August 24, 2014.
It was once proposed to me by a friend of mine that one of the reasons that he believes that Christianity is true is the fact that Christianity is often hard. If it were a man made religion, certainly we would see many differences that would include ideologies and concepts that would be easy to follow and would allow for physical pleasures that the bible calls sin. Now, I don’t believe that Christianity is a “fun-sucking” religion in any way, but I can see how a fallen world that has been nourished with sinful pleasure might view it as such. And if no one else has been willing to tell you, I will- sometimes being a Christian is downright hard. This is not a novel concept that isn’t seen in the pages of Scripture, however. Perhaps it is true that uplifting and encouraging verses are more favored and focused on by the religious community, but that does not take away from the rest of the verses that pain a picture of a Christian life as gold and silver that is purified with fire and hard struggles that define and mold godly character. No, being a Christian is not a checked box on a census that allows you to talk to a god when you want something done, but a life of serving the Almighty, even through times of struggle.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
(I Peter 1:3-9)
More specifically, some of the hardest points in my walk of faith is when my fleshly body longs for the satisfaction (though incomplete) of lusts and desires that wage war with the spiritual bodies. I do not believe that I am alone in this struggle, though at one point I almost did. However, the more I talk and have discussion with fellow Christians, the more I see the overall struggle that the body of Christ may be experiencing as a whole. And this is not a new concept to us, 2,000 years removed from the time our Lord walked the earth, but an ongoing experience that even the Apostles struggled with in the early days of the church. Paul lays out his struggles openly to the Romans:
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
So even the Apostle Paul, a man of immense faith and zeal, going many places to establish churches and further the cause of Christ, was plagued with temptation and sin (for further evidence for this, you might enjoy an earlier post: “My grace is sufficient for you.“). If the great church leaders in the first century struggled and went through hardships, who are we to deserve any less? I actually find much comfort in the knowledge that I am surrounded by fellow Christians who are struggling just as I am. One day we will be perfected and we will no longer struggle with sin, for sin and death with be defeated once and for all, and the sons of God will dwell with him in the holy city, the New Jerusalem, forever. May it be so!
But what are we supposed to do until that day? I’ve said it many times before, but it’s such a beautiful truth: just keep trying! Get back up and go! There is a story in I Kings 19 (it is one of my favorite stories) where Elijah the prophet had just come down from a defeat of the false prophets in a glorious challenge that I’m sure he hope would being about major reform in the sin laden kingdom was very discouraged that nothing seemed to work. He was discouraged to the point where he saw no hope for Israel, for he thought he was the only one left who was faithful. What was God’s response? I’m paraphrasing of course, but It went something like “Get up and do your job. You’re not the only one left, I am in control. Now, go and do what you are called to do.” What did Elijah do? He went. And everything turned out as the Lord said it would. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
God is indeed always in control, and the struggles we go through produce patience and endurance (two scary words for many in America I’m afraid, myself included). James even goes the extra mile to say “count it all joy when you fall into various trials… (James 1:2-4)” Why? Because it refines and purifies us, building our character in preparation to meet our Lord on the last day. And on that day will will be able to stand before him, covered in the blood of the Lamb, worthy to be called sons of God. Worthy to bear his name. Worthy, because he has made us worthy, and washed away all the sin that so easily besets us today. We look forward to this glorious day, a day unending, where we can join the Lamb in the marriage feast and so be with the Lord forever.
But until that day comes, we will continue to struggle. Satan has been defeated and cast to earth, and the term angry is an extreme understatement. He does not want the children of God to follow through. He wants us all to fall, and he will do his best to make sure we do. But if we do our part, God is faithful and he will not let us fall. We have the power of Christ within us, even when we are weak. The blood of the Lamb will cover us from all sin continuously, as long as we are getting back up. Press on, my fellow brothers and sisters. The victory has been won. Let us walk according to our calling. Let us set our minds on things above and thus glorify the Son, even through our weakness. Through our weakness, the power of Christ is perfected.
Though the day of the Lord will be glorious for those who hold to the faith, it will be a very sad day for those who do not. If you are not washed with the blood of the Lamb, may I encourage you to consider what this is all about? There are a great many blessings in Christ Jesus, and a curse without. Consider the side you on which you wish to be found during the day of the Lord.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Suggested Daily Reading: Romans 7-8, Colossians 2-3.
The Lord bless you and keep you.