I won’t pack my bags and walk off into the dusk leaving faith and hope behind.
- Ray Rooney, Jr.
Everything in life is hard. It’s hard to make a living. It’s hard to keep a marriage together. It’s hard to raise children (the right way). It’s hard to get along with people. It’s hard to watch our country being driven into third world status (it was absolutely sickening to see members of the United States Navy on their knees with their hands on top of their heads obeying commands of Iranian sailors). It’s hard to stomach the moral cesspool our culture has become. The monsters at Planned Parenthood are exposed as the ghouls they always have been in secret and lawmakers not only fail to hold them accountable legally, they see no problem with continuing to give them a half billion dollars of taxpayer money!
So we go to church seeking encouragement and strength in the midst of all of life’s difficulties. And what do we often find? Half empty sanctuaries! Christians who seem unfazed about the persecution of their brothers and sisters halfway around the world despite the near weekly videos of beheadings or Christian sites being leveled by ISIS. Nonplussed about the undercover Planned Parenthood videos where doctors and staffers giggle about harvesting babies brains and the sports cars they hope to buy from the profits. Nonchalant about the obliteration of the biblical definition of marriage by the Supreme Court. Unconcerned that in November half of the nation will vote for either a self-described socialist or a woman who turned her back on Americans in desperate need in Benghazi and kept top secret emails on a server in her bathroom.
When we do find a church that’s full, half the time the pastor is grinning from ear to ear telling the people that all God wants for them is to be happy themselves and accommodating to others. No one seems to care that Jesus is on record saying that self-denial and sustaining agonizing difficulties are required to be His disciples (Luke 9:23 and 14:27).
It’s hard when other Christians pick and choose which red letters in the Gospels are relevant when it comes to how they decide to treat you. They’ll adhere to what Jesus said about salvation (John 3:16) but dismiss what He said about doing to others what you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12). They’ll look at their own sins as missteps and foibles while looking at yours as outrageous and unforgiveable.
It’s hard. It’s hard because there never seems to be any end in sight. Our government isn’t going to suddenly find Jesus, repent of its sins, and restore the biblical definition of marriage, end legalized abortion, wage war against pornography, end the debt cycle, protect our borders, end entitlements, or get rid of either the ridiculous tax code or the IRS. And Christians aren’t suddenly going to stop stabbing each other in the back, go to church every Sunday, allow their pastors to start preaching about the issues that are tearing this world and our nation apart, or actually start telling people that Jesus is the Son of God who died for their sins.
I want to quit. I’m tired of losing all the time. I want to go home where I belong (Heaven).
But then I begrudgingly yield to what I know from the word of God.
The faith that God gifted me to accept Christ as the propitiation for my sins (in the first place) remains within and is supposed to be utilized to walk daily in obedience to God…no matter how hard, tiring, and unfair life seems to be.
Life was pretty hard for the first Christians wasn’t it? I mean, our Guy won. You are hard pressed not to call what Jesus did absolute victory. When you walk out of a tomb days after having been murdered never to die again guaranteeing anyone who would believe in you would be “more than conquerors” like He was…that’s V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!
And yet…it didn’t prevent the whining, complaining, and backstabbing among “believers” did it? Four chapters into the book of Acts two of the Apostles are arrested and threatened. The very next chapter is all about a highfalutin wealthy couple who lie about their giving to the church (oh and by the way, also in chapter 5 those same two Apostles get arrested again and this time are beaten). Six chapters into the book of Acts the Apostles were being thrown under the bus for not taking their turns in the Jerusalem Food Pantry. By the time you get to Acts 12 James (head of the Church in Jerusalem is killed for his faith) and Peter is put in prison for the third time. Keep reading in Acts and you’ll see that when Saul was converted becoming Paul the Apostle he was hated by the religious leadership he had abandoned and disdained by the Church because of his former persecutions (got to love those forgiving Christians).
It didn’t get any better. Every time Paul would plant a successful church and left to plant another some “believers” would come in behind him and try to unravel everything he did (read Galatians). And were the Apostles, empowered by their Lord and Savior with the ability to do great signs and wonders able to turn things around in their beloved nation? No they weren’t. In case you either didn’t know or forgot, Rome finally had enough of the Jews political and religious shenanigans and zeroed them. Razed the beloved temple creating a dispersal that lasted almost two thousand years. I guess the Apostles and faithful Christians didn’t “claim” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (or didn’t claim it with enough hooping and hollering).
And keep in mind: none of the Apostles died peacefully in their beds with their families gathered around singing songs.
Life is hard. Those who tell you otherwise are either lying, misinformed, or sheltered. What really makes it hard, though, are not the difficulties or trials themselves. It’s the wistful notion that they shouldn’t be happening to us at all. If I think I am entitled to prosperity, health, and success in everything I put my hand to…I am deceived. Oh I read where Jesus said, “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26) but I know that every single person who heard Him say that…died. He must have meant something more or beyond the simplistic notion of death being a beating heart gone still.
Yeah, I’m tired of never getting ahead. I’m sick of being hurt by other Christians. I’m tired of failing my wife, kids, and church. I know I’m never going to see this nation restored to what its Founders envisioned. I’ll be taxed unfairly until I’m dead. I’ll probably never get an apology from those brothers and sisters of the faith who sinned against me. I’ll never be rich. My back will never stop hurting. And I probably won’t ever get ahead of my debts.
But guess what? I won’t quit. I won’t pack my bags and walk off into the dusk leaving faith and hope behind. Every day is a new day and with it comes hope. I will slog on through the muck and mire of apparent worldly indifference or defeat “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). I’ll remember my Lord who before He was received into Heaven on a cloud was first lifted up on a cross. I’ll remember the Apostles who although they healed diseases and even raised the dead, spent most of their post Pentecost lives going from one hard situation to another eventually being put to a brutal death. I’ll remember that even though the strongest men and women of faith in the first century lived in or around Jerusalem, by 71 A.D. it was gone. I’ll remember that Hebrews 11 ends with an ‘Oh and by the way, all those heroes of the faith…yeah, a whole lot more of them died and “did not receive what was promised…’” (Hebrews 11:39).
My job in life is not to defeat Goliath. It is not to be lauded as I stand upon the victor's dais. No, my job is to simply remain faithful. There’s not as much fanfare or notoriety in that but didn’t someone who knew Jesus once say, “He must increase, but I must decrease”? So, I will not quit. I will continue to fight the good fight of faith even if it looks like I'll never win or get ahead. I will "Trust and Obey" when I know beforehand that it will not win any friends or accolades. As the temple is torn down stone by stone I will sing "A Mighty Fortress" while the Romans laugh.
Need a verse? Here is one that reminds me of what my life is supposed to be about:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed...(2 Timothy 2:15)