It didn’t take long for me to discover that being a Christian wasn’t easy. In fact, there were (and still are) times when it was downright hard. The initial “glow” of putting my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior gave way to the reality of the discipline, effort, and struggle required to be a faithful follower of Christ. There’s still joy – don’t get me wrong – but the Christian life is a struggle.
The reality of the struggle is found in Scripture. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Training for anything takes effort – we have to work at it. According to God’s Word, godliness is no different – effort and hard work is required to attain it. In 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul explains the kind of effort we need: “For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” He uses the word agonizomai to describe our labor and strife – it refers to working, laboring, striving, and straining to the point of agony and exhaustion. Godliness and maturity in Christ require that kind of effort.
While living as a Christian is hard, there is help, hope, and joy available.
We have help in our walk with Jesus Christ. First, God gives us the ability, power, and strength we need through His Holy Spirit. Philippians 2:13-14 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We don’t have to muster up the strength to be faithful to the Lord on our own (that’s good news!) because He is at work in us to bring it about. Yes, we work, but only because He is at work in us.
We have hope in our life as a Christian. While it can be agonizing and hard work to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we have a great promise in 1 John 3:2-3: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” As those whom God has made part of His family, we’re painfully aware that we are not what we should be, but we will be like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when we are with Him in eternity. As the hymn says, “It will be worth it all,” when we see Him.
Even though the Christian life is hard, we have joy in our labor. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:2-3). Everything Christ endured for us on the cross, as well as before it, was with a view to the joy that would be His. I can’t help but think that His joy had to do not only with the future, but even with the excruciating pain of the crucifixion. There is joy in the destination, to be sure, but also in the journey.
Living as a Christian is hard, but we’re not without help, hope, and joy. Praise God for that!
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