IS CHRISTIANITY HARD? PART 2
By Rev. Ted Pike
21 Oct 13
Editor's Note: This is an edited version of the recorded Bible study under this title at Truthtellers.org.
Jesus said Christians should expect difficulty in this life. For many, Christ’s yoke has proven heavy with persecution, torture, and decades in prison. Richard Wurmbrand, Romanian Christian pastor and founder of Underground Evangelism, recounts a Catholic priest finally released from decades of torture in a communist prison. The priest said, "I have suffered more than Christ." He endured years of excruciating torture.
Yet while the road of sin make look easier, in reality it is full of even greater suffering. God is truth and reality. When we obey Him we tend to move forward in a way that makes things go right. When we ignore God and chart our life according to self-will, we head ever more deeply into confusion and slavery to vice. The great writer Fyodor Dostoevsky faced humanists in his day who claimed that human beings will always make the best, wisest choice for themselves as long as they know what it is. In response Dostoevsky wrote literature, particularly The Brothers Karamazov and Notes from Underground, which have been timeless because of how they portray the conflict of Romans 7: “That which I would do, I don’t do, and that which I would not do, that I do.” As human beings we are driven by hungers we can’t even articulate; we are driven to assert our own wills, to put ourselves first, to answer the taskmaster of self-will, even when we know it imperils what we love and hurts those closest to us. We are driven to do things, “because I could.” We want our own way, even when we can see it’s the worst thing for us. This is the paradox of sin. Scripture describes it as the “mystery of iniquity”—why we serve the relentless taskmaster of our own ego, pleasure and self-will, at any cost. Only Christ can set us free. By becoming His slaves, we are released from slavery to a much worse god: ourselves.
At first, when we are young, the ways of sin may not seem to carry a heavy price. Young men, indulging in casual sex, may escape for a time without sexually transmitted diseases. Yet life is full of unexpected complications and operates unforgivingly according to the laws of cause and effect. If a young man's conception of the easy life is promiscuity, he stands a very high risk of contracting hepatitis C, venereal disease, and even AIDS, as well as crippling his emotional abilities to form lasting and fulfilling relationships. God ordained that a man and a woman remain celibate until marriage when the constructive activity of sex can take place, leading to children and lifelong marital bonding. Raising and supporting children includes hardship. But, especially if such children are led to the Lord at an early age, such a life can result in unmitigated blessing. God’s paths are designed to lead us, despite hard times, into happiness and flourishing. The ways of sin, particularly sexual sin, lead to misery.
Similarly, honesty in all aspects of life, including business or professionalism or even political life, tends to bring good results. Dishonesty fairly quickly will create complications, problems which require more dishonesty to cover up. It leads almost inevitably to exposure and ruin. Choosing premises which do not include Christ and His redemption means taking on a terrible burden of darkness and emptiness. The choice for sin is truly a barren proposition. Christ described the foundation of reality which He provides as a rock of stability, upon which we can build our lives and hopes for all eternity.
As our faithful Guide, God tremendously lightens the burdens of life by assisting us in the most difficult moral choices. We can trust Him, both for His leading concerning important decisions and for their consequences. We were not designed by God to bear the burden of crucial moral decisions alone. We need the Savior's guidance. We also are unable to bear the consequences of moral or human failure alone. All our failings and infirmities were meant to be laid on the broad beam of the Cross. We need cleansing and the peace that passes understanding. We need Jesus to lighten our load as only He can. He lifts the heavy end of the consequences of sin and errors. Thus, David asks God not to remember both the "sins" and "foolishness" of his youth. God answered his prayer, inspiring Scripture to testify that, except in the case of David's adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, David "did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord. . .all the days of his life. . ." (I Kings 15:5)
St. Paul thus encourages us to regard the joy of our faith and salvation as a tremendous lightening of our burden. II Cor. 4 says:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
Christ wants us to have fellowship with Him and His sufferings for us. He is our best possible friend as we go through suffering both for His sake and as a result of being human. We worship, as we suffer with gratitude and willingness, all that He went through for us; this bonds us to other believers in unity of purpose as the body of Christ and the kingdom of God on this earth.
11 For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
Paul speaks of this relatively light burden imposed on us for God's purposes of intercession and identifying with Christ in this world. Repeatedly he talks about God laying on us only that which we can bear; He also continually making a way of escape that we can bear it.
16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
God's concern is so much more about the inward man than the outward man. The outward man is a capsule, a husk which passes away, which is jettisoned as we ascend toward Him. His great work is in the inward man. Our whole life, though it might be 90 years, relative to eternity becomes a moment. The things that are seen are not our criteria of whether Christianity is hard or easy or workable. We look at the things which are not seen. Our afflictions cause us to look deeper into ourselves, into reality, and into the will of God. We transcend to understand those things which are not seen.
The burden of responsibility of pleasing God is really an easy thing compared to the ravages of sin in the sinner's life, leading to eternal death. In fact, the burden and responsibility of pleasing God is a thing so easy that Christ said that a little child, trusting Jesus completely, does it much better than most grownups!
Life is hard in varying degrees for everyone. There are also bondages of varying degrees. All of us, including Christians, live under the curse and must live by the sweat of our brows. But, compared to the eternally hard and bitter "way of the transgressor," how can anyone reject the peace and joy and comfort of Christ's much easier way?