At the Well…In Pursuit of Titus 2 (click here and scroll down) is asking today: “What do you do to live a more challenging life in Christ? What areas in life are you tempted to take the easy way out?
How can you overcome those thoughts and desires? What Scriptures have you found to help develop your character in your God-given role in life?
“This topic is so broad with so many side-topics, it’s hard to corral it into one pen of thoughts. One could write a lengthy book on whether, and in what ways, pursuing an easy (or easier) life is detrimental to one’s spiritual progress. Because I cannot write a book here on the subject, I’m going to look at just three points in a discussion of this weighty question (with the understanding that it is only the “tip of the iceberg”):
1) Jesus Christ’s example,
2) Denying the Flesh to Strengthen the Spirit, and
3) Some Scriptures which are helpful.
1) Jesus Christ’s Example
Reading Luke 2 this morning in our family devotions, I was struck with the extreme conditions of Jesus’ birth: born as a baby and placed in a manger full of straw! Was that really necessary? Why did God choose such an extremely humble birth and life for His Son?
Jesus’ Whole Life Pointed To The Cross
Jesus’ life was like one long arrow pointing and leading up to His death on the cross for us, in payment for our sins. That’s what it was all about. At the end, crucifixion was a shameful and excruciating way to die. From a human, fleshly perspective, from the beginning to the end, Jesus’ life was “challenging,” to say the least. He definitely did not take the easy way out. (Praise God for the Resurrection of Christ!!)
Christ did nothing wrong–never sinned. And yet he suffered, he was reviled, he was threatened, and ultimately he was killed. He didn’t look for trouble, but he wasn’t looking for a “cushy” life. He wasn’t asking, “What’s in this for me?” He wasn’t looking for “fun.”
Christ is King. The life that we associate with that status is a far cry from what he experienced on earth, yet we, instead of “following His steps” think that we should live like kings, as children of the King. When I think of Christ’s earthly life, and how much He suffered, out of love for me, and how comfortable my life is, it is very convicting.
The Word says He “learned obedience through the things which He suffered”. If Jesus had to learn obedience, and suffering was the way God chose for Him to learn it, it should cause us to have a different opinion and attitude towards suffering in our lives. Perhaps we should even introduce it into our lives and the lives of our children on purpose?
2) I know what you’re thinking
“Is she crazy? What’s she talking about? Is she masochistic or sadistic or something? Pretty soon she’ll be telling us to physically beat ourselves to be more spiritual!” No, no, no, hold on! Hear me out!
The Horrible “D” Word
I’m only talking about “discipline.” You know, that horrible D-word which means pain to your body and being, but which makes you a better person? (And when inflicted on your child’s behind, brings about a sweet, happy contented child?) Yes, that D-word.
Hebrews 12 talks alot about it. It speaks of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”
The author of Hebrews continues, “My son, despise not thou the chastening (discipline) of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?…Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we gave them reverence.” (We should discipline our children because we love them, and because they need to learn obedience through the things which they suffer! It is assumed that fathers will discipline their children. Mental note: Write post on proper use of the rod in child-training.)
The purpose of God’s chastening, or disciplining, of us follows: “…he (chastens us) for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”
But we’re human. And we’re sinful. And then there’s satan. So, the truth is, our fleshly desires get in the way of our seeing suffering and pain from God’s perspective. Satan tells us that our lot in life is difficult already and we certainly aren’t “avoiding” hard things. And there’s no reason to look for ways to make life more difficult, right?
What Do You Do When You Want To Get Physically Stronger?
Well…when you want to make your physical body stronger, what do you do? You exercise, right? And more specifically, perhaps you lift weights. You absolutely DO make things more difficult for whichever muscles you want to become stronger! The premise behind weight-training is to place resistance against the muscle, causing it to have to “push back”. That strengthens it. (Not that I am an expert:)
What Do You Do When You Want To Get Spiritually Stronger?
It’s the same in your spiritual life. Sailing along on a bed of ease doesn’t work any of your spiritual muscles. We grow stronger spiritually when we are pressed with difficulties, overcome obstacles, and travel through times of trial and temptation. The adversities of life are the spiritual weight-training program of the Lord. Any person who’s disciplining their physical body through exercise knows there’s some agony and pain involved. (And any child receiving discipline from a loving parent knows there’s some pain involved.)
“Now no chastening (discipline) for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” v. 11 And if you’re also dieting, you know that you have to deny the flesh what it wants in order to obtain a greater good. Denying the flesh in order to grow in the spirit is a strong theme throughout Scripture.
The apostle Paul describes some of his life’s experiences in 2 Corinthians 4: he lists being troubled, perplexed, persecuted, cast down. Also, 2 Timothy 3:12 states, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Why should our life be easy, then? Only because our flesh desires it.
The world, and even certain Christian circles, would tell us this is the best goal, seek to satisfy every desire of the flesh. Aim for a problem-free existence, pamper yourself–You Deserve It! If you don’t want to do it–then don’t! If it’s fraught with difficulty, it must mean you’re not supposed to do it. You’ve got enough problems and responsibilities in this life without looking for more–try to eliminate the bumps in life every way you can. Smooth sailing, wind at your back all the way, success at every turn.
It comes down to the flesh vs. the spirit, once again.
We are not to walk in the flesh, fulfilling the appetites of the flesh, but to walk in the spirit. Romans 8:5-6, 13–“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
Where the Rubber Meets The Road
There are some very simple and homely examples from everyday life which are “where the rubber meets the road” for me. Do I get up when my alarm goes off, or hit the snooze button three times? Do I walk past the M&Ms in the bowl on the counter, and ignore the Christmas cookies on the buffet table? Do I “indulge” in putting my feet up after a “hard day,” and watch a feel-good chick-flick, when many household tasks are crying out to be completed?
Am I willing to risk experiencing the pain of rejection, and embarrassment and shame, by boldly sharing the gospel with others God puts in my way (including those closest to me). Perhaps I need to purposely cause some pain to be experienced in order to cause my spiritual muscle to be strengthened.
3) Scriptures which help me:
Romans 12:1-2–“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God; which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Proverbs 6:6,10-11–“Go to the ant, thou sluggard: consider her ways, and be wise:…Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth, and thy want as an armed man.”
1 Peter 2:19-24–“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not: but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
2 Cor. 4:16-18–“Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For which cause we faint not: but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Proverbs 4:7ff–“Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”
Matthew 10:38-39–“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
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