Not the Easy Way
Daily Office Thoughts: 07/26/17
“[T]hey strengthened the disciples and urged them to remain firm in the faith. They told them, “If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.” Acts of the Apostles 14:22
The central message of Paul and Barnabas to the cities of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch was that in order to enter the Kingdom, one could not avoid trouble but had to pass through it. Had to.
Paul knew this firsthand because the last time he was in the region he was stoned, dragged out of the city, and left for dead (Acts 14:19). But he got up and went back to the city before moving on.
And so he taught nothing about the Kingdom that he hadn’t learned himself. That in order to enter it, one had to pass through not some, but many troubles.
He didn’t make this up. He picked it up from Jesus himself, who couldn’t experience the glory of the resurrection and the joy of saving sinners without first experiencing the agony of the cross and the burden of sin. Jesus, who said: “In the world you [will] have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world”(John 16:33).
We cannot expect to find the Kingdom of God the easy way. Instead, we enter it by passing through that distress and trouble, which Jesus promised to help us overcome.
There are some who give the impression that following Jesus is easy. If you just pray the perfect prayer, accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and get baptized, you’re as good as saved. If you just pray enough, believe enough, then God will increase your blessing. And if you don’t, that’s on you.
I’ve learned from experience that no amount of prayer can take away all of our troubles. No amount of faith will remove all our distress. Instead it is prayer and faith that gets us through our troubles and eases our distress. And thus lead us closer to the Kingdom.
Jesus himself prayed for Abba God to take away the trouble and distress that awaited him in the form of a cross. Yet his prayer in Gethsemane was to bolster his resolve for God’s will being done and his trust in God to see him through the worst.
I’m sure each of you are facing some sort of trouble or distress. May my prayer echo your own:
Jesus, our Comfort and Strength, help us to trust that whatever trouble we face, we do not face it alone. Grant us the assurance of your promise that you have conquered all our fears, so that we might face them with confidence, knowing that there is no trouble you have not known, and none that you will not see us through.