Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:24,25
John Bunyan is famous for his book “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. I am sure most of us have either read it or have a copy of it laying around somewhere. John’s life was one of difficulty and suffering. He was extremely poor, destitute some might say, the father of 6 children, the oldest of which was blind. After his first wife passed away he remarried but shortly after their marriage was arrested for preaching in public.
He missed his family deeply saying “The parting … hath oft been to me in this place as the pulling the flesh from my bones”.
Here is the kicker. He could have freed himself. He could have walked out of that prison, gone home to his family, kissed his wife and hugged his children, if he agreed to stop preaching in public.
But he refused, telling the authorities that he would rather stay in prison until moss grew on his eyelids then fail to do what God commanded. He ended up imprisoned for 12 long years. It was during those years that he wrote a number of books including the famous Pilgrims Progress.
Despite what some popular “prosperity preachers” of today promise, the life of a Christian does not guarantee worldly comfort and ease. In fact Jesus promises difficulty, pain, suffering and loss when following him. You can expect hard times to come your way whether that be financial, relational, emotional, physical or spiritual, and this will be part of God’s process for you to grow in grace and become more like Jesus. We must press into this truth with hope, instead of fear, we need to understand the good and sovereign care God has over us all.
God is actively involved in your life–all of it, even the tough stuff. From the smallest inconveniences to the largest, earth-shattering losses God is there and remains in control. He is completely sovereign over all things in your life and will use both affliction and abundance for his glory and your good (your sanctification).
Nothing in your life comes by chance. Everything comes carefully from the very hand of God, therefore we need to examine our attitudes and actions in the midst of the suffering he allows us to bear.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Have you considered that God is not as interested in your comfort and physical safety as he is with your conformity to the image of Jesus and your soul?
Our safety is found in Christ because he protects the soul. God has gone to great length to retrieve our souls, he will not let anything happen to them. Here we see another way in which God is so different from us. He values the soul much more than we value the body.
As the wicked are hurt by the best things, so the godly are bettered by the worst. —William Jenkyn
So here’s the thing. Jesus says that we must prize him and his salvation more than any good thing on earth, because following him just might mean losing such worldly gifts. And because Jesus and all that we have in him eternally is better than the best this world can offer we do not have to be afraid to live boldly for Jesus! What matters most cannot be taken from us. Our treasure is secure.
So, you can throw yourself into kingdom work, whether that be teaching and training your children, loving your husband, showing kindness to your neighbor, selling your home or speaking hard truth, knowing that whatever man might do to you in this life it is nothing, really.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6
What can man do to us? A lot! BUT we have Christ on our side, to give strength, wisdom, comfort, and hope. As a disciple of Jesus nothing of importance can be taken from us.
What do we gain if we have the world but lose our souls? Nothing. But since the keeper of our souls is Christ we can lose the world and still gain immeasurably more than we can even imagine.
“Why should you fear to be stripped of that which you have resigned already to Christ? It is the first lesson you learn, if a Christian: to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow your Master, so that the enemy comes too late. You have no life to lose because you have given it already to Christ, nor can man take away that without God’s leave. All you have is insured, and though God has not promised you immunity from suffering in this kind, yet he has undertaken to bear the loss, indeed, to pay you a hundredfold, and you will not stay for it till another world.”
William Gurnall (1658), The Christian in Complete Armour
Looking to Jesus,
For further reading check out:
The Hidden Smile of God – The fruit of affliction in the lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd by John Piper (you can download this book as a PDF for free)