“Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardships.” “Many praise Him as long as they receive some comfort.” These statements are found in the book by Thomas a Kempis, “The Imitation of Christ,” and I believe that they speak more truth now than when they were written.
The majority of human beings live in relative comfort today, food and water most generally are available, places of refuge from the elements and clothing, four of the most basic needs are usually within the grasp of everyone on this planet, with exceptions of course. Many can claim much more than these most basic essentials, televisions, telephones, vehicles, the list seems to grow every day, and many make it their lives endeavors to accumulate as many of these worldly goods as they can.
Again, with exceptions, the Word of God is available to all who will but ask for it in hundreds if not thousands of different languages and dialects, and more are being translated as we speak. Both of these items are readily available but have one main difference, the Word of God is free, all that the world offers you must be paid for, and many times the price is not cheap, in fact for those who choose to remain in the world and refuse the Savior of it, the price will be their immortal soul.
Up until just recently, as compared with the length of time that man has been on this planet, hardships have been a part of the normal everyday lives, if you wanted heat you had to find something to burn, water you had to fetch from a source usually a distance from your residence, food, grow it or kill it. Today we push a button on the thermostat, turn the handle of the faucet, or hop in the car and head to the local grocery store. The greatest burden for many today is the alarm clock and what to wear for the day. The statement now holds greater truth for the Christian, “Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardships.”
We are not even speaking of the trials of cancer, the death of a loved one or even extreme financial difficulties that our Lord may allow to enter into our lives, but instead of a flat tire, a television program being interrupted or even the lack of enough jam to spread on our toast. What some of those who profess Christ see as a hardship today never ceases to amaze me, many seem to be unable to carry their own burdens much less assisting their brothers and sisters in Christ with theirs. These minor inconveniences are simply to much for them, they begin to doubt the Lords loving care when there is a traffic jam and they will be late for their appointment.
If everything is going well, as long as life is flowing smoothly in the direction of their choosing then they are more easily able to tell Him and others of their unending love for Him. The problem within though starts all over again as soon as the toaster, the refrigerator and the television all stop working on the same day. I must confess that I have doubted these individual’s words when I meet them concerning their faith, it seems to be dependent on the circumstance of the day. The suffering that we are to endure with patience (2nd Tim. 2:3) can of course be related to these minor inconveniences, it does not always need to be in the form of a major illness or a catastrophic event, but if one has difficulty maintaining a sure and true faith when the small insignificant things begin to appear, how can it be expected to continue when the Lord allows the greater sufferings to enter our lives.
Do not think of these times as something like a “step ladder to the ultimate faith,” our Lord does not work that way in His children’s lives. There is not a small trial first then greater ones as we mature in our faith type of operation at work here, He sends what He will when He desires to, and we as obedient servants accept that will with no questions, that is what a servant does, and that is what is expected of him. If you cannot find rest in the comfort of His will for your life in the hospital bed, you will not be able to find it in your own bed at home. This is one of the main reasons that Matthew 7:14 is so impressed into my life, “and few there be that find it.”
There are so many Christians that I have met over the years of my walk with Christ that have said nothing to me about His grace and mercy in their lives, but are willing to talk about the weather for hours, so many who have invited me to their church, but can tell me no more about it in detail or its statement of faith, just that the people there are friendly. These people are calling themselves Christians, they are polite, kind, friendly and out-going, but they could not lead someone to Christ if they had to. They know that He died on the cross for their sins, and they have known this for years, some of them for decades, but that is all they know, and it is all they desire to be taught. These are they that will love Him as long as they encounter no hardships, the very first word out of their mouths when troubles appear is “Why.” They simply cannot understand why a loving God would allow even the most minor difficulty to enter their lives, and their praise stops until the trouble is over and they have been placed back into their comfort zone.
I have always been thankful to our Lord for allowing me to ask for forgiveness when I have fallen myself into this trap, for understanding the whiner that I was in those times and helping me to grow away from them. I still catch myself occasionally, it is quite easy for me to become frustrated, yet I see no sin in the frustration, only in the temporary stupidity of blaming Him for the circumstances instead of thanking Him for them.
How can we count anything in our lives as suffering when compared with what our Lord suffered that day, we deceive ourselves by even trying. Yes, the cross was incredibly painful, but think on that moment of separation from the Father for Him, and then on who He did it for. I have no desire to suffer, it hurts, but I do not shy away from it anymore, I seek comfort in the One who sent it to me, and I would ask you to do the same. Let the Name of God be exalted in you always, replace the time of complaining with the opportunity for praise.