Monday, January 23, 2012

Is Christianity a pleasure trip?

Ease, comfort, and pleasure!  Isn't that what our culture values the most? Just look at every advertisement, commercial, magazine, or self-help book. It's all about making our lives better, easier, more fun! From the car we drive to the clothes we wear, to the food we eat, we are a people who seek the good life!

Even our Christian culture has bought into the idea that as followers of Jesus, our lives should be blessed, comfortable and happy, right?  I mean the Bible is full of such promises:
Jesus himself said in John 10:10   "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
And the Psalms are full of verses about blessing and prosperity!

But in truth, I don't believe the blessings in these promises are the kind of blessings we think about today. They are soul and spirit blessings: peace, joy, love, hope. Things this world cannot understand. Does God bless you with money and success? Absolutely, He can and often does, if it fits in with His plan. But that's not His focus.

In fact I believe that Christians should expect to have an even harder life than those who don't believe. Whoa, that's a controversial statement!  When I say harder, I don't mean a bad life or a life of defeat.  I just mean harder.

Jesus' own words: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Listen to what Paul told the new converts spread throughout Asia . . .strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”  Acts 4:21-22
I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound very strengthening to me! Here's a another lovely description of the Christian life
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,  partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one  Hebrews 10:32-34

Endured a great conflict of sufferings?  Accepted joyfully the seizure of your property? Are you kidding me?
I could list Scripture after Scripture telling Christians they will suffer in this life. Why Christian more than others? I don't believe it's simply because of persecution. (which none of us here in America have had to endure. . .yet). I believe it's also because we have committed our lives to a higher standard. We have committed to following a God who is about the business of making us more like His Son.

In other words, we've signed up for the voyage. We've put our signature on the articles and are now on the ship, but the Captain, Jesus, the One who will steer us across the sea to Heaven, He has to now take us bunch of whiny, lazy, spoiled, selfish kids and make strong, courageous, disciplined seamen out of us!  What a task!

How does He do it? By making our voyage smooth and easy? By giving us lavish meals and comfy hammocks to nap in on deck? NO!  Any good captain knows he must be hard on his crew. He must give them tasks that are difficult and taxing, tasks that stretch the limits of their strength and endurance. He must make them stand watch for hours on end with little sleep. He  must command they climb the shrouds into the tops to stand on the highest yard until they are no longer afraid of heights. He must order them to scrub the decks and polish the brass until their hands are red and raw. He must drill them on guns, and sails, and navigation until they can do it in their sleep.

Wait a minute, I signed up for the Caribbean cruise... what's going on?  Where's my umbrella drink?

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. Romans 5:2-5

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance  James 1:2

Jesus wants you to be able to weather the storms of life. He wants you to survive and in your strength and wisdom, to help train others. He wouldn't be a good Captain, otherwise.

Now, you can opt out. You can disobey His orders and lolly gag around the ship, complaining about the food and the work and the arduous tasks  But watch out, there are rough seas up ahead. And you just might fall overboard!


  1. Wow! Great post, MaryLu. I'm guessing I'm the first to read this, since it is 1:47am. Can't sleep. My son decided to go out into this awful weather and worry me. So, here I am waiting for him to get back home. Talk about rough seas! Anyway, I really like the way you worded this, makes a lot of sense. Good job.

  2. I agree with Debbie, I like the way you word things. For example, "Wait a minute, I signed up for the Caribbean cruise... what's going on? Where's my umbrella drink?" That made me laugh! But it is so true. Thanks for putting the Bible into such easy to understand analogies for us! :)

  3. Mon Jan 23rd,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Amen, and, Amen ... to all that you shared today !!! Christians in our western culture have NO idea what persecution, for instance, even is !!! And you are so right ... we are -- whiny, spoiled and selfish kids !!!
    God NEVER promised us 'smooth-sailing' ... He did promise however, to take us "through" the rough waters, and be with us. If us Christians never faced -- hardships, defeats, tragedies, sadness, devastation, etc ... how could we rise above to show the World that we have what "really matters" .... the blessings of -- love, peace, joy and "hope" (something this world knows very little or none of) !
    No, we were never promised that life would now be easy, and a 'piece of cake'. The Christian walk and way of life is NOT for wimps !!! It can be very difficult at times. And although I don't know 'what' my future holds .... I do know "WHO" holds my future ... and that's all that matters !!!!!!!!!!! The "Captain - Jesus Christ" ... He's the one that steers and guides the ship (so to speak) ... my trust and hope are "in HIM" !
    Thanks for a great post, MaryLu.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  4. Debbie, you were up early!! We are so much alike. Whenever my kids were out late in a storm.. I could never sleep. I would stay up and pray. Hope he is home safe and sound now.
    Sarah.. that umbrella drink is looking good right about now! LOL

    Good morning Brenda! Amen and Amen. Jesus, our Captain has us in His capable hands and will sail us home no matter what storms may come!

    Have a blessed day, Ladies!

  5. Gtreat post, MaryLu! And I agree, that umbrella drink looks so good! :)

  6. Great post again, MaryLu! Thank-you. I love the fact that when it feels like our ship is sinking, and we're in the depths of anxiety, despair, and whatever other anchor that is weighing us down, we are never left to our own strength to pull us up from under it. We can choose that, of course, but when we let the Captain lead and guide us, He will lift us up and give us strength like we've never known. Been there, done that. And, I'll be there again, no doubt. I'll just have to keep my focus on the One who "does not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, peace and sound mind". There's nothing like complete abandon to our Great Captain!

