Who started the rumor that God called Christians to a life of leisure, ease, and abundance? When and why did we start thinking that if it’s too hard it must not be God? Au contrare. We’re supposed to get muddy and beat up. If we’re not, then what in the world was Paul the Apostle doing? He must have missed the memo to keep it clean and politically correct.
Bible scholars say he was well educated by the content of his letters to the churches and from a well-connected religious family since he was a Pharisee and entrusted with carrying a message from the priests in Jerusalem to Damascus. Then, at his conversion on his way to Damascus, he left all that he had known until that time and followed the Christ whom he had previously denied, if not face to face, then by persecuting and slandering His followers. He struck out to tell the Gentile world of the saving grace of this Christ of the Jews.
Just think, a Jew living with and ministering to the Gentiles of every pig-eating, idol worshiping, profane nation in the then-civilized world. Scandalous.
Think of the obstacles he faced. He was beaten, ship wrecked, bit by a snake, imprisoned, and finally executed, which he knew all along would be his fate. Personally, I would have been done after the snakebite episode, but he appears to have been unfazed. Why? Why did Paul continue to give up all creature comforts and persevere through all the trials that came his way? More trials than the average person would ever face.
The answer is quite simple, yet profound. He was yielded to the will of God for his life.
I confess that I cannot imagine that level of obedience. I struggle with doing laundry with a happy heart. How in the world could I face each day knowing I would be spit on, mocked, slandered, and plotted against? And that’s just before noon! My trials and struggles, while quite real to me, are of no comparison to what Christians in anti-Christian countries face. To hear of secret house church meetings and forced labor and beatings just for owning a Bible put my petty complaints in stark perspective.
Not only that, but why should I think I should call all the shots for my life? Proverbs 19:21, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” I can say in all honesty that I make most of my plans with little thought to God’s guidance. I can go where I want, when I want.
If one church service doesn’t suit me, I might just go find another church.
If a job becomes drudgery, maybe I should just look for another one.
Many friendships are lost on trivial misunderstandings and prideful assumptions.
If my marriage gets rocky, I’ll just complain to the other ladies about how insensitive my husband is.
Too many children are too much work, so I’ll plan one or two when it’s convenient, but then I’ll send them off to school or daycare as soon as possible.
No thought is given to what God’s will might be. It’s all about what is most convenient and appealing to me.
What I’m trying to say, in not so many words, is God’s will is often found in the hard things. If the Apostle Paul’s life means anything beyond his New Testament teaching, he gives an example of endurance.
I resolve to not pass up opportunities simply because it’s inconvenient or outside my comfort zone or just doesn’t sound like fun. I’m going to look to the Lord for His guidance in all things.
I’m going to let Him work patience in me by staying at my church whether I like every sermon or not. I’ll work joyously as unto the Lord.
I will stick by my friends, warts and all.
I’ll love my husband and keep his idiosyncrasies to myself.
I’ll let God give me as many children as He wants me to have, not as many as I think I can “handle”. I’ll keep those blessings with me to teach and love them until they lock me out of their house when they are married. Even then, I might knock on the door every day.
I’m going to grab the snake bite kit (and pray that I won’t need it) and set off on an adventure that will only end at the feet of Jesus.