Sunday, June 19, 2016

What is it like to follow Jesus?


Something in me wants to be able to say you'll be healthy, wealthy, satisfied, fulfilled etc. 

But, chewing over what Paul writes in Romans 8 and what the Sons of Korah write in Psalm 44 (which is cited by Paul) it seems that a life following Jesus is more like 'dying all day long'.

It's the Father's plan to make those who follow Jesus more like Jesus. To conform us to the image of his Son. Jesus was not rich, powerful, privileged. He sunk down and down and down to death.

Is it really that bad?

The secular liturgies of my culture and the hopes and dreams of my sinful heart really hope not. I'm Western, we're winners. But it doesn't take much living before the brokenness of life breaks in to my life or to those around me.

It won't do to try and cover over the cracks, it won't do to just push the suffering out of sight and out of mind... it wont work and it wont help. The hardship of life isn't just the acute moments that can be met with intense and brief responses. So much of what's wrong in life is chronic. It'll still be here next week and next year. It wont go away. It wont get better. Not yet.

As a believer in Jesus what can I say? 
  • The Lord who saved me also afflicts me. Dare I say that? What's the alternative? To say that the world is out of control? To live at the whim of chance? 
  • The Lord who saved me is not against me. I remember him and he remembers me. I hold on to him, he holds on to me. But that doesn't mean I don't suffer. It probably means I will suffer - how can I follow him if I don't follow him to Calvary? 
  • The Lord who saved me is working for my good in this.
  • The Lord who saved me will heal more than I can imagine - this might be bad but the bad days of this life are as bad as it will get - there is resurrection life to come but not today.
  • The Lord who saved me does not give me all the answers. There are aspects of "why?" that I can know and many that I cannot. In the fire I may lose all things, but in the fire I have him.
When, to Timothy, Paul writes proverbially about the Christian life he tells of farmers who could lie in but wouldn't have a harvest if they did... soldiers who could enjoy civilian pursuits but would give up their commander's pleasure to do so... athletes who could cut corners but wouldn't take the crown if they did....

Paul pictures those who finally reign has having endured... those who live as having died.

I might have a happier life outside of Christ now, but at what final cost? And there's no guarantee of that ease, though some things might well be easier away from Christ. In Christ I know that hardships will come. Patience, gentleness and joy might be learned in ease but are more often formed in the fire. Christlikeness comes through cruciformity. The hard seasons, momentary and ongoing, are the places where growth can happen - though they're also opportunities to become bitter and reject Christ.

What's it like to follow Jesus?

It's like having Jesus - walking the path to crucifixion with him, for the joy set before us of having him. This might not sound like the attractive over-promises of the resurrection-now brigade, but what relief and hope for suffering souls... what sense is senseless days... what comfort from the Christ whose words are 

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