I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of Christianity. I think about the coming days of the country that I live in, and I wonder what we will be called to suffer through as our culture turns more and more anti-Christian and anti-Bible. I often pray that my family and I will have the faith to trust God through whatever may come. I tend to dwell on the big, hypothetical scenarios, wondering how I would react in different frightening or threatening situations: would my belief in Christ hold up to the worst possible things that could happen?
It’s easy to focus on a world of hypotheticals. To think of grand gestures of faith that would please the Lord. To consider how I might glorify Him if I were called to suffer in various (unlikely) circumstances.
What’s more difficult is looking at my present situation. How does my faith hold up here, with very little (if any) suffering, with a packed schedule and lots of responsibilities but a mostly extremely pleasant, if tiring, life? It amazes me how quickly I begin to feel put-upon. How often I will grumble and complain about my responsibilities at church or the small inconveniences of dealing with other human beings. It shocks me how regularly I feel like I deserve something more or better: a paycheck, a pat on the back, a compliment, more enthusiasm from others for what I am doing.
If I want to get brutally honest about my heart, it is entitled to its very core. My heart wants recognition, special treatment, a pedestal to perch on. As much as I hate to admit it, I can imagine all day long what my faith could hold up to in some far-fetched scenario that I dream up, but in my day-to-day, I can’t even give up my own desire for more comfort, more free time, more recognition, more glory. The sad truth is that I live such a privileged life that I don’t even handle slight discomfort or slight stress well. And if you really want to get down to it, you probably have some of the same heart issues.
We are so sure we would give up everything for Christ, even our very lives if we were called to, but we can’t even let go of our feeling that we deserve good things that we aren’t getting. Yes, we feel we deserve more, even in middle our pleasant, happy, comfortable, blessed lives.
No wonder David’s prayer rings true when we read it: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10) It speaks to us because we know that we all have lying hearts that tell us we deserve more and better. Hearts that feed our pride and lead us to feel mistreated, misunderstood, and more holy than we actually are.
We would give up anything, we say. Anything at all to prove our love for Christ. Yet, we cling to our sense of entitlement and we let it steal our joy in serving the Lord.
True faith that bears fruit isn’t really found in the hypotheticals. It’s discovered here, now, in the daily act of dying to ourselves and to our sense of all the things we’re entitled to receive. Taking up a cross is no way to achieve success as the world defines it. It is no way to get honor and recognition and pats on the back. But it is the way to know Christ more. It is the way to identify with our Savior.
This is what a faith that has real effect looks like: it is humble and lowly and recognizes the need to be continually rescued from a desire for things that we don’t deserve. Our hearts are deceitfully wicked. Even we can’t understand them. But, God can. And He knows just how to tame them. Show us the way, Lord.