Unfortunately, many Christians have been given a half Gospel. Pastors, teachers, parents, friends love to talk about the blessings of God, but nothing about the cost. Many people are only told that a life following Jesus is a life of joy, peace, love and hope. This all sounds great, so you said yes to Jesus. Who wouldn’t?
But reality soon set in. Perhaps you lose your job, you get sick, you run out of money, your marriage hits the rocks, you lose friends, etc. At that point you start to wonder if any of those gospel promises are true. Following Jesus isn’t panning out the way you thought. Where is the peace?
The problem is that when Christ was shared with you, you were only given a partial truth. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely true that a Christian life is one of joy, peace, love, hope, and many more blessings, but it doesn’t come without earthly sacrifice.
Jesus says in Luke 14:27-30, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.”
When the Gospel is proclaimed, the central reality of that Gospel is Jesus. We are called to believe and follow Jesus. He is to be our greatest Treasure. This calling to follow Jesus comes with a price. We must lay everything down, bear our own cross, and go after Jesus. We cannot cling to the world and cling to Christ. We must choose. As the Psalmist says, “your steadfast love is better than life.” (Psalm 63).
So how do we know if we have truly let go of everything to follow Christ? Suffering.
Little by little (or sometimes a lot) God allows for us to face difficulties. In those difficulties we start to wonder if God has turned his back on us. We become like Israel who asked “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7) The answer to that question for Israel in the book of Exodus and for true Christians today is yes. God is always with us. Jesus said it himself in Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ALWAYS…TO THE END.
The difficulties in life are the test that creates the evidence of authentic faith. For those who throw in the towel, the evidence proves they never trusted in Jesus to begin with. They never counted the cost. Their faith was counterfeit. However, for those who endure and are steadfast in their commitment to Jesus no matter how hard it gets, their perseverance is evidence of their true saving faith.
This is why we can rejoice when tribulations arise, for God is providing an opportunity for evidence of the true condition of our hearts. In fact, in a sense, the presence of trials proves the presence of God, and the absence of trials proves the absence of God. Why can we say this? Hebrews 12:7, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”