I’m always taken aback when I read about someone who gave up on Jesus because something difficult happened to them. I mean, what were you thinking? Did you believe that:
If I become a Christian then nothing bad will happen to me.
If I become a Christian no one in my family will die,
If I become a Christian I’ll never get laid off,
If I become a Christian my spouse will never betray me or leave me
If I become a Christian my friends will never die from cancer or car accident
If I become a Christian every day will be sunny and warm.
Not only does Jesus not promise ease of living if we become His followers, I think that if you look carefully, you’ll find that He promises just the opposite.
“If they hated Me, they will hate you also.”
Peter was a contemporary of Jesus. He experienced tremendous change in character because of his relationship with Jesus. Early on in his relationship with Jesus, Peter ran from danger. Later in life he tells us to be ready for suffering 17 times just in his first letter. Peter warns that if we follow Jesus:
We’ll be mocked by our neighbours
We’ll be tempted to follow false teachers
We’ll be harassed and tempted by satan to a degree we never dreamed possible
We’ll actually be punished for following Jesus (I know this one personally)
We’ll live like refugees, strangers on earth.
We’ll suffer grief in all kinds of trials
We’ll be rejected by family and friends
We’ll be blamed for the problems of the world
We’ll be mocked for doing good
This should not surprise us. Jesus said that before we become Christians we’d better give it some serious thought because “Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit to be called my disciple.”
No, God doesn’t promise some kind of supernatural protection from tragedy. What He does offer however is a supernatural ability to use tragedy for good. With eyes wide open and our chest bared to the blast Jesus makes us the kind of people who take hold of His hand and step boldly into the storms of life. When we do exactly that we come out the other side victorious and unbowed. Because of a healed and intimate relationship with Jesus, suffering increases our faith, frees us from sin, elevates our hope and holiness and brings about a character of goodness, and perseverance.
How is it then that some turn away from God in the face of tragedy while others are drawn closer to Him? It all depends on the goal for which you’re aiming. If your goal was pleasure or security, or ease of life and safety, and then God allows difficulties to enter your life. We’ll of course you’ll turn away. On the other hand, if your goal is heaven. If your goal is an ever increasing close relationship with Jesus. If you know that God is waiting for you on the other side, then there isn’t anything that this life can throw at you that will make you turn back. In fact you’ll know that in preparing you for heaven, God will refine and strengthen you here on earth.
So, what exactly were you thinking when you became a Christian? Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart. Following Jesus is a journey filled with hardship and challenge, but the rewards. O the rewards are so worth it. Just as Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before Him, so too can we run the race with our eyes on the prize knowing that in the end our trials will seem small in comparison to the rewards we receive.