6 Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
Courage founded on the strength and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most important ways for the believer to counter the difficult life that lies ahead. The Christian life is far from easy! But it is the most joyful and rewarding path any person can take. Those who do not side with God are the ones missing out, no matter how much worldly success they may attain.
It is not those who succeed in this world for themselves who partake of all the “action” but those who are actually engaging the spiritual battles around them by making the most significant difference for the Lord. Believers who love God as they should will suffer more because they are greater threats to Satan’s cause. Not only will the evil one attack such individuals more aggressively God will test them with more frequent and higher intensity than those casually “walking the race” because their faith has grown strong enough to handle more challenging circumstances. Therefore, they will be held to higher standards because God expects the most committed followers to do more than those with less zeal. Those who give more of their lives will be expected to take greater “punishment” from the world to strengthen their relationship with God. But no believer who stays at one place for most of their life with little progress will ever be honored for making sacrifices they never made.
It is easy for serious believers to develop a feeling that they are somehow “missing out” of all the so-called “fun” and “action” that less committed believers and unbelievers enjoy. First, no person can take any credit for what they did in this world because God gave them the ability to do it. There is nothing done in this life that God doesn’t get credit or glory for! True, He provided us with free will to choose Him, and we decide ourselves to respond. But we would never have had a free choice if God had not granted it to us. Also, we wouldn’t even exist on planet earth had our Lord never put us here. There is nothing new under the sun, and nothing done apart from Christ will ever mean a thing in eternity. Only what is done for Him will last because only the fruit we bring forth will remain. Whether academic, athletic, or intellectual, no worldly achievements will be remembered in eternity. Only the fruit of ministry will be leftover, whether we served others through just about everything we did or not.
Anyway, and more to the point, it is very easy to look around and see everyone else enjoying themselves and being “successful” in life. But God is the One who defines true success and rewards those who pursue His standards. The believer is not missing out on anything! They may wonder, “everyone else has it easier and seems to be enjoying life more than me. Yet here I am, suffering and constantly engaged in spiritual battle. What do I have going for me? Is it worth it to continue? Why is life so hard for me but easier and more carefree for everyone else” This situation results from picking up our crosses and following Jesus (Luke 14:27). That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy many aspects of the physical/material world (as long as they aren’t sinful). But a total commitment to God means putting aside whatever is necessary to follow Him as He wants us to, a life that may require us to forgo our dreams, aspirations, plans, and relationships. It is highly doubtful the Lord wants us to give up all our possessions—please do not do that, dear reader! But we should be willing to give up whatever the Lord is leading us to sacrifice for Him and others (just as long as we heed the Spirit’s leading properly and don’t misunderstand His intentions for us).
Increased suffering in this life (assuming it occurs because of spiritual growth) is an honor that our Lord allows us to face and one of the biggest indicators that we are doing what we are supposed to do! All those who live righteously can expect opposition and hardships (2 Timothy 3:12). As we grow spiritually among those indifferent or less enthusiastic to our cause, we will notice the gap between them and us beginning to grow. The world hates Jesus Christ, so it is no surprise that Satan and all those under his influence will target His most influential followers who proclaim His name in what they say and do (John 15:18-25).
We live in a difficult time of the church, an era characterized by lukewarmness and indifference to the Christian life. The world of unbelievers already makes circumstances hard enough, but most in Christ’s body only add to the challenge. Physical family members are of particular interest here because they can often bring the worst out of us. In no way do we intend to bash anyone, and there have been many individuals blessed with godly, upstanding family members. But the saying from Jesus, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home” can still apply when used as a general principle. More serious believers may have unbelieving parents and siblings, while others may have less enthusiastic brothers and sisters with less commitment. The more an individual grows in the truth, the farther away they will grow from their family if they aren’t on board. It is tough (though not always) to get any “headway” with relations because they already know them and assume they have everything about the individual figured out. Therefore, they tend to take them less seriously and often don’t understand where they are going and why they are headed in the direction they are. But even though family can present a unique difficulty, that is how it is with most Christians in general. Very few want the truth, so only a small minority pursue it.
So how does one cope with all the world’s difficulties, both spiritual and physical? As we said at the beginning of this discussion, there is perhaps a no better way to do this than to encourage oneself in the Lord as David did. We must never forget that our worth, value, and identity are in Jesus Christ and Him alone (Psalm 139:14) and that our ultimate objective here on earth is to please our Savior with as much time and energy that He grants us. We have a mission to carry out, and the least and smallest reward in eternity will surpass the greatest earthly “accomplishment” a hundred times over. Therefore, we must always strive to think on things above (Colossians 3:2; Philippians 4:8) and encourage (rally ourselves) in the truth of God’s Word on which we stand. Jesus is our confidence and the very purpose of this faith of ours. Our lives are all about Him! Do we honestly think living for Him will become easier trying to do it our way? Do we believe things will get better if we compromise our spiritual progress to indulge in the world? Do we think we will get very far if we act as if this earth is our home and we will be here forever? Living for Jesus and all that such a life entails is never simple, but how much easier it becomes when we let God be our strength and confidence!
So we may become discouraged when living for Christ causes us to lose out on this or that. But those who miss out are those who never believe. It is not our concern what the world does or what they think. We live for Jesus and strive to please Him, not people. God’s opinion is what matters, not men’s. Those giving their very best for Jesus will be misunderstood and “categorized” as people they aren’t, whether this type of behavior comes from believers or non-believers. The best thing for the committed Christian to remember is all they have in Christ, not what they don’t have. Whatever God gives or withholds, it is for our very best.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
We must learn to be content with ourselves, possessions, abilities, circumstances, and lot in life. We may think we are miserable because we don’t have something WE want. But are we really sad, or is that our flesh and the devil telling us so? Just because something seems, appears, or feels a certain way does not make it the reality. If we walk by the Spirit, we must also keep in step with Him day by day, moment by moment (Galatians 5:25). We must heed His still, small voice by recalling all the truth He brings to our remembrance to counter such lies that we can’t be happy unless we have what WE desire. But if we encourage ourselves in the Lord who is our everything, we will bear up under these troubling thoughts and feelings so that our desires align with His.
Do we feel inadequate or inferior to others in some way due to the sacrifices we have made for Christ? Or do we now believe our lives are less exciting and more boring because of the hardships we must endure for following Jesus? If that is the case, we need to rethink how we are approaching our daily walk. We need to remember what the Lord has and will give us. Paul said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
We should never feel ashamed for doing something that most people on earth aren’t doing- living our very best for the Lord. That is what life is all about, and those who don’t take this seriously do so to their loss and peril. For this reason, most Christians who spend eternity with God will have little to show for their time on earth. Let’ not forget what our Lord said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. It is written, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” To this, Paul says, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, I am strong.” So when we suffer while everyone else basks in the enjoyments of this world they pursue, we need to remember that our losses in this life are gains in eternity. Unfortunately, it is often the most serious followers of Christ who get the least amount of attention. Yet it is far better to be “under the radar” making the greatest sacrifices for the kingdom than “out in the open” receiving praise and applause from men accomplishing little. God notices all His children’s work, and He sees differently than man who often bases success on fame and popularity; a reality common in the church, which often esteems the wrong people by emphasizing the lesser things.
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Instead of esteeming others, we should credit everything to our Lord and Master, who gave up everything to grant us the eternal life we shall one day enjoy. The more you love a person, the more you want to please them, correct? Indeed, and that is how we should conduct ourselves toward God. If we do less, it is because we love less. If we do more, it is because we love more.