"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty;

not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some."
Charles Dickens

Friday, June 13, 2008

Counting the cost...

2 Timothy 3: 12 (NIV) says that, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,"

  • If we are not persecuted, are we then not living a Godly life?
  • Is this some sort of an indicator of a "closet" Christian?; or
  • Is it the measure of how often we actually witness to people?
This verse is preparing me for persecution. There should not be a question mark as to whether we would or would not be persecuted. It is a matter of fact that as we live life in Christ, it will come. So, how then should we respond?

Our allegiance to Christ, of proclaiming the truth, of living it out in our daily lives, of righteousness (strong sense of right and wrong), should be a prominent feature in our lives and ought to be apparent to those around us.

I think that this allegiance to Christ must cost us something and knowing beforehand and preparing ourselves for it, is key. I do not look upon persecution as a delight but rather, a course or journey that must be taken. Staying on course is the primary objective.

  • What is a form of persecution that we would encounter where we are at, be it a work, amongst a group of people, in school, at home?
    • are we accused of not being "cool" because we refuse to dodge certain activities?
    • is it a dare or a challenge to dress or speak in a certain way?
    • are we made fun of because of our so called "holier than thou" behaviour?
    • do we get mocked by people for our squeaky clean language?
    • are we compared to people of other faiths?
Persecution should not be a "bad word" to us believers. We ought to embrace it, not because it is the righteous or noble "bad" thing that will happen to us but more so because, persecution is to me, an indicator to how boldly we are living for Christ. Instead of fearing persecution, fear that we aren't making Christ known.

(Living where I do, I don't suffer the kind of persecution that Paul or believers today (of other nationalities) have to go through on a daily basis. I just think that persecution can take many forms and vary in degree, from human to human and from situation to situation. So, living in the Bible Belt in the US for example, does not mean we wouldn't face persecution..)

Believing in Christ the Risen Lord costs us something. It costs us time, effort, there's opportunity cost, loss of income, things dear to us. It costs us our popularity, it costs us being judged, we are mocked, ridiculed, tormented and sometimes it costs even us our most valued relationship. It costs us our dogged perseverence, unwavering determination, uncompromising faith and obedience. It can even cost us our very lives.

So, is it then a burden to live for Him, to call Him Lord and Savior? Is it then BETTER if we abandon this idea of faith in Him and go on our own way? Wouldn't it be just too testy to live a life of strife with others, and instead let's just "see how things pan out and go with the flow"? It is simpler, less thinking, effort, planning involved, as after all, we don't know what tomorrow holds, so just take today for whatever we can get from it?

I've tried that. It actually works... for a while. We will be swept by the tide of man and time, live, laugh, play and sometimes feel happiness. Life on earth has much to offer since the Lord made it for us anyways. There will be good stuff and there will be bad stuff, just as if you had given yourself to Christ. So, then, what is the difference?

This was the big difference for me. Feeling empty on the inside. Nothingness, aloneness, hopelessness. Doing whatever I wanted didn't give me any joy. The more I did what I liked, the more empty I felt. It came to a point I was nauseous from the emptiness I felt in the pit of my stomach.

Plans and a purpose was the next biggie. I looked at the great plans I had all laid out for me and then looked at God's plan for me (Jeremiah 29: 11). He had so much more! It was BIGGER, better and best of all, He would be there to see it through for me! I only needed to say Yes and keep on saying Yes to Him. So unbelievably simple! Needless to say, the rewards in the life hereafter are also very substantial..

Does it mean that I had to do stuff I hate to do, even today? Yes. Did it and does it mean that I can't do things as and when I liked? Why, yes! Do I keep on having to make decision after decision, choice after choice every single day, to abide in Him? Yes, yes, yes! Is it easy? No! It is not!

How difficult it is for us to make these decisions daily, to follow Him, to walk with Him, to love Him and to love His people? It sounds such an impossible task ... so let's just count His cost so that we can make these decisions. God sent His only Son, Jesus who Himself suffered, was persecuted, ridiculed, mocked, beaten, and eventually killed so that we have a choice. He GAVE His life so that we have a "so that". Are we worth His cost? He seems to think so.

In a nutshell, and very candidly put, I would rather follow Christ and as and when, endure some suffering, a little hardship and even persecution for His Name sake (for it happens to be nothing compared to what He Himself endured for me so that I can live) than to suffer needlessly as a consequence of my own selfish actions, decisions and ambition or worse yet, for no reason and purpose at all!

What kind of a deal is that?

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