For the past few months, I have been reading about some of the heroes of the faith, and as I read, I could not help but ask myself if I would be willing to suffer as they did for Christ. My heart ached inside me, because although I would readily say yes; I do not know as though I would. This troubled me greatly; how could I not be willing to die for the One Who gave Himself for me? It is simple really; it is too far out of my comfort zone. In today’s Christianity, we are willing to readily reject Christ if it causes us to be uncomfortable. We refuse to give up friends, music, or even padded seats for God, so why would suffering and dying for Him be any different? As I was talking to my friend about this, she made this awesome statement:
“Honestly I think part of it is due to the fact that the early Christians had such a deeper love for The Lord and appreciation for what He had done for them that to deny Him just to avoid suffering was unthinkable to them. We live in such a ‘comfort zone’ mentality that we avoid anything that causes pain or makes us uncomfortable. We take God and our relationship with Him for granted, and as a result, [we] don’t think it’s a big deal to deny Him. We have it ‘easier’, but I dare say those saints of old knew Him much deeper and appreciated Him so much more than is common today. We’re willing to settle for less of Him to make our lives easier.“
We are called to live the crucified life, but we refuse because it is uncomfortable and inconvenient. I once read this quote, “We have simply chosen to mix our standards with God’s standards. Since we found God’s standards too difficult, we created a mixture– something new, something comfortable, something mediocre.” In an earlier article I wrote these words, “God created us to do great things through Him, yet we settle for the mediocre. Because mediocracy is easy, and being great is hard, stretching, and challenging. We do not want to put forth the effort; therefore we choose to be comfortable. As we sit comfortably, we marvel at those doing great things when they are simply doing what God created them to do.” How sad. Instead of our most prized possession being Christ, it is comfort.
When Christ came to earth, His life was far from comfortable. Isaiah vividly describes how uncomfortable Christ’s life would be in Isaiah 53:
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
If Christ is to be our example, this is the life in which Christians are called to live. There are two ways in which we live this life. The first is being crucified. We must die to ourselves daily. When I was a junior in high school, my Bible teacher taught us about some of the heroines of the faith; to go along with this, she had us memorize this verse:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I never really knew why she had us memorize this verse to go along with the women we were studying, but now I realize that the only way they were able to do the things in which they did is because they were dead, and Christ lived through them. You cannot be comfortable if you are dead.
The second way is to give God the glory in everything we do, great or small.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
He must increase, but I must decrease.
When we are giving God the glory in our lives, and He is continually increasing while we are decreasing, our comforts will not matter to us. The only thing that will matter is Christ and that He is glorified. A.W. Tozer wrote in his book The Crucified Life:
The worth of any journey can always be measure by the difficulties encountered along the way. The more difficult the journey, the more satisfying the destination. I have been thinking of the crucified life as a journey. It has a beginning, of course, but the end is never this side of glory. Not many Christians consider themselves strangers ‘within a foreign land.’ But that is exactly what we are if we are Christians. If we have begun the journey and are living the crucified life, this world certainly is not our home. That is why we should never be comfortable in this life.
Some people have been misinformed about the Christian life and living the crucified life. For some reason, they think that it is an easy path. They believe that God will take away all their problems and difficulties and that they will be able to love their lives without any kind of distraction or disturbance. As everybody who has traveled knows, such is not the case. If your journey is not cluttered with difficulties and hardships and burdens, you just might be on the wrong path.
It is impossible to read the Bible and not see that every man and woman of God faced some extreme difficulties and troubles. Church history is also filled with stories of the struggles that believers have had, even beyond what the martyrs of the Church faced.
Allowing yourself to be put in such a position that God is exalted is the goal of living the crucified life. When you allow God to be exalted in your difficulties, you will be in the perfect position to smell the sweet fragrance of His presence.
God wants to conform you into His image, but He cannot do so without taking you out of your comfort zone. It will not be easy living the comfortless life, but it will worth it in the end. Someone once said that we are closest to God when we are furthest from our comfort zone. Are you willing to sacrifice your comfort so that you can be closer to Him, that you can know Him, and that you can be conformed into His image?
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;