I want an easy life. For all my blustering claims about being willing to “sacrifice all for Jesus,” at the end of the day, I long for ease and comfort. I suspect most do. Christians seek comfort rather than Christ because we do not really believe He is worth any amount of suffering and sacrifice in this exceedingly fleeting life.
It’s one thing to want an easy life from God, but another thing entirely to expect and demand it. Philippians 1:29 reminds us that we have been granted to not only believe in Christ, but also to suffer with and for Him. This means that it is a gift and a grace to suffer for the sake of the gospel! Later in chapter 3 of Philippians, Paul goes on to say that knowing Christ is, for him, better than anything or anyone else. But in so saying, he expresses his longing to be like Christ in every way, including the way of His suffering and death. Why? Suffering is the path to maturity and growth, and death is the path to resurrection life.
It is also inherent to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ—He suffered and died for us. We are therefore called to complete His self-sacrificing suffering as the church, His body (Colossians 1:24). We suffer because we are different than and hated by the rest of the world—insistently, incessantly, and explicitly so. And we suffer because Jesus suffered, giving an example for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21).
I’m not saying that persecution is a wonderful thing, but at the same time, God is not averse to letting it happen—in some cases to a shocking degree, even unto death. We may at times stand aghast at the depths of evil God allows in a world marred by sin and where a genuine degree of human freedom has been granted. But we also have to guard against the secular humanist claims that given the chance, human beings will naturally be kind to one another, and that the goal of life is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.
In the end, people are often willing to suffer for something or someone they believe to be worthy of great hardship and sacrifice. In our church here in Singapore, for example, when one of our attenders became a member, his family literally held a funeral for him. He clearly understood that knowing Jesus now and being a member of God’s family for all eternity was in this life worth the complete loss (for now) of his earthly family.
As Christians, we must honestly wrestle with our willingness to experience difficulty and hardship for the sake of His greater honor and glory. Even a cursory look at 1 Peter makes it clear that suffering for the greater glory of Jesus Christ is both normal for and expected of the believer. In fact, as Acts 5:41 makes clear, it is a glorious honor.
Jesus promised that our lives would be troubled and difficult precisely because we are His followers (John 15:18-20). As such, we should not sell people a false bill of goods when sharing the gospel with them or calling them into genuine discipleship. Quite frankly, if you want to follow Jesus, you’re asking for trouble in this life, but you’re also promised His presence and peace alongside eternal life with Him in the life that is to come.
It is only in the light of eternity that we can appreciate the true nature of our sufferings here for Jesus’s sake. That is why Paul calls them “momentary and light” (2 Corinthians 4:17). They are real enough, but they pale in comparison to the magnificent things God has in store throughout eternity for those who have come to know, love, and trust Him now.
I want an easy life, but even more, I want Jesus to be glorified in and through me, and that means experiencing suffering for His sake. What kind of life do you want?