All of us like to live in comfort. Who wants to live a life of hardship? (Unless you’re a monk or some other kind of masochist, amirite?) The same thing holds true for our spiritual lives. We can get too comfortable—we might even say lazy—in our faith if we aren’t careful.
C. S. Lewis—who once dubbed himself the most reluctant convert in all of England—recognized the rigors that Christian commitment entails. He said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
But some of us are quite comfortable in our faith. So what gives? Maybe we aren’t as committed as we imagine we are. Here are some signs that we might not be as dutiful as we think.
You never feel challenged. It could be that you just don’t read the Bible very much. If you haven’t already heard, God has some pretty exacting standards. Christ requires us to put him first above any other relationship (Luke 9:59-62; 14:26). We must be willing to let go of material possessions when necessary (Matthew 19:21; Luke 14:33) and be ready to suffer persecution (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). Even the apostle Paul said that he felt like the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) and admitted that he struggled to do what was right (see Romans 7:14-25).
You see no disagreement between the Bible and your political party. It doesn’t matter where a person is on the spectrum, from the far left to the far right and everything in between. No Christian can be completely comfortable when it comes to worldly politics. It’s suspiciously convenient if our spiritual beliefs line up perfectly with our political perspective.
You never have any questions. A life of reflection is going to generate some questions about our spiritual lives, our place in this world, our behavior, or about the Bible in general. None of us are perfect, and we’re going to be wrestling against our worldly tendencies if we’re growing in Christ. If we aren’t doing this, maybe we’ve set the bar lower for our behavior than God intended. The Bible can be a challenging book to read and interpret. If we aren’t working to understand it, we might not be digging deeply enough.
Your friends and coworkers are surprised to learn that you’re a Christian. If people in the world see nothing distinctive in us, that’s a problem. If faithful Christians see little in common with us, that’s also a problem. A comfortable Christian is like a chameleon, blending in with our environment. Paul says that believers adopt a new way of life that makes them noticeably different from other people (Ephesians 4:17-32). This includes adopting godly characteristics and rejecting ungodly ones.
Imagine the kinds of things required of people who achieve great things. Doctors spend years in school and training and often work long hours. Lawyers and business executives put in extra time at the office to get ahead. Top athletes watch everything they eat and fight through grueling workouts. Excellence demands outstanding effort and commitment. Guess what? So does the Christian faith. Here are a few things that Paul experienced as a missionary:
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
Paul knew that the Christian life presented challenges. And at the end of his life, he could look back on his efforts with satisfaction and joy (just read the book of Philippians). He had been a rising star among the Pharisees, who would later view him with contempt and try to kill him (Acts 23:12-35). Pagans opposed him and organized riots against him (Acts 19:23-41). We would have been viewed as a crank by the Romans and a traitor by his countrymen. This must have created many additional hardships for him, yet he spoke about the surpassing joy of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-9).
The dear apostle took comfort not in life’s pleasures but Christ’s. We can, too. It takes work, but it will be worth it.
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