Our lives are full of feelings, events, truths, realities, struggles, etc… I am not here to tell you that I have a secret formula to avoid anything hard in your life.
That is largely in part because it one: isn’t possible and two: even if we could avoid many of those struggles, what are we missing out on when we get to the other side?
Before I go further, I’m not being masochistic or thinking that God wants us to struggle so we can “see how good we have it” or anything like that. I truly know and believe God wants and has what is best for us. However, it is an ever present reality that we will deal with struggles in our lives.
Hence why I am titling this series of posts “The Journey”. Life is full of ups and downs. Something beautiful about a journey is that there are ups and downs, but the goal, the destination, the purpose, that is what keeps driving us forward in our journey towards the goal. 1 Corinthians 9:24 is fitting to this when Paul says “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”
I am no star athlete by any means, but I do know that a race is not easy. Not only does it take training and practice before the race can be competed in and completed, but throughout it there are plenty of highs and lows. Your body requires a balance of hydration, rest, strength training, endurance training, etc… You can get a cramp, trip and fall, get dehydrated, heat exhaustion, etc…
And oh yeah, YOU CAN FINISH! 🙂
Let this be the focal point of what I am saying here. I didn’t state the negative things to whine or complain or try to gain compassion for our struggles, but it was instead to help us remember what we need to be focused on: Following Jesus.
In our midweek Men’s study at church, we are going through a book called “The Anatomy of a Disciple” (Taylor, 2013), and in it, there is a great, profound, yet simple statement that being a disciple means you follow “a teacher, with the intent of becoming like them.” But how? How do we become more like Jesus?
Bring your focus back to Matthew 5 here. This is a fairly popular portion of Scripture known as the Sermon on the Mount and, in the portion we are looking at directly, the Beatitudes. They are fascinating. They are short sentences that we can truly chew on for a life time and still grow and learn from.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Some of these things, most would probably say “Yes, I want that to be an attribute of my life and character”: gentleness, righteousness, peace, purity, etc…
Then there are some that are like what? I’m blessed if I am: in mourning? If I am persecuted and insulted? How?
Those can be hard to swallow at first. If we are in mourning, that means we have experienced a loss. If we are persecuted and insulted and have false lies spoken against us, well, that isn’t fun! So how could I possibly call that a blessing?
When Jesus spoke these words, they were just as shocking to the people back then. In their society, these would have been contradictory to the norm and opposite of what people would have stated as having a favored, blessed, life.
Notice a common theme throughout the blessed statements here? Show mercy, be pure in heart, mourn, hunger for righteousness, make peace, be persecuted for the sake of righteousness. ALl of those things point away from one’s self and recognizes that our true needs are only met elsewhere: through God. Show mercy to others, make peace with others, be so willing to live a righteous life even to the point where if making a stand for God means we suffer hardship and persecution: then so be it because it is the path we need to take.
When we suffer loss and mourn, we aren’t turning inward and saying “I can take care of myself” but rather are outwardly recognizing loss and that we need to go to God for comfort.
So: The Journey. It will have its ups and downs. It will have its tough times. Hold strong to it though because as we move through this journey of following Christ, there are things to be celebrated and we must cling to the fact that even in our darkest of hours, God is right there with us, comforting and guiding our every step.
As I continue to discuss our journey of following Christ by going through the Gospels, let us remember that God is with us and that even when we face hard times, the race we are running and the prize we are headed towards so greatly outweighs the struggles the persecution we will face.
May God bless, lead and comfort you, Amen.