What kind of life can you expect if you decide to serve Jesus Christ wholeheartedly? 1 Peter 1:8 tell us, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
Yes, I hope that’s how you feel—filled with joy inexpressible having laid down a load of sin in exchange for freedom for your soul. That’s got to feel pretty good. It should. Plus rejoicing over the fact that the Word of God is a big promise book. God cannot lie and he’s the one who wrote every word of it through various men he inspired.
What does that give you? This is where we need to talk. Some might tell you that your life as a disciple of Jesus will be nothing less than heaven upon the earth. Blessings, prosperity, abundance—fullness of life all around. (See John 10:10) While that’s true it’s not the whole truth. Certain of God’s promises don’t rank as high in favor as others but they are true nonetheless.
Like? “’If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (Mark 8:34) Ouch! Life is not all about me? Or, “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” (1 Peter 2:20) Ugh! That means life will not always be fair? Then there is James 1:2, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” There will be trials and testing?
Truthfully, your best hope of a successful Christian life lies in a realistic assessment of expectations. Some don’t make it all the way. Many fall away when things don’t turn out as they anticipated. They prayed for healing and the person died. They believed for a financial miracle but had to file bankruptcy. A loved one passes on without knowing Jesus. Disappointment comes. Doubts proliferate. Faith falters.
But you--you want to be the one who hears these precious words of Jesus in the end, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23) How can you insure that?
When a new recruit joins the army they start off by taking an oath of allegiance to their country and then usually head straight to boot camp for basic training. It is rigorous and often even brutally hard depending on their condition upon entering the military. This is where they are brought up to speed physically for the stamina they’ll likely need later. It is also where they learn to obey orders and acquire discipline.
Upon graduation the new soldier knows what to expect. He or she knows army life is not going to be a piece of cake. War and battle is anticipated as normal. Think of the Christian walk in similar terms. Scripture encourages us to see it that way. Listen to Paul’s advice to Timothy, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4) In Philippians Paul refers to Epaphroditus as “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier.” (Philippians 2:25)
Additionally, why does Paul tell us in Ephesians to put on the full armor of God if we aren’t going into battle? (See Ephesians 6:10-17) Those who never attend basic training or get fitted with combat attire won’t last very long when the fight heats up. Eventually in our life, the fight always heats up. Be realistic about the war you are in and the dangerous hits you may take along the way and you will not be as likely to go AWOL.
Stay in Shape
Soldiers regularly work out to stay in tiptop condition. For the Christian this means a consistent disciplined life of prayer, reading God’s Word and fasting. Neglect of those things leads to a sloppy spiritual walk and makes you more vulnerable to succumbing to the fiery darts of the enemy. It also means leading a holy life that is dedicated and set apart unto the Lord. Sin is a drag on your soul. No place should be given to it.
Take the Offensive
All of the blessing type promises of God are available to believers but they are not a done deal until you claim them. Sometimes you have to fight hard and long to obtain them. Don’t underestimate the devil’s determination that you NOT have any of them. If he can discourage you from staking your claim he will.
Long Term Strategy
I’m going to be completely honest and tell you that you will lose some battles in life. For instance, that’s what happens when you pray in faith for someone to be healed and they die despite your best efforts. Or a marriage ends no matter how much effort and prayer was put into saving it.
When it happens know that even if this one battle has to be conceded, the long-term result is that the war is already won. Read Revelation, the last book in the Bible, and see that ultimately WE WIN. Jesus secured the victory by his death on the cross. He holds all authority in heaven and on earth. Satan ends up in the lake of fire and we end up ruling and reigning with Christ.
Also, never doubt that even in defeat God has a plan. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Let’s be real. The military lifestyle is not the easiest or cushiest of choices. You can’t just do your own thing. You have to obey orders. You have to live under authority. If you decide to follow Christ you must count the cost. Is it worth it? What do you say?
“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8) Will YOU join Paul and myriads of other Christian soldiers down through the ages and agree that to live is Christ and to die is GAIN? (Philippians 1:21) Well then, YOU’RE IN THE ARMY NOW!