The (At Times) Uncomfortable Adventure
If you place your faith and trust in Jesus, if you follow Him, will your life be easier, or, more comfortable, or more prosperous? Will you still experience heartache and trials, sickness and pain?
I only ask this question because it would seem that for many American evangelicals, many professing Christians, there is some confusion over this issue.
We might blame some of this confusion on the prosperity preachers on television, selling out of context Bible verses and promises to desperate people who are genuinely looking for some kind of hope. There are no shortage of 'ministers' and 'ministries' and 'churches' in our culture who will gladly tell you that Jesus came to give you an 'abundant life' (and He did), so therefore, if you have enough faith, and believe and pray the right things, you will be 'victorious' over every obstacle and trial, because the apostle Paul said 'we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us' (and he did say that).
And, if you have enough faith, you can be certain that nothing unpleasant will happen to you because the prophet Isaiah spoke the word of the Lord when he said 'no weapon formed against you shall prosper,' (and the Lord did say that). And of course, just as Abraham, the father of faith, was prosperous (wealthy), the Lord also wants you to be wealthy as well! The key, of course, is to have faith like Abraham, because 'Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness,' (and he did have faith and it was credited to him as righteousness).
The problem of course with these verses and statements is that they are unbelievably taken out of context. Yes, there are many prosperity preachers selling these out of context promises, and that is indeed a part of the problem, but not the totality of the issue.
Biblical illiteracy is another contributing factor to this problem of misunderstanding discipleship and following Jesus. This illiteracy is enabled by teachers and preachers who refuse to preach and teach the full counsel of God's Word, but ultimately, it is the result of professing Christians who on one hand say they 'love Christ,' and on the other hand, are either 'too busy' or 'not that interested' in reading His Word.
This is a serious problem.
It is one of the reasons so many professing Christians in the West are surprised by trials and suffering, convinced that when (not if, but when) hardships come, that God has somehow abandoned them. It is also one of the reasons why inconveniences, like the ones that came with Covid-19, were enough of a 'test' for some 33-36% of professing Christians in the United States to completely stop attending church services for good.
There is some part of the American Christian mind that believes following Jesus is all about convenience and comfort and 'success' on this side of eternity.
If we spend time in God's Word, we will see that Jesus does come to give us an abundant life, but that means far more than being comfortable!
Jesus comes to set us free from our bondage to sin and death. He comes to reconcile us to our Heavenly Father that we might be adopted sons and daughters of the King. He comes to set us free to walk in Truth and to know the Truth. Jesus said of Himself that He IS the Truth (John 14:6)! Jesus comes to give us a life in which we are no longer prisoners of sin and death and lies, but instead, children of the Living God.
And in that relationship, He calls out to us to 'deny (ourselves), take up our crosses and follow Him.' The cross is an invitation to come and die, as Bonhoeffer famously said. Jesus also told us that we should not be surprised if the world hates us, in fact, He promised us many troubles in this life. We live in a fallen, sinful world, and this world is in spiritual darkness, and the dark hates the light. Jesus told us if the world hated Him, we should expect to be hated. The apostle Paul said that all who desire 'to live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution.' James, the half-brother of Jesus, said we were to 'count it all joy when we (not if, but 'when') fall into various trials.'
Jesus didn't come to make us comfortable. He came to set us free and to make us more like Him, to give us a real, meaningful life in which we are free to love God and love others and live as God intended us to live-for His glory.
He never promised us that it would be comfortable and easy on this side of eternity. In fact, He promised the exact opposite.
We look forward to that day when we are with the King and there is a new heaven and a new earth and there will be no more evil or sin or death. But while we are here, as aliens and sojourners, we are to live for our King, and it may well cost us-this too is a part of that abundant life He promised us, believe it or not!
There is nothing 'abundant' in living for ourselves, living for our own little desires with ourselves at the center of our own small and little world. That is misery. That is bondage. That is stifling. We were made for so much more!
Now, some of you might be reading this, if you've read this far, and might well be thinking 'is he trying to talk me out of following Jesus? Is he overcorrecting the prosperity gospel preachers by teaching a 'doom and gloom' form of discipleship?'
No. I want you to know the Truth. Jesus told us to 'count the cost' before following Him because this matter of discipleship is very serious.
And it is also the greatest of adventures. Yes, this is a part of the abundant life too. Jesus has this remarkable way of calling us far outside our comfort zones. He calls us to walk by faith and to trust Him. He allows our faith to be tested, not because He is mean, rather that our faith might have opportunity to grow and mature, and in that, our capacity for loving Him and knowing Him grows as well! The work of our King is to conform us to His image, and that will require times in which our faith is tested, times that obedience to Him and His Word makes us quite uncomfortable or even scares us, and times in which we wonder 'Lord, what are you doing and where are you right now?'
Some of the greatest stories come out of these times as we fix our eyes on Him and call on Him and wait on Him. He works in us (and on us) and changes us and we have opportunity to know Him more intimately and to see Him work in ways we never would see otherwise. As has been said before 'the greatest fruit grows in the valley, not on the mountaintop.' There is a lot of truth to this statement.
And yes, there are also those mountaintop experiences in which He, as only He can, reveals more of Himself to us, works in ways we never would have imagined, revives and restores our souls, and we are so thankful for those times! He knows when we need them and how long those times should last.
Following Jesus in this world is abundant living. It is living outside ourselves, for the glory of God, and it is all about an authentic relationship with our Creator, who will never leave us nor forsake us, who is faithful to complete the good work He began in us, who loves us so much that nothing can separate us from His love-not hardship, not even death.
My encouragement to you, dear reader, is trust Jesus, to take up your cross and follow Him, to build your life on His Words and ot trust Him, to experience the life He has for you-it is infinitely greater than any life you could carve out for yourself!
Will it always be easy? No.
Will it always be comfortable? Nope.
Will it be the most amazing adventure? Yes it will.
Will it always feel like an 'amazing adventure?' No, again.
Is He worth it? Yes. Yes indeed. He is worth far more than all the treasures this world could ever offer.
If you have questions about following Jesus, or, if you need to nail down some things with Him, please drop a line to me at email@example.com . We can set a time to talk. There is no greater issue in your life than being in right relationship with Christ.
Grace to You,
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