A Precedence of Difficulty
What are you called to do with your life? That question echoes in the minds of many in our culture. Countless individuals walk around every day with thoughts bouncing back and forth on this issue. Truth being, I don’t know what you are called to with your life, nor am I here to give you an easy three-step questionnaire to figure it out at a reduced price of $19.99. However, I do want to give you a piece of practical advice on this subject which I believe is as pertinent for the 50-year-old as it is for the 15-year-old. Whatever it is that God has called you to, you can be assured that it is not going to be an easy undertaking. There will be determination necessary. At many points, it will feel like an uphill battle. Sweat, tears, and blood will be mixed together as you place one foot in front of the other seeking to use the gifts God has given to you in the way He has called you for the good of others and the glory of His name.
How can I be so certain that the path will be strenuous and the way filled with difficulty? Consider my first exhibit: Meet Noah, who was called by God to live righteously, build an Ark, and then repopulate the earth with his family (Genesis 6:14, 9:1, and 9:7). He literally watched as God poured out judgment upon every living thing, except that which was included in the ark. It would be impossible to imagine the amount of scorn and opposition he faced from others prior to the actual flood. No doubt, this calling was difficult with many strenuous moments. Another illustration, consider the man named Elijah called to be a prophet declaring the truth of God. He had to stand against all of Baal’s prophets, deal with obstinate royalty, and Queen Jezebel even wanted to kill him (1 Kings 19:1-2). Paul suffered prison time and martyrdom, as did Peter. The early church was persecuted, beaten, and bruised all the while trying to remain faithful to what Christ had called them to. Yet, despite all of these things, perhaps the clearest illustration of the difficult path lies in the crystal clear words of our Lord:
“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
Christ told His followers to expect opposition even to the point of persecution. If they are going to be His disciple, there is a cost. A high price must be paid for those who seek to be faithful to the call of their Master. The assignment coming from the nail-scarred hands of the Sovereign King is not without difficulty, turmoil, and much strife. But, then why undertake the task? What is it which drives followers of Christ to be obedient in the midst of much suffering?
The Joy of The Cost
Believers are working for the glory of the eternal King whose reign shall never end. It is His glory that is our ultimate aim in life. This reality is why the Apostle Paul, while being the target of animosity during his stint in a Roman prison cell, could say:
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” -Philippians 1:18
Paul had joy in the midst of suffering because Christ was being glorified, even if he personally was on the receiving end of hatred and trials. Therefore, what we need in our day is a mindset change. We are not called for the sake of ourselves, but instead that we might live for the glory of Christ. Undoubtedly, the climb up the mountain of life is one which will be exerting, thrilling, difficult, adventurous, and joyful. Moments of heartache, situations of triumph, and much more await us on this journey. However, the purpose of the pursuit is worth every twist and turn along the way. Knowing that fact brings us peace in the middle of conflict and joy while walking through intense sorrow. At the same time, understanding that difficulty lies ahead helps us traverse the path with wisdom instead of ignorance.
Preparing For The Difficulties
Christ spoke of the wisdom of “counting the cost” to His followers during His earthly ministry. In Luke 14:27-28 He says:
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” -Luke 14:27-28
The foundational call to be Christ’s disciple is going to be costly in terms of this world, though the eternal reward of the joy of knowing Him far outweighs any hardship. Since this reality is true, the specific way He has gifted and called each of us to serve Him will also prove to have difficulties. If you believe that as soon as you figure out what God has gifted you to do that everything is going to be a bed of roses, then you are going to be blindsided by reality. God did not prune all of the thorns out of the pathway of your life, rather, He has promised to use the thorns for your eternal good and His everlasting glory (Romans 8:28, James 1:2-4).
What we need in our day is not only a rejuvenation of people seeking to live out the call of Christ, but also those who have an understanding of the cost, and then proceed forth with joy. For most of us, the path will not be filled with glamor, fame, adoration, or popularity. It is not the approval of the world we seek. Rather, we lift up our eyes to the Father’s right hand and see Him who died for us ruling and reigning on high. Spurred on by that sight, we go where He calls, live as He directs, and work with obedience to His commands. Come what may, Christ is sovereign and He shall even use the difficult seasons for good in the end. This perspective gives us the joyful determination to endure and persevere. Because we know that Christ shall equip us for that to which He has called us all the while using each step for His glory. The pathway up the mountain may be difficult, but the King sits enthroned at the top and has promised to be with us each step. Let us understand the cost, consider the joy of knowing God, then set our gaze forward with a determined and joyful mindset laboring as God has gifted each of us uniquely!