Friday, August 15, 2008

Doing Hard Things... a Joy or a Burden?

A few weeks ago, my sister Emily and I attended the Rebelution Do Hard Things Conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It was an incredible experience that I am sure we will not soon forget. At the conference, we both purchased really cool t-shirts. Mine is dark blue, with "Do Hard Things" written on the back. (Exactly like the picture shown). As I wore my shirt around the house a few days later, so excited and ready to do hard things, one of my other sisters, who is 9 years old, made a comment. She said something like this: "Do hard things? Who would want to do that? That shirt should say 'do easy things'!"

While the statement is funny and made me laugh, it also saddened me to see how she misunderstood it. And I also think that there are many, many others who would say the same thing. I mean, really? Why would you want to do something hard when there are so many easier and "fun" things you could do instead? I started saying something like: "No! Doing hard things is good! If you always do what's easy you will waste your life!" I wanted so bad for her to see and understand the foolishness of an easy life and how good it was to do hard things!

But lately, I have been thinking. So often we as Christians think along those same lines. We know that following Christ in this world will be hard. But far too often we give in to that temptation to do what the world and our own sinful nature tells us, which is to do the easy thing. We grow tired of fighting sin so quickly. We even try to rationalize sin by making excuses that are even more sinful.

Every moment of every day we as Christians ought to be resisting sin and striving after righteousness, holiness, and humility for the glory of God in our lives. John Piper wrote in his book What Jesus Demands from the World says that the "Greek word behind the English "strive" is recognizable in English transliteration agonizesthe. You can see the word "agonize" in that Greek word. The implication is that we must struggle, wrestle and exert ourselves." In other words, striving after righteousness and living for Christ is extremely hard.

While we are still on this earth, and still in this weak and fallen flesh, though we are redeemed by Christ's blood, we still must wage war against the powers of evil within and without us (Romans 7). We so often tend to think that the more we grow in godliness and holiness, the easier it will be to overcome sin. How we fail to realize the truth is the exact opposite. It only gets harder. John Owen writes in his book Sin and Temptation, "There is no duty we perform for God that sin does not oppose. And the more spirituality or holiness there is in what we do, the greater is its enmity to it. Thus, those who seek the most for God experience the strongest opposition."

The Lord Himself has called His children to take up their crosses and follow Him. Our merciful Savior Himself endured the greatest hardship and suffering that any human has ever known at the cross of Calvary. Who are we as His followers to think that we deserve an easier life?

Yes this Christian life is hard. And yes this fierce and daily battle will continue as long as we live on this earth. But there is hope and comfort in the Savior, who has promised at the end, to deliver His children from their bodies of death. What a glorious hope we have in Him!

Let us keep pressing on, rejoicing in the great privilege we have as God's children, to be followers of His Son, bearers of His cross, and those who count all earthly gain but loss for the sake of knowing Him! There indeed is nothing harder than living for the Savior in a world and hearts where sin is rampant. But there also nothing that brings greater joy!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto JESUS, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1

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