How can being a Christian be difficult?Theologian, activist, and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." Jesus compared the Christian life to a seed being planted (John 12:24–25). The seed dies, but what springs forth is an amazing transformation of life. Being a Christian can, no doubt, be difficult. But following Christ is the only way to experience true life (John 10:10; Matthew 16:24–26; 1 Timothy 6:11–19).
The tension between our fleshly desires and the Holy Spirit's work of sanctification is one aspect of the difficulty of being a Christian. The draw of the "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19–21) does not simply go away because we are Christians. Christians are transformed into new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but we also still have our sinful nature. Being a Christian means no longer living as a slave to the works of the flesh; instead, we are freed to be slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:1–23). Rather than us constantly producing the works of the flesh, the Holy Spirit produces fruit in us: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22–23). Here's how Paul put it: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:5-6). The process of transformation can be painful and challenging, but it is joyous. Indeed, as Paul wrote, living according to the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:1–39; Galatians 5:1–26).
Another challenge we face in being a Christian is the world in which we live. Our societies often glorify ungodly things. Living with godly principles can mean going against the flow. Living differently is difficult, but it is in following Christ that we receive fullness of life (John 10:10).
Christians also live in the midst of spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:12 says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." God has won the ultimate victory and gives us spiritual armor to stand firm in the midst of our battles. But being a Christian means enduring some level of spiritual attack.
Despite the challenges of being a Christian, Christians should be the people in your community who exhibit the most joy, compassion, and wisdom (John 15:11; Romans 14:17; Colossians 3:12; James 1:1–5). Christians know they are set right before God (Romans 10:10; John 1:12–13) and in right relationship with Him (Romans 5:9–11). They have the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit and hope in the midst of trials (James 1:2–4; Romans 5:1–5; 8:28). Christians also have fellow believers to help encourage us (Hebrews 10:24–25). Nothing compares with being in right relationship with God, and there is no greater hope than that which we have in Jesus. The difficulties of being a Christian are far surpassed by the eternal life we have in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:7–18).
Here's how Peter describes the Christian life: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:9–12).
It's all right there—a Christian's standing before God, a Christian's transformation, a Christian's struggle against the flesh, a Christian's charge to live differently, a Christian's ability to cause others to honor God. An easy life? No. True life? Yes. Nothing compares with true life in Christ and His eternal promise; being a Christian is absolutely worth it.
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Truth about the Christian Life