Have you thought about the story of Job lately? Some people don’t like his story because it reminds them that following God doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes following God (being a Christian) finds us experiencing excruciating physical and/or mental distress, for which there is no logical explanation – surrounded by family and friends who say exactly the wrong things.
Here’s the thing, we want the “happily ever after” part of the story without having to go through the messy parts of the story to get there. Remember, before Cinderella rode off to the palace with her prince, she was orphaned and treated like a servant; Hansel and Gretel were abandoned by their parents and kidnapped by the owner of the gingerbread house; and Snow White was put into a 100 year coma while everyone she had ever known grew old and died before she woke up. Be careful when you wish for a fairy tale life, the unpleasant parts take up most of the story.
Anyway, we get caught up in looking for that happy ending, and when we not only don’t find it, but end up in often seemingly hopeless situations, we want to ask God, “Why?”
That question will never have an answer that is going to help us in any way. The only answer to “Why” is “because there is sin.” The only explanation for bad things happening in this world is that we not only live on the battleground of the Great Controversy between God and Satan, we are the battleground. Once we’ve committed to God’s side, Satan is going to do everything in his power to change our minds. We have to be ready for that.
In one predominantly Hindu South Asian country, a Christian mission agency has a list of seven questions that they ask new believers to think about as they consider being baptized. These questions help them to think through the possible consequences of living openly as a Christian.
1. Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father?
2. Are you willing to lose your job?
3. Are you willing to go to the village and those who persecute you, forgive them, and share the love of Christ with them?
4. Are you willing to give an offering to the Lord?
5. Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny your faith?
6. Are you willing to go to prison?
7. Are you willing to die for Jesus?
Those are some serious questions, and those of us who live in, what we consider, Christian countries, may think those questions aren’t realistic. But at some point, they will be real for all of us – our examples are the believers in the Bible, not to mention Jesus, Himself.
We are not promised a peaceful, easy existence as Christians, in fact, we are guaranteed the opposite:
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.” Matthew 24:9
There it is – from Jesus’ own lips – just one of the many verses that make us wriggle in our seats just a little bit when we are reminded of them.
Look at those seven questions again … are you still willing to openly live your life so that the universe can see the truth about God, even if it means that you will most likely, at some point, be persecuted for it? Are you willing to be surrounded by well-meaning, but completely wrong-thinking friends and family who, instead of offering support, tell you all the ways what you’re going through is your own fault? What if the persecution doesn’t come from humans? What if it’s like Job’s trials that looked like random tragedies?
“Schutt Sports, a major supplier of football helmets for the National Football League, issues the following warning label on all their helmets and on their website's homepage: WARNING …. NO HELMET SYSTEM CAN PREVENT CONCUSSIONS OR ELIMINATE THE RISK OF SERIOUS HEAD OR NECK INJURIES WHILE PLAYING FOOTBALL.
The warning label continues with some information about the symptoms for concussions and concludes by repeating the original warning: ‘TO AVOID THESE RISKS [OF PLAYING FOOTBALL], DO NOT ENGAGE IN THE SPORT OF FOOTBALL.’
By the same token, the only way to eliminate the risk of becoming a Christian, is NOT to become a Christian. What are you willing to go through to be associated with Jesus Christ?
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Amy Carmichael, she was from Ireland, but spent 55 years of her life working as a missionary in India. Her life was rarely smooth or easy, but she did amazing things for God. She had quite a lot to say about her experiences but one of my favorite quotes is this one.
“Certain it is that the reason there is so much shallow living—much talk but little obedience—is that so few are prepared to be, like the pine on the hilltop, alone in the wind for God.”
I have to ask myself, am I willing to stand “alone in the wind for God?” As we come closer and closer to Jesus’ return, Satan is working harder and harder to make following Jesus more and more unpleasant. He wants us to give up, to take the broad road that leads to destruction. Whether he uses persecution, our own health, or our friends against us, we have to be willing to say with Job, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27
“In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,God leads His dear children along;Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,God leads His dear children along.Refrain:Some through the waters, some through the flood,Some through the fire, but all through the blood;Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,In the night season and all the day long.Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,God leads His dear children along;Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,God leads His dear children along.Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,God leads His dear children along;Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,God leads His dear children along.Away from the mire, and away from the clay,God leads His dear children along;Away up in glory, eternity’s day,God leads His dear children along.”