The more I read the Bible, the more I am crushed by its spiritual weight. The words of this Book are not for the faint of heart. They are convicting. They are challenging. They are penetrating. For the Bible calls us to reckless abandon. There is no room for fence sitting. When reading the Bible, you are left with three options: 1) reject it, 2) twist it or 3) submit to it. Case in point, the Apostle Paul. This guy was over the top. Listen how he describes his Christian walk.
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” – 2 Corinthians 11:24-27
I don’t know about you, but my life is nothing like Paul’s life. Not even close. The closest I get to physically suffering for the Gospel is the off chance that I will receive a paper cut turning the pages of my Bible. Is this what Jesus means when He says, “In the world you will have tribulation.” I don’t think so.
This begs the question, is my low risk life consistent to my claim to be a follower of Jesus? No it is not. Granted, Paul played a specific role in Church history and lived in a different time, but let us not reject or twist the issue at hand. Why did all of these things happen to Paul? What was the catalyst behind this extreme life? It was his love for Jesus.
Christ had captivated Paul’s heart, and therefore Paul was putty in Jesus’ hands. Jesus called the shots for Paul, and Paul would not want it any other way. This is how much Paul loved Jesus. He would do anything for him, including being “a prisoner for the Lord.” The obedience of Paul was an overflow of his heart, and this should be the case for all of us. Jesus tells us plainly:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” – John 14:15
So the question is, “Do I love Jesus?” Do I love him enough to be a prisoner for Him? Do I love him enough to lay down EVERYTHING and follow Him? Does my life reflect that Jesus is my greatest treasure? I am not sure that it does. Truth be told, I look more like an imposter than a prisoner. So now what? How do I fix this problem? Romans 12:1 says this:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
How are we to lay down our lives for Jesus? By the mercies of God. The NIV says “in view of God’s mercy.” The answer to our failure to follow Christ is to keep our eyes upon the cross; to dwell upon the love of God; to meditate that God sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners. When we reflect on the mercy of God through Christ, it moves our hearts. It deepens our affections for Him. Meditating on the love of God produces love in us, a love that compels us to abandon everything for Him, even our own life. When Christ captivates our heart we begin to look like Christ, we start to “bear the marks of Jesus” in our lives, not just spiritually, but also physically.
Will this lead to tribulation in your life? Absolutely. You may lose your job, your home, your retirement, your family, but you will never lose Jesus, and he is infinitely better than everything. Nothing can separate us from His love, and his love is better than life.
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. “ – Psalm 63:1-7