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Choosing to follow God equals loneliness. People might think that we are taking too much responsibility upon ourselves, or think we're deliberately making things hard for ourselves, or think that we're being too radical.
(What about a life in Christ isn't radical?)
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
Loneliness. This is the part that I do not want to face.
Pain, suffering--yeah, I can handle that. Or at least I think I can. After all, there's always the consolation of feeling like a martyr, of knowing that it's all for the right reason.
But loneliness? What if no one is willing to walk through the pain with me? What if family and friends don't understand or what if they misjudge?
Will I choose God anyway?
The Balance Between Apathy and Zeal
What if I make a mistake? What if I really am swinging too far in the other direction--from apathy and compromise to overboard zeal? Balance is important.
I think it is safe to say, however, that desiring God's glory--not our own, not even the satisfaction of knowing that we're truly "dedicated Christians" because we're willing to be so radical--desiring God's glory only must lead to humility. And I don't think humility goes far wrong.
There probably will be plenty to legitimately judge. Samson's a great example. What a guy--hung out with Gentiles, hung out with ladies of dubious reputation, compromised in dozens of ways, extremely violent. Most of us good Christian people would shun Samson like the plague. But in the end, God got the glory through him and he accomplished God's vengeance upon the Philistines, at the cost of his life, making him a "type of Christ." I believe Samson is with the Lord.
How about David? Nice guy--kills his friend to grab his friend's wife, even though he already has several wives. Yet in the end, God got the glory through him and he became the famous ancestor of the promised Messiah. I believe David is with the Lord too.
There's always plenty of hypocrisy to point out in the radicals. We have the right to point out the hypocrisy and to strengthen them to purge away that sin.
But dare we judge them for their weaknesses and ignore their strengths? Dare we point out their sin and ignore their righteousness? Dare we point out where they have failed in doing something when we have failed to do anything? Dare we see only their faults, when they have also given God glory?
I’ve always heard Christians talk about taking up a cross as though it means denying yourself usual pleasures in order to do more ministry activity, giving up some extra comforts or a larger portion of your paycheck in order to spend your life more meaningfully for God. For a long time, I just accepted that, but more recently I realize that I can't.
Denying yourself and taking up your cross means dumping everything--health, finances, hopes, dreams, plans--at the foot of the cross and choosing to do whatever it takes to be a servant worthy of Christ. It means more than voluntarily giving up comforts; it means being willing to give up things that are irreplaceable and valuable, in order to serve Christ righteously. It's the difference between laying a night of sleep on the line and laying your whole reputation on the line.
Worth Dying For
If Christianity were to be outlawed tomorrow, I want to know that my love for Christ is so conspicuous that I would be pinpointed immediately. If I ever become a mother, I want to teach my children to follow the Lord from the time they are in the womb, so that, if Christianity is outlawed and persecuted by the time my children are able to speak, I want them to know already, without a shadow of a doubt, that Christ is worth dying for.
Entering that type of suffering is not something we volunteer for or wish upon ourselves (who wants pain?), but it is something that occurs as a natural result of wanting Christ more than anything else. I've been praying that God will count me worthy to suffer for Him, because it doesn't matter how much it hurts. According to the Bible, suffering for Christ is the mark of all His true followers, and I want that mark.
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. (Philippians 1:29)
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.