Struggle is a necessary part of life. We want to flee it, find everywhere to escape it, make believe it is not there, but struggle is — inescapable!
Look at the mighty men of God: Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter, John, Paul and Jesus most of all.
Name one powerful revolutionary for God that did not struggle! St. Augustine, Jerome, Luther, St. Francis, Wesley, Whitfield etc.
Many modern ‘superstar personality’ religious figures would have us believe that by saying the proper term, with enough faith, then struggle ceases. But never has this been true.
The holy are thrown into the conflict — not taken from it. The blessed are those who perhaps struggle the most, who perhaps endure the most trying times.
A life without sickness, financial riches, and the finest quality of life have never been the attributes of the follower of Christ.
To get — is easy to do. To get — does not make strong disciples. An army does not train for combat by laying at the beach. The Olympic champions are not those who have overeaten and under-exercised. We have been trained by pussycats to fight a roaring lion (the Devil). Discipline, self-denial and commitment unto death have almost become lost virtues in the modern church.
To give up, to deny one’s self, to walk away from the easy, to triumph over the lust of the selfish heart’¦
This is where the true disciple of Jesus is. No one ever left Jesus richer in possessions, than when they met him. No one ever followed him that did not have to give up something. Jesus taught his disciples how to overcome, to prevail against all struggle. Paul gives his list of struggles. 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” Yet it was because of his commitment that struggle came. He refused to reject his cross.
What sets Paul, Peter etc., apart is that they went on faithfully in the face of awesome difficulty. Anyone could have evangelized with no opposition, no aloneness, and with a fan club of admirers, etc. Many religious leaders today seek to build their ministry instead of their life. Their struggle is to build programs, promote, raise money, draw crowds — rather than the struggle of letting God rip from us ego, pride, selfishness and glory. People become ‘big’ leaders, rather than humble servants.
The kingdom of heaven comes to be built around ‘a person’ and ‘a vision’ rather than the masses. Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is within you!” The greatest struggle is not without but within.
True, God can heal and all power is in His hands, yet Jesus, when speaking of the qualities of His true followers who will be in heaven, said “I was sick and you visited me, hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink, naked and you clothed me, a stranger and you took me in!” To be joyful and faithful in acute illness produces a fine quality. For those imprisoned for Christ unjustly comes the deep secrets of God. For those who have been crushed in lost love and betrayed, they have learned dimensions of love, unknown to many.
The cross bearing follower of Jesus is not to flee from the path of the Master. Our Lord said, “If they have done this to the Lord, what do you think they will do to his servants?”
I hunger to be a true cross-bearer following Jesus, and as I go I find this seemingly impossible conflict:
Between Jesus and the world,
Jesus and the religious world,
Jesus and ‘christianity’
Jesus and myself!
I want this conflict! It means I’m still a pilgrim! I’m in the hands of Jesus and He is still at work in me’.
The process is painful, ask Jesus. As he went into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; as the crowds gathered about Him wanting something…miracles, but not Him. See the pain of His heart as He wept over Jerusalem, or as he made a whip and drove out the religious in the temple whom He called a den of thieves. See the pain of blood and He wept on His face in Gethsemane and said, “if it be possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not my will but thine be done”. See the pain, the horror of the beating and trials, the cross, and the cry from the cross. “I thirst!” and “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me”.
Yet even after the resurrection the pain continued with the doubting disciples. The disciples returning to their old jobs by the sea of Galilee. He had to call Peter again. The disciples saying at his ascension, “Will you at this time restore my Kingdom”.
The story of the early cross-bearer in Acts was the story of
Glory and struggle,
Miracles and prison,
Love and death,
A faith at odds with the world. So on until today, you and I .. Look at Jesus, absorb His words, be filled with His life, be stripped till we are revealed, then healed and covered with love.
Whatever the price — I have chosen to be a cross-bearer of Jesus. When I was in college I was faced with this deep struggle. I remember finding a card with the following words:
“Lord, glorify thyself today at
My expense. Send me the bill,
I set no price, I will not
Complain or bargain.
I’ll take the consequences!”
I would look at those words and weep. I struggled to find the strength and freedom to sign that card. One night I could, and as I wrote my name, the glory of the Lord overflowed me. Perhaps you too, would like to do the same in the space above and if you do not know Jesus invite Him into your life by repentance and faith in prayer just now.