Have you every just stopped to think about how difficult it is to be a Christian? I've written here before about how someone once told me that being a Christian isn't hard... I just make it hard! (And I also told you that my not-so-subtle-reply was that if she didn't think it was hard, then maybe she wasn't "doing it" right.) But the more I've thought about it the past few weeks, the more I've come to believe that this woman only associates "being a Christian" with her proclamation of faith and church attendance... and if that's her understanding of what it means to be a Christian, then it makes since that she doesn't find the task too arduous. Proclaiming my faith in Jesus and hanging out at church for a few hours on Sunday without complaining is definitely do-able... but, then again, how many of us have still found ways to complain about that?
Today, I want to look at why some of us think it's difficult... and, hopefully, how we can change our attitudes about this awesome privilege... something we seem to forget. I think the number one reason why so many of us find following Christ to be so difficult is because it is counter-intuitive to almost everything in this world... especially the western culture. Instead of seeing our faith as freedom and liberation, we compare it to the shackles of a teenager with a curfew... we see it more as a list of things we "can't" do, instead of things we "can" do. For example, if I'm really ticked off at something a friend might have said about me, I "can't" go and vent my frustration to other friends... behind her back. (And, let's be honest... even though our intention is just to "vent," we enter into this extremely slippery slope that quickly winds itself around the entanglements of gossip.) But, what I "can" do is vent my frustration to God, asking Him to soften my heart and abate my anger so that I can then go to my friend to talk to her about the situation. You see, our society relishes the first example... there are reality TV shows that merely exist on the formula of the first. There's no drama in the second...just the glory of God. And while I readily admit that it is MUCH more difficult to confront a friend... in the loving spirit of Christ (that's IMPERATIVE!)... this road less traveled is FAR LESS BUMPY than the road paved with gossip... which in the end, cause much more difficulty in our lives.
Chan says the following: "When I look at my relationship with God as a chore, a sacrifice, the I am getting the glory- not God. I keep saying 'Look what I have sacrificed for God...' or 'Listen to what I do for God. It's hard, exhausting really...'" p. 108
I was once told that anything with a reward of value will involve hard work. So, if this is true, then I can only assume that the work involved with my journey in following Christ WILL be difficult because, quite honestly, there isn't a reward more valuable than my salvation. But, I want to take this a step farther...
In general, when we work towards a reward... whether it's a summer reading goal for a child, a bonus schedule for an employee or an Olympic medal for an elite athlete... there's usually minimal complaining involved. Why is this? I think there's two reasons: #1 We know what's at stake and what is expected from us and #2 We want the prize! So, as I try to relate this to my faith...and I think the same can be applied... I'm left asking myself two obvious questions: Do I know what is expected of me (And for me, the answer is "Yes.") and Do I really want the prize?
So here's the thing...without thinking, I would answer yes to the latter question. I think we all would. But I want to pose another question: Do we really understand what the prize is? Is it eternal life in Heaven? Or is it so you can just hedge your bets against going to hell? Is it peace in our lives here on Earth? Or is it because you were raised this way and you just want your kids to grow up with "some morals"? Have you ever really asked yourself WHY you want to be a Christian? Because if we don't know why... then MAYBE that's why we aren't working so hard... MAYBE that's why we complain so much. Maybe we really don't understand the choice we made and what it means for our lives. I can give you a scripted answer... we all can. But, do we really know what it means... not in our heads... but in our hearts?
Do you know what it means? Find someone... anyone... and have this conversation... not because you want to see if someone else understands... do it to see if you really understand.