediate and discernible fruit.”[1]

You wouldn’t hear this “if-then” thinking from the Apostle Paul in the Bible.  Paul knew a lot about living out life as a follower of Jesus in the real world.  He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked–you name it.  But Paul reminds us that even in “shipwreck” all is never lost for the believer.

Paul gave us two lists you could call, What We Are, and What We Aren’t (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).  First, he says we shouldn’t be surprised when we are:

Pressed on every side
Hunted down
Knocked down

But, here are the things we aren’t:

Driven to despair
Abandoned by God

Follower of Jesus, whatever you’re going through here and now is temporary. Yes, the pain is real. But you are not alone in it, good will be worked in it for you and it will not be your undoing. This is our comfort. As Hebrews 6:19 says, we have “this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”


Resource reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

[1] Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert, Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Soul (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 58.