We had no idea what following Jesus would require. Oh, we thought we knew. We had great ideas. The disciples had the same hopes one day in Capernaum. It didn’t include struggle in the Christian life.
That day in Capernaum, Jesus set straight some people who intended to make Him king by force, and He spoke some hard words. Afterwards, many no longer followed Him.
Jesus then turned to His disciples with a question.
It’s also a question for us.
Releasing the Christian Life We Want
That day in Capernaum, after others chose no longer to follow Jesus, He asked the disciples:
You do not want to leave too, do you? —John 6:67
Peter’s answer reflects the attitude we should have as well: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus’ words are hard words—but there are no alternatives.
There cannot be. But we thought there was.
We thought the Christian life meant that once we believed in Jesus, if we walked obediently, certain things would happen:
- God would bless us
- Protect us
- Put us at ease
- Dote on us as His children
To some extent, we still expect that. But God wants to give us something greater than those things.
Welcome to the Normal Christian Life
My uncle has a painting by Bill Hampton hanging in his home. The picture shows a crusty old cowboy, rugged and wrinkled, squinting just past you. The caption at the bottom reveals his thoughts in simple terms:
There were a helluva lot of things they didn’t tell me when I hired on with this outfit.
That cowboy might as well be Peter or John or any of the other disciples. Or he could be you or me. Why?
Struggle in the Christian life is normal. Peter would later write:
Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. —1 Peter 4:12
God promises struggle in the Christian life because God shapes us through them. Our growth comes no other way. The Lord wants to give us more than comfort. He wants to give Christlikeness.
3 Truths Many Miss About Struggle in the Christian Life
Here are 3 truths worth mulling over:
- Have you ever considered struggle in the Christian life as a temporary privilege? (Take the time to read the scene leading up to Acts 5:41.)
- In heaven, we’ll honor Christ to His face. But now we have the privilege of honoring Him in the face of struggle—by faith, not by sight.
- Then we’ll glory in His transfiguration. Now we glorify Him beneath the cross we bear—and in temptation and weakness (see 2 Cor. 12:7-9).
I’m no masochist, believe me. Yet I’m eager to honor God during the longest life He will allow me and, while I’m here, to struggle well.