When is the last time you got your hands dirty for Christ?
I’m not talking about your ecumenical volunteer work, or punching in your PIN at the ATM to give money to African orphans as though that excuses you from selling out for Christ. I’m talking about uncomfortable, undeniable, unadulterated gospel living that risks something.
Consider one of these:
- Giving a clear gospel presentation to people you know are unsaved, unchurched
- Going out of your comfort zone on purpose to further the gospel
- Putting more energy into furthering the gospel than your hobbies
- Telling someone the truth instead of staying silent
- Refusing to gossip and explaining why at the risk of being shunned by those who do
- Risking relationships for the gospel
- Risking your health for the gospel
- Risking your wealth for the gospel
- Risking your life for the gospel
Has it been 3 days? 30 days? 30 years? Ever?
American Christians roll their eyes at this sort of rhetoric but mostly out of guilt and conviction because they know they’re living a soft version of the Christian life. Some, to be fair, have just never been taught or shown what it’s like to live Christianity to its fullest.
For the majority of us, let’s face it. We love our cute and comfortable version of the gospel. It’s so easy anyone can do it. It’s American Christianity. We love our padded church seats, our big parking lots, our family drop off roundabouts, our short, funny, easy sermons, our live stream from the comfort of our bed, and our prayer board for things like: Little Suzy wants a newer bike for Christmas. Daddy and Mommy hope their stock portfolio does well so they can buy a 4- bedroom house with an attached master bath (and Jacuzzi tub). Tommy wants a Macbook Pro. Uncle Bill has a cold. Aunt Janice lost her job. Oh, and please save all the lost people we know.
Then we tip God on Sunday or hope to rub Him right by flicking a coin into the Salvation Army coffer and, POOF! like a magic genie, He makes our wishes come true. Put this cycle on repeat for 30 years and you’ve got the average “Christian” life in America.
That’s a sad resume to hand Christ when He returns.
Your “Suffering” is Actually Sanctification
A common theme when living the American Christian life is the “struggle” of those really “hard times.”
In reality, we aren’t suffering but we think we are and we aren’t living the Christian life the way it was intended but we think we are! Trials are one thing (plenty of us go through those). James 1:2 refers to those sort of things that come upon us that are out of our control. Heart-breaking things like cancer, the loss of a child, betrayal. But suffering for the gospel? Not unless we received those things as a consequence of standing for the gospel. This is much more the exception than the norm in our country today.
Even on our best day, American Christians can seem to do no better than get fired, be called names, have their house vandalized, or be cut off by family members because of their “over-zealous” faith. There’s no argument that can prove we should all die a martyr’s death – that’s not realistic or how God destined every believer to die. But it can be argued that all Christians should be living dangerously and boldly for their faith. For Americans, that doesn’t mean much but we’ve got to do a better job risking comfort for our faith.
Yet, we act like martyrs because we got blocked on Facebook or lost a few big tithers by preaching something “too strong” from the pulpit. We consider it suffering when we have to rent luxury apartments because our mortgage application was denied, or because our car had an engine leak during the same week that our boyfriend broke up with us.
What’s wrong with this picture? The plain fact that much of what we view as suffering is really just basic sanctification. The Lord prunes us of our petty need for superficial comforts and teaches us that we need more of Him. That includes living for Him and pursuing Him more than anything else.
So when’s the last time you’ve walked the line with a boss because you’ve read your bible publicly on lunch break? When’s the last time you calmly and kindly shared the gospel at a family function and got scoffed at or uninvited to the next holiday? When’s the last time you didn’t tell your kids to “tone it down” when they were threatened expulsion for sharing their faith at school?
People are watching us Christians. God is sanctifying your heart, aligning your priorities, and setting you up to do more for His glory than your own. You’re not suffering. You’re being sanctified for a higher purpose.
The Blood-Stained Dust You Stand On
Christ shed His blood in death then rose again so the church might live. The apostles died horrific deaths yet claimed that in their suffering they were never more like their Savior. The generations that followed sang praises as they were burnt at the stake. Reformers defied the Pope and powerful kings in allegiance to the King of kings. Today, our brothers and sisters around the world are beheaded for standing up for Christ.
During the 1500’s Algerius the martyr was burned by the Pope because he refused to waiver in his zeal for the true gospel. Algerius would not compromise no matter what the cost! In a letter he wrote to his friends before his death he sounds insanely countercultural as he rejoices in his sufferings. He writes:
I cannot omit this opportunity of letting you know the sincere pleasure I feel in my confinement: to suffer for Christ is delectable indeed; to undergo a little transitory pain in this world, for his sake, is cheaply purchasing a reversion of eternal glory, in a life that is ever-lasting. Hence I have found honey in the entrails of a lion; a paradise in prison; tranquility in the house of sorrow: where others weep, I rejoice; where others tremble and faint, I find strength and courage. The Almighty confers these favours on me; be his the glory and praise. How different do I find myself from what I was before I embraced the truth in its purity! I was then dark, doubtful, and in dread; I am now enlightened, certain, and full of joy. He that was far from me, is present with me; he comforts my spirits, heals my grief, strengthens my mind, refreshes my heart, and fortifies my soul. Learn, therefore, how merciful and amiable the Lord is, who supports his servants under temptations, expels their sorrows, lightens their afflictions, and even visits them with his glorious presence in the gloom of a dismal dungeon.
Your sincere friend,
Guard your heart and mind from tuning out the words of a martyr because you wish to cower from facing your greatest fears or abandoning your comfort zone. You were meant to live for more than a 401(k) and a country club membership in retirement.
Stop Wasting Your Life
If you count the hours spent scrolling Pinterest, trying to get ahead at work, worrying about the future, doubting God, complaining about church events, procrastinating over going to small group, gossiping, drinking, watching Netflix, comparing yourself to people on your Facebook newsfeed, and watching Youtube you’ll find one one very sobering fact.
You are wasting your life, Christian.
So wake up from your sleeping, call Christ Lord, shake off the dust of complacency, and step into the fullness of your calling. There is no time to waste – your legacy for the glory of God awaits. Why not exhaust yourself on earth for something that will give you eternal rest?
Wherever this week takes you, take a risk and do something bold for Christ. Say goodbye to the comfort of American Christianity.
Recommended Reading: Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Originally published on March 20th, 1563).