Why is living for God so difficult?In short, living for God is difficult because we have our sinful, fleshly self to contend with. The flesh and the Spirit of God are in opposition to each other. As Christians, we are supposed to crucify our flesh so that we may live by the Spirit. Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). We live in a fleshly body, but we are instructed to live according to the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:16, 25).
Before we were saved, we lived according to our flesh, fulfilling all our fleshly desires and not knowing any other way. We were bound by the power of sin and were motived to do things that would bring us pleasure and make us feel better about ourselves. When we are saved, we become God-focused rather than self-focused, and the Holy Spirit comes into our human spirit in order to break sin's power in our lives and enable us to live in obedience to God. Ezekiel 36:26–27 says, "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." First Corinthians 5:17 says that all who are in Christ are new creations. Personal guilt is replaced, and love for God becomes our new motivation—but this doesn't mean that we do not have to battle our fleshly self.
We are to crucify our flesh, not modify it (Romans 6:6–7). The struggle is that the flesh wants to live and reign in us. Paul talks about the battle between his spirit that desires to follow God and his flesh that wants to satisfy itself (Romans 7:21–23). When we choose to follow Jesus, we will have to sacrifice our fleshly desires and know there will be loss involved. Jesus came to serve us and save us, so we should do the same for Him (Mark 10:45).
Jesus alerted people to count the cost and consider the difficulty that would be involved in following Him. It is all or nothing: "any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33; see Luke 14:25–33; see also Matthew 7:14 and Luke 16:13). This does not mean that having relationships and possessions is evil, but it means that we have to hold them loosely enough to be willing to sacrifice them for the greater cause of Christ. His will and His ways come first. During Jesus' earthly ministry, crowds of people gathered to see the miracles He would perform, but when He spoke about the difficulties of the gospel and what it would take to live for God, many people stopped following Him (John 6:63–66).
The area that trips up most Christians is that they do not want to live one hundred percent for Christ because it will bring them discomfort, embarrassment, or persecution. These people want to live for Christ in a way that is compatible with the ways of the world. However, the truth is that these two modes of operation cannot successfully exist together in one person. True Christianity is not able to be custom-made to fit our level of comfort. The Bibles says, "… Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4; see also Galatians 1:10). When we are persecuted for our faith, we are to glorify God in it (1 Peter 4:16).
Although there are sacrifices involved in living for God, there is also great joy and peace in being close to Him. The apostle Paul wrote his most joyful letter, Philippians, while in prison for preaching the good news of Christ. Following the Spirit brings great joy (Acts 13:52). God promises to honor us when we live for Him (John 12:26). Serving the Lord brings gladness, because it brings fulfillment in and unity with Christ. It enables us to experience His presence in our lives (Psalm 100:2; John 15:1–11). When we are living for God, we have a personal relationship with Him and we are able to hear His voice through the Word and through prayer (John 10:27; Luke 11:28). This closeness gives us the strength we need to persevere in denying our flesh, taking up our cross daily, and following Him (Luke 9:23).
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Truth about the Christian Life