Are you able to do the really hard things? I’m not talking about getting yourself to church on Sunday morning–although depending on who you are, that may be hard for you. What I’m referring to are life choices that cost you in palpable terms–behaviors you know are right in God’s eyes and what you should be doing, but which will hurt you in some very real way.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44 CEB)
Actions have consequences–real ones, not just theoretical or hypothetical ones. If you notice something dishonest going on at work, you might be praised or–depending on who it was and what was actually going on–you might be fired. If you call in criminal activity in your neighborhood, something bad might happen to you, your property or your family. If you begin reporting your income honestly, you might owe more in taxes and not be able to afford something you otherwise would have been able to. Yes, actions have very tangible consequences.
Doing right frequently costs us, financially, emotionally, mentally, maybe even physically. So how do we actually get ourselves to do that which is right–yet which might cost us highly? How do we bring ourselves to the point where we act like Corrie ten Boom, whose family suffered extensively in concentration camps, ultimately loosing two of its three members to death–because they sheltered Jews during the Nazi Occupation? Or like the missionary Nate Saint and his group, who gave their own lives rather than defend themselves with the rifles they had when attacked by the Auca Indians they were witnessing to–because they recognized they were eternally safe in Christ while their attackers were not yet so? Or like pastors and missionaries in countries like Turkey or Afghanistan or Iran and others, who are imprisoned and even killed for spreading the Gospel as their and (our) Lord commands? Or the many individuals who “come out” with their Christian faith in countries where Jesus’ own are persecuted? These are the difficult life choices–the ones that cost much.
Going to church here in the U.S. will probably not cost us too much–some effort and preplanning, perhaps some ridicule from family, but probably not our lives. Elsewhere it can be a life-risking endeavor–yet we are frequently oblivious to the incredible privilege of being able to safely gather with other followers of Jesus, or at least take it for granted. But Jesus demands so much more of us than just getting ourselves to church. Remember His caution to those who considered following Him?
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out…” (Luke 14:26-35 NIV)
What’s He saying? Simply that following Him will cost you, and that if you are going to follow Him you have to recognize you may be asked to give up everything else for that privilege. Yet far too many of us don’t comprehend exactly how great a privilege Christ is. But it is exactly that–recognizing that “gain[ing] Christ and be[ing] found in Him” (Philippians 3:8-9) is much more precious than anything else in life–that gets us to do the really hard things.
You see, when confronted with a difficult decision you intuitively make a immediate mental calculation. Make no mistake–human beings aren’t stupid: we recognize what’s about to happen and what we’d be giving up. We may not understand the full ramifications, but we know there will be consequences that will hurt.
So we place our options on a mental scale. On the one side we place whatever it is we would lose if we make the right choice–money, the favor of others, prestige, fame, success, our own physical safety or that of our family; perhaps, even our lives. On the other side we place Jesus Christ. And we weigh them against each other.
If we happen to know Jesus well enough–if we know Him intimately in prayer, if we love Him more than life itself, if we have personally seen and experienced and come to the conviction that compared to anything else in this physical world, including our material blessings, spouse, children, health or even life itself, losing fellowship with Him is by far worse than anything else that could happen to us–then, we will hold our ground and do the right thing rather than lose that intimacy with Christ.
But if we don’t know Him that well–if we don’t yet understand that nothing in this world can or will ever replace actively having and feeling His presence in our life–then we won’t do the hard thing; we will back down, give in, and sin. This is the choice–Jesus, versus anything else in life.
So, how precious is Jesus to you? Does intimate fellowship with God mean more to you than anything else? Have you understood that, “This is eternal life: to know…the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom…[He] sent” (John 17:3 CEB)? Have you ever perhaps personally experienced the pain of being separated from Christ because of some sin, great or small, in your life, and understand that it is, “…your sins that…cut you off from God. [That] because of your sins, He…[turns] away and…[will] not listen anymore”? (Isaiah 59:2 NLT) Would you rather suffer any other loss or pain than losing that fellowship with Him? If so, you will do the hard things in life that cost you much!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me rather suffer anything else other than lose You! Amen.