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Many lose their love for Jesus when life beats them up. They begin on a high note, but soon stop singing when the air gets trampled out of their chest. Their lives flow along much like Psalm 44, which starts out with tremendous spiritual confidence and ends in a terrible dilemma. The writer goes from, “In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever,” to “Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever”—all in the space of fifteen short verses.

The apostle Paul noticed this drift as he quoted from Psalm 44. He asks several questions designed to increase our spiritual confidence: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (vv. 33-35). Such tremendous encouragement. And yet then the apostle writes, “As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter’” (Romans 8:36). This quote comes from Psalm 44:22—and it sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it, especially in this context? 

The early Christians went through heavy persecution despite their love for God. In fact, it was because of their faith in Jesus Christ that they were placed on the racks, that they were fed to the lions, and that they were burned at the stake.

Here’s an uncomfortable truth we need to understand if we are to keep our hearts burning for the Lord: God has not promised us a bed of roses in this life. He has promised us a glorious eternal life with Him in His kingdom, but walking with Him down here is not a popular walk. It’s not going to make you popular—at times it’s going to be deeply unpopular and it’s going to take real courage to live for Jesus Christ. You’re not always going to understand the unpleasant things that transpire. You must trust Him and continue your commitment to Him.

The apostle Peter had to learn this tough lesson. Jesus told him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish” (John 21:18). John explains, “This He spoke, signifying by what death he (Peter) would glorify God” (v. 19). Jesus thus predicted that Peter’s arms would one day get stretched out on a cross. Peter would die as the Lord did, by crucifixion. 

The Lord didn’t say, “If you just follow Me, Pete, your life is going to be surrounded by roses. In no time at all you’ll enter into a glorious bliss. You’ll have no problems, no worries, no difficulties. Things are going to be so smooth and nice for you!” Not at all. Instead the Lord in essence said, “It’s a rough road ahead, Peter. The world is going to hate you. They hated Me and you’re not greater than your Lord. You’ll be persecuted for My sake. You’ll be thrown into prison. Even your own family will turn against you. And then you’ll be put to death.” (See John 15:18-25.) Jesus laid it out straight for the cost of following Him. And as strange as it may seem, He did this to give Peter strength, not to take it away from him.

From the Bible’s perspective, suffering is what makes your following Jesus all the more meaningful. It proves your love. The fact that you’re willing to experience difficulties and hardships in order to develop your relationship with Him cements your love for God. Peter, of course, didn’t like the sound of this. Who would? So when he looked around and saw John, he asked Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” (John: 21:21). Jesus didn’t hesitate. “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (v. 22). In other words, “Peter, the only commitment you need to worry about is your own.”

The Lord always deals with you and me on a personal basis. The trials and tribulations you may experience are for your own growth. He’s interested in you, so He only allows what’s necessary for you—not someone else. If you want to keep your heart on fire for God, you really have no choice but to keep your eyes on Jesus, instead of those around you.

– excerpted from Love The More Excellent Way by Chuck Smith

continue reading the views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Calvary Southampton

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