  7. No worries, my son got home safely. It wasn't until around 3am, but he's fine. Shortly after he left, I heard a lot of sirens and of course, it worried me more. So, even though I could not bring myself to go to bed, I gave it to God and just sat at my computer and played a game to distract myself. It's times like that that make me wish that Jack and I were empty nesters.

  8. Thanks Emma, someday, maybe we can lie on the beach and have one of those umbrella drinks!

    Caroline, Amen to everything you said!! I can't imagine sailing through life with my Lord!

    Debbie, I KNOW exactly what you mean. We still have one at home and it's terrifying when they are out at night, even worse when they are late, and beyond sanity when you hear sirens in the distance. At times like that, all I can do is keep mumbling prayers and thanking God for HIs protection over my loved ones.

  9. Great post, Ms. Tyndall! We really are whimps nowadays! It's amazing to read how much suffering the Christian martyrs in Ancient Rome endured for their faith. Has anyone ever heard the story of St. Philomena? According to legend, she was a Grecian princess who the Roman Emperor Diocletian wanted to be his bride. However, she was a Christian and Diocletian wasn't exactly the essence of moral living (LOL)! Besides that, he was already married, so she adamantly refused to become his bride. He was far from happy, and had the poor girl flogged, shot at with arrows, thrown in the Tiber River and finally beheaded. She refused to bend or break to his will, and firmly placed her faith in God. Many miracles have attributed to her intercession over the centuries. You can out more about her online if you are interested. My family is largely of Italian ancestry, so she was always a source of devotion for us. She was a real heroine for Christ!

    God Bless,

    P.S. If anyone's interested in an article about the contrast between neo-Paganism and Christianity, please check out my blog:

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  11. Great Post Marylu!!! Wow!!!
    It kinda reminds me of the poem, 'Footsteps in the Sand.' It compares life to a beach, and says how there are always two sets of footsteps in the sand, one God's, one ours. However, in the rough times, life's trials, there is only one set of footsteps. The author accuses God of leaving him during his times of despair, and God replys, 'I have not left you. There is only one set of footsteps because in your times of trouble, I carried you through.'
    The actual poem is worded MUCH better than that! I find it actually very touching. God does not promise that life will be easy, but He is always with us! I love the way you compared life to a voyage, tough times to rough seas. Becoming a good sailor may be tough work, but it is definitely worth it in the end when you finally reach your destination! And the trip across the sea is made easier knowing that you have a good Captain who will never abandon ship! What an amazingly faithful God we have! :)

  12. Avellina, yes, we are whimps, aren't we? LOL. I loved your story of the Grecian princess! Thanks so much for sharing. I wouldn't be surprised if some of it is true and not purely legend. There were many people who willingly suffered and died for their faith back then.

    Emily, I know that poem! It always makes me cry. Yes.. God is always with us.. often carrying us when we don't have the strength!

  13. Emily, I think I read that poem about the footprints in the sand in a forwarded message sent to me by a friend. It really is inspiring. You have good taste! It makes me think of "Dark Night of the Soul," the poem by St. John of the Cross. He was talking about how the dark, dry, and doubtful phases of spiritual growth actually brought his closer to God than the "big boom" moments of spiritual enlightenment. That made me cry once when I was feeling doubtful if God really existed. Sometimes it's frightening how thoughts like that creep into your brain and torment you.

    Ms. Tyndall, I'm glad you liked the St. Philomena story! I really do think there is truth in it, considering Diocletian's less than stirling record involving the treatment of Christians, lust for young girls, etc. Plus, there have been so many miracles attributed to the little saint's intercession to God. You'd think after all she went through, the Lord might grant her a few special favors in Heaven. Oh, did I mention she was only 13 when she was executed? I believe she consecrated herself to Jesus as a virgin prior to the emperor making his advances. It really is pretty astounding how someone so young could go through so much for her faith and not just cave in.

    God Bless,

  14. Awesome blog post, MaryLu! Very true -- we're not here to be comfortable, we're here to prepare ourselves and others for eternity. Thanks for sharing! God bless you!

  15. This post is very moving for me. I'm so glad you shared this with us! Recently I watched a movie called Quo Vadis-it takes place during the time of Nero, the roman emperor. There is a very moving part where a lot of Christians were blamed (falsely) for the burning of rome, and it shows them being burned on crosses and attacked by lions in an arena for all of the citizens to see(the movie ends well). It makes me wonder if the Christians of today would be able to die for Jesus like that. It made me question myself on how far I would follow Jesus-especially when times get rough? I have a friend who tells me if Jesus guaranteed a better life for His followers, then how come she can't see it in the world around her-wasn't life supposed to be easier for Christians? and all of that. Sometimes its difficult to explain how believing in Jesus would change her life for the better-she is sooo cynical! But I still pray for her.

  16. Avellina, that is an amazing story.. especially knowing she was only 13! She must have had some very strong parents who raised her right.

    Gwendolyn.. so true.. this is not a comfort ride.. but so many Christians believe that. :-(

    Eszter, I wonder too how many of today's Christians would keep their faith if they were tossed in a lion's den. Tell your friend that either way, whether she's a Christian or not, life here on earth will be tough. She will have problems. The difference is that true followers of Jesus have joy through the trials, they grow stronger and gain more character with each struggle and in the end, they spend eternity in paradise. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!