Today, many Christians believe they are entitled to a trouble-free life. This mindset may be at least partly due to having been sold a bill of goods. Many have been told “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Though there is a bit of truth in that statement, it is not the whole truth and, therefore, often ends up bearing the fruit of a bait-and-switch sale. Yes, God loves us—even when we were dead in our sins God sent His only begotten son to save us. God’s love was demonstrated in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Eph. 2:1-10; Rom. 5:8).
A problem, however, comes from the word “wonderful” and our understanding of it. No longer does wonderful mean “full of wonder, full of awe.” Now, wonderful means comfortable, free of pain, a life of ease. It’s the picture of laying on the beach on a summer day. “Oh, this is wonderful.”
But what if God never promised a trouble-free life of ease and comfort? What if a life free of pain and suffering is not at all what He has in mind for us? What if the Bible teaches something different? What if a “wonderful life” will not be reality until after death when we are in the presence of the Savior? What if the Bible promises a different, more realistic message? What if it is more accurate to say, “God loves you and has a perfect plan for your life. And that plan is not only to save you through repentant faith in the perfect work of Jesus Christ, but to sanctify you to be like Him, which will require tribulations.”? And what if this promise was followed by another: “Through it all, I will never leave you nor forsake you. But I will give you the strength you need; I will give you the Holy Spirit as your Helper.”
Would the number of those who sign up to “make a decision for Christ” be smaller in the first place, but more faithful in the end?
When Jesus taught the crowds who followed Him the response was not usually what we would expect. The Gospel of John says that when many of his disciples heard Jesus’ teaching on eternal life being found only in Him, and that this gift is only granted by the Father, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60-66).
The reality of there being a cost to discipleship was also taught by the apostle Paul in Acts 14. After Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city of Lystra, Luke says, When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Later, Paul used this experience to teach Timothy: You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (2 Timothy 3:10-14)
What was Timothy to do in the midst of suffering for the gospel? He was to continue living out what he had learned. He was to live out the truth of the Word of God. He was to live a life worthy of the gospel.
To learn what it does and does not mean to be “worthy of the gospel,” read Philippians 1:27-30 and then listen to last Sunday’s sermon, Living Worthy of the Gospel. Here we see the call to the worthy life, the character of the worthy life, and the cost of the worthy life.