Life is hard; it is difficult. That is just the simple truth of it. Jesus confirmed this in John 16, telling us, “In the world, you have trouble”1 – and indeed, we do.
You and I have seen and known those who pretend to float from one victory to the next, and if we did not know better, we could look at ourselves and wonder what is wrong with us, or with our faith, that we don’t enjoy the trouble-free life that our disciple-in-denial friend pretends to enjoy. Life is hard.
Life is hard. Life in Christ, especially so.
Consider these passages, and what they tell us about living life as a Christ-follower:
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
– 2 Timothy 3:12, NASB
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
– 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NASB
But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
– Matthew 10:17-18, NASB
Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.
– Matthew 24:9, NASB
You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
– Mark 13:13, NASB
They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake … But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name.
– Luke 21:12b, 16-17, NASB
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
– John 15:18-20, NASB
They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.
– John 16:2, NASB
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
– John 17:14, NASB
Nothing in what Jesus and Paul said above offers any indication that, as Christ-followers, we should expect to slide gleefully through life on the ice of blessedness. Quite the opposite. If what Jesus said above is to be believed, we should expect persecution, and think it strange if the persecution is not present.
Pastor Greg Laurie said, “Righteousness, by its very nature, is confrontational. The very fact that you believe in Jesus bothers some people…”2 Jesus confirms this, and explains it by saying, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”3
On January 16, 1983, I confessed Jesus as Lord and submitted to a plunge in the watery grave of baptism. When I was pulled upward, out of that water, I was indeed a new creature,4 and I served a new master.5 But nothing in my physical world had changed.
I was still a university student. I had to study, and my grades did not instantly become straight-As. I still had the driving record of my youth, and my automotive insurance reflected that reality. I still struggled with zits, and could never get my hair to lie just right. My body still became ill from time to time. Life was still difficult, but I now had a long-view outlook that allowed me to understand my circumstances in a completely different way.
The belief and teaching that all the problems in my life expire when I become a Christ-follower are, at best, a misrepresentation of what Jesus taught his disciples. It flies in the face of what Jesus taught about counting the cost, of deciding whether my level of commitment will even allow me to be a follower after Christ.
If the life of a disciple is nothing but endless bliss, Jesus would never have taught the way he did about the call to follow him. Peter would never have written about suffering for doing good.6 James would not exhort his readers to endure suffering with patience.7 The writer of Hebrews would never list his great roll call of faith.8
Life is hard, even a Christ-saturated Life.
We do not become Christ-followers because it makes our lives easy. We become Christ-followers because it makes us clean before a holy God.
1. John 16:33
2. Laurie, G. (October 1, 2010). The Promise of Persecution. Retrieved 02/12/2016 from http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/harvestdaily/greg-laurie-daily-devotion-oct-1-2010-11638899.html
3. John 3:20, ESV
4. 2 Corinthians 5:17
5. Matthew 6:24, Romans 6:18
6. 1st Peter 1:6-7, 2:19-21, 3:14, 17, 4:1, 12-19
7. James 5:10-11
8. Hebrews 11:4-40