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Imitation of Christ Series

Expectation v. Reality

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? – Matthew 14:26

The idea of this series of devotionals came from a conversation had at my house on New Year’s Day with friends.  From the conversation, I realized that many Christians have varying degrees of how they view God and Christ.  We are all different with various backgrounds, personalities, and experiences therefore with some things our lens of interpretation may be different.   On that day as I was challenged about my beliefs and hopefully challenged others as well, I was left thinking, “What exactly do we (proclaimed Christians) believe?” My hope is that through this devotional and the ones I hope to follow will challenge and cause you to examine your personal convictions and beliefs in light of what the Bible actually says.  In other words, I hope to make you study and think as will I.

Peter was crucified…
Matthew was martyred…
Paul was executed…
James, brother of John, died by the sword (Acts 12:2)…
John was persecuted, imprisoned, but died of old age…

Have you ever asked God why me?  When faced with difficulty, do you feel that you should be excluded?  That because you are obedient or follow Christ, that you shouldn’t suffer?  If you haven’t thought that at least once, then you are by far more spiritual and religious than me.  To be honest, there have been times when I found myself complaining about a situation I was experiencing and I wondered why me.  When I sometimes listen to other Christians talk about life, I too hear that same underlying message of “why me?”  Yet, as I’ve studied the Word more and more, I am forced to ask, “Why NOT me?”  For that matter, why not YOU?  In Matthew, Christ outlined what it meant to follow Him, but how many of us are actually prepared for what that may mean?  You see, I have found that there is a discrepancy between our expectations as a Christian and the reality of being a Christian.

As much as Christ loved His disciples, according to early Christian history, all but one died peacefully.  They sacrificed family and home for Christ; shared the Gospel; planted churches and mentored other Christians; in fact, they did everything…right.  Yet they were not traditionally rewarded for their efforts, instead they suffered.  They suffered willingly and knowingly.  They would never deny Christ again, but the reality is that their life was hard.  So why do we expect ours to be easy? And why when we face sorrow or difficulty, do we question God, His love for us, and His sovereignty?

I believe God’s Word that we are the head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13), more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and that we are to live life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).  All of those things remain true. But so often we layer our thinking on God’s Word and intent that we create false expectations of what the Christian life is supposed to look like.  We name it and claim it.

So here are the hard questions: Is God a sadistic God? No, scripture says He is a loving (1 John 4:6-8), just (Psalms 25:8), and holy (Leviticus 11:44-45) God.  Did the Disciples suffer needlessly? No, through their suffering what started out as a small group of followers grew into the salvation of billions through the ages as the Gospel of Jesus Christ spread.  So, in reality, is there a purpose for your suffering or hard times?  Yes.  You have a cross and a purpose and many times they go hand in hand.

I encourage you to study the scriptures to learn about the lives of the early Christians – their persecution and perseverance.  It just may change your perception.