As a Christian it is a special thing to see someone give their heart to Jesus. Experiencing the moment when they decide to follow God and believe in all that He has done. It is the ultimate reward. For we were told by Jesus to go out and make disciples of all nations. It is the best decision anyone can make. It doesn’t necessarily change your life instantaneously, but your whole life now has a different route it follows. A route of hope, love, purpose and joy. A route where Jesus walks with you and will never abandon you.
Although the Bible says that every time a person decides to repent and follow Jesus that Heaven rejoices, it also says that the path suddenly became a lot narrower. Suddenly we have to say no to things we used to gladly say yes to; and we have to say yes to certain things we used to say no to. When I recall some of the Scriptures I have read I think of how in Hebrews 12:1 the author says that we must run with endurance the race God has set before us. Why would he put the word endurance in there? Because as a Christian that is what you need in order to survive. Without endurance we won’t be able to resist temptations. We will continually be dragged into sinful things if we don’t have the endurance to go against our own desires and stand on the word of God.
In Ephesians 6 from verse 10 we read about the armor of God. Nothing easy requires an armor. Especially not one with 6 individual parts each serving a significant purpose, but Paul recommends that we put it on so that we can stand firm against the devil’s strategies. That moment when we decide to follow Christ, we enter into a spiritual war and we need this armor or else we stand little chance of winning. It describes how we are fighting not against humans, but against evil authorities in the heavenly realms. 1 Peter 5:8 describes the devil as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. John 10:10 says that the devil comes only to steal, kill and destroy. It is very clear that as Christians we certainly have opposition.
I like the way the Message translation puts it:
And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. (Ephesians 6:10-12 MSG)
For me the greatest indication that the Christian life is a struggle is the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”
Being a Christian is essentially a two-movement process. We have to run from certain things, but at the same time we run towards certain things. Most of the time the things we must run from are things our bodies desire. Whether it’s lust, jealousy, anger, forgiveness, pride or any other thing we need to decide that we are not going to be acquainted with these things, but that we will pursue righteousness. 1 Timothy 6:11 and 2 Timothy 2:22 speak about this pursuit of righteousness. Note that righteous living is not a destination. It is something you strive towards and run after every day in every decision you make.
To get back to Matthew 16:24, I want you to picture Jesus picking up His cross and carrying it. The Bible tells us that Jesus was too weak to carry it beyond the city walls and so Simon of Cyrene carried it to the place of His crucifixion on Golgotha (Latin equivalent is Calvary). I can’t see this cross to be anything light weight, nor do I imagine Jesus carrying it over tough terrain with little effort. Now Jesus says that if we decide to follow Him we must take up our own cross, and follow Him. This isn’t an easy carry your backpack moment. This is difficult and tiring and sometimes you’ll fall and sometimes you’ll carry it with great passion, but to assume that it is going to be an easy, blessing filled, prosperous journey from start to finish is just being naive.
Galatians 5 speaks about the fruits of the Spirit and also the fruits of the flesh. As human beings we are merely soul, spirit and flesh, to be very basic now. The Holy Spirit living within us, as Christians, produces good fruits in us such as love, joy, peace etc, but our flesh produces evil fruits in us such as jealousy, envy, sexual immorality etc. As Christians we have the responsibility to choose which fruits will form part of our identity. We will have to resist the flesh’s fruits and accommodate the fruits of the Spirit.
I believe that there is wisdom in knowing the tough terrain ahead and preparing yourself so that you can still be standing when the terrain evens out. Jesus even said it Himself, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27 NIV). Further on in Luke 14 Jesus speaks about how we must calculate the cost required to be a Christian before we claim to be one and then live a life that contradicts it.
My purpose with this piece is neither to instigate fear into people nor to make Christianity look intimidating for non-Christians. My purpose is to stir up a fight in God’s people that causes them to deny themselves and seek the will of God. Being a Christian for almost a decade now, for the vast majority of this decade I thought that I was going to have a burning bush moment and then everything will change. I thought I was going to watch the best sermon on YouTube or attend a Passion conference and then everything will just be easy and smooth sailing. No more temptations, no more struggles. Just beautiful conflict-free days leading one after the other, but that’s not how it works. Although conferences and sermons guide you and feed you spiritually (and I love both of them), God has still given us the freedom to choose. Either we choose to please ourselves, which leads to nothing, or we choose to please God and gain everything.
The Christian path isn’t always the easiest journey, but it is the best journey you can ever go on. It fills you with significance, purpose, joy, love and being able to have a relationship with Jesus is just amazing beyond comprehension. The Christian life might not always be easy, but it’s definitely worth it.