Die to Swag and Live for Suffering

We want it all and we want it now. As a culture, we in the West are enslaved by a near-worship of comfort and convenience.

I seriously just saw this app that digitally enhances your photos to make your face and body look slimmer. You can post your weight loss photos on Facebook and get comments on your swagger without ever hitting the gym or breaking a sweat! Instant results.

Sadly enough, this is how we live out our faith and operate our churches. We put much of our time, money and resources into the cosmetics of our faith (Big-shots, Budgets & Buildings) so we’ll have to do as little work as possible for the Kingdom of God. As a result, we’ve become a stumbling block to the Gospel when we should be a powerhouse of mission and change in our world today.

The world around us reinforces this idea that discomfort is bad. Fortunes have been made by corporations (Apple, McDonalds…‘cough’…Churches) who provide services without lines or hassles and have learned to satisfy the demands of the consumer with instant gratification. It has warped so many of our values that even human life has taken a backseat to convenience. We abort babies every few seconds just because, “We’re not ready to have one now.” If a new human life should get in the way of our careers, ambitions or personal goals, the American solution is simple: kill it. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of feeling good. What’s even more horrific, and less dramatic, is the unwillingness of our Churches to make even small sacrifices to reach the billions of unreached peoples outside the U.S. with the Gospel.

Where are the believers who take calculated risks to accept sacrifice and suffering for the sake of following Jesus? We will never enter the enemy’s camp and storm his gates until we realize that a soldier does not live on feelings. For Christians, pain, injury and discomfort are a normal part of following Jesus just as for mothers it is a normal part of giving birth. Jesus never apologized for calling His disciples to a life of self-denial. He actually promised that we would face difficulty:

He promised homelessness: In Luke 9:57, some dude thought he had swag and boasted that he would follow Jesus wherever He would go. But he apparently turned back when Jesus replied, “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” (Luke 9:58, The Message)

He promised broken relationships: Another dude said that he would go but he needed to bury his father first. Jesus replied, “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!” (Luke 9:60, The Message)

He promised separation and loneliness: A third guy said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” (Luke 9:62, The Message)

To every person that would follow Him, Jesus was straight up gangsta in his call to commitment. Those who pursue their own lives will lose them – those who lose their lives for His sake will find them. There is no place in his posse for those who are not willing to accept inconvenience, uncertainty and suffering. And like Jesus, we need to be honest about our faith. The Gospel that we offer to the world must include sacrifice and suffering. For too long we have tried to apologize or explain away what Christ demands. We’ve told people that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said – that they can have Christ without the cross. The consequences of a watered-down Gospel speaks for itself. We have a country full of nominal believers and a world full of lost souls.

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