It's Not Easy
It’s Not Easy
Jesus exhorted people to follow Him (Matthew 11:28-30), and those courage souls who do so, receive in the end, the deal of their lifetime, with eyes wide open to the real cost Jesus taught was involved in living the Christian life.
Consider the Cost
- “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
- “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
- “If anyone comes after Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
What Makes It Challenging: Push Back
- The world around us is not going to appreciate our love for truth, love for God or the desire to live holy lives. We will receive push back from the world and this push back will manifest itself in various forms of persecution. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11; “So that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers” (1 Peter 2:12); “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
- When we change ourselves and are being transformed, those who do not want to change will be threatened. Our salt and light will not be appreciated (John 3:19-20). When people want to change, salt and light is relished, and it is refreshing. When people want to selfishly cling to their sins, the salt and light in believers hurts their conscience and/or makes them question their actual wellbeing.
- In every generation there will be a significant number of people who are determined to stay as they are and resent anyone who is moving ahead (1 Peter 4:4 “and they malign you”).
What Makes It Challenging: Clean Up the Inside
- There are many people who superficially improve themselves. Yet Jesus calls us to a much higher standard. It is not enough to “look good”, we must, with the strength He provides, actually be good on the inside (Matthew 23:25-28). It is not enough to simply abstain from murder and adultery, we must address the anger and lust that lurks in our hearts, eventually leading to our destruction (Matthew 5:22, 28).
- It is not enough to simply stay out of trouble, we must earnestly desire to be holy (1 Peter 1:14) and to reach out to those who are in trouble.
- Sin is not simply doing something wrong, it equally includes the failure to do what is right (James 4:17).
- The standard is much higher than to be “a good person”, rather the standard is to be like Christ (Ephesians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 11:1).
What Makes it Challenging: Counterfeit Believers
- God’s people have always been surrounded by professed believers who have opted for much lower standards (Malachi 1:8).
- There has been the constant temptation to conform, fit in and become like the world around us (1 Samuel 8:5; Hosea 7:8 “Ephraim mixes himself with the nations”).
- We are currently surrounded by churches where membership is very loose, and people attend only occasionally, and when they do they will not hear what Jesus says on the topics of sin or hell. Divorce, not for Scriptural cause, is common and accepted (Matthew 19:9). It is tempting to think that since our faithfulness exceeds this, we can coast for a while.
What I Have Learned While Among Christians
When you worship and work with a congregation of believers who are striving to please God, you realize after spending time talking with other believers:
- Satan is working on everyone (1 Peter 5:8).
- Everyone has scorched marks on their shield of faith. Everyone has dents on their helmet of salvation. Everyone has been hit by various fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16). Anyone who has been a Christian for some time, is still faithful and is determined to overcome and grow, has various stories about hand to hand combat with spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). We are all in the same battle. Yes, the devil is after me too.
- Every Christian knows what it is like out there. Living the Christian life is not easier for some people, it is challenging for everyone, for we all battle with sin and selfishness (Romans 3:23). If you think that being a Christian is easy for this or that brother or sister, spent more time with them in genuine conversation, and you’ll be surprised.
- Even the apostles were not immune from temptation. Paul would write, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Peter and Barnabas found themselves compromising the truth because they were afraid of what others would say (Galatians 2:12).
- Paul who struggled with covetousness when a non-Christian (Romans 7:8), wrote that he had to learn to be content (Philippians 4:10-13).
This is a Safe Place
The church is part of God’s eternal plan (Ephesians 3:10-11), and He wisely designed it to greatly enrich our lives. We absolutely need a support group to help us along the way (Hebrews 3:12-13; 4:1; 11; 12:12), because the loss of even one soul is tragic.
- Since Satan is prowling about seeking someone to devour, we will probably be challenged just about every day of our lives. Remember what Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). If someone at services asks you, “How is it going”, it is okay to say, “This was a rough week spiritually”. Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Don’t be surprised when some honest soul confides, “That was a hard week, I really need your spiritual encouragement”.
- This is a safe place to let others know you need some prayers and that you could really benefit from some Christian interaction and deep conversation.
- This is a safe place to let others know that you are struggling spiritually, that your shield of faith is loaded with arrows from the enemy, and that you are not doing well at the moment.
- This is a safe place to air your doubts and ask your questions.
- This is a safe place to ask for help if you find yourself going repeatedly back to the same sin.
- This is a safe place to let others know if you find yourself discouraged.
- This is a safe place to let others know if you are afraid.
- This is a safe place to ask for advice or help when it comes to challenges in the work place, challenges in a marriage, and challenges in parenting.
Always remember that you are surrounded by people who have humbled themselves and admitted their desperate need of God and His truth in their lives. In becoming Christians, we have, by doing so, all confessed we cannot handle life all by ourselves and that we really do need help. We have confessed that we cannot fight the evil inside us without Jesus. We have confessed that our own wisdom is incredibly fallible. Make good use of such humble and honest people, for they can empathize with what you are facing.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017