What can you expect as a Christian? If you submit to the authority of Christ, will life be easier, or will you experience more trouble? The answer to this question, strangely enough, is yes and yes.
“Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” (Ephesians 3:13)
In one way, trusting in Christ for forgiveness and aligning your life with God’s plan makes our lives much easier. As we read the Bible, we grow in our knowledge of the right way to live and gain wisdom, and as we apply the things we have learned we avoid the many unnecessary and miserable experiences others go through because of sinful choices. Staying married keeps you from experiencing the trauma of divorce; obeying the law keeps you from getting in trouble with the authorities, allowing yourself one day out of the week to rest helps you stay healthier, and so on.
In another way, however, choosing to follow Christ directly exposes us to the work of God in our lives as He uses the various problems we encounter to mold us into the image of Christ. Jesus explained in John 15:2: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Once you submit to God and start living your life in obedience to Him, He prunes us—He causes events and circumstances in our lives which work toward the goal of making us more and more like Christ. Romans 8:29a says, “For whom He foreknew [would submit to Him], He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The plan is holiness—making us like Christ.
So, as a Christian, will your life be rosy, or will you have difficulties? The answer to this is that we will have difficulties, but they will not typically be difficulties of our own making. In other words, as we obey God more and more, we will suffer less for our own mistakes and sins. Yet because we live in a fallen world, there will be times when we will suffer for the sins of others as they impact us. Furthermore, 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us that, “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Invariably,“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27b) will offend someone. Because of our godly heritage in the United States, we are unaccustomed to persecution on a governmental level, and we ought to fervently pray that this not come, but tribulations and persecutions exist on various levels–whether hostility from family and friends or discrimination at work.
When we suffer for the gospel, we are to follow the apostle Paul’s example:
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:8-13)
Jesus Himself tells us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake [because they do what God wants—what is right], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) We are specifically told that not only do we have a reward in heaven for suffering for Christ’s sake, but that it is great!
Thank You that You have pulled us out of the many miserable and senseless sins we were stuck in before we trusted in You. Thank You that You love us enough to keep working on us throughout our stay in these bodies, to make us like You. Keep us faithful to You regardless of what comes, and bring glory to Your name! Amen.