The Christian life is difficult, but why? Is the difficulty because God doesn’t want people to be saved? Are we to think that he will reluctantly save only the few who make it through his “obstacle course”? Sometimes some of the language Christians use sounds a little like this. But no, God really wants to save us. Jesus is the living proof that God wants us to live: Jesus is God come down to give us life, and he suffered greatly to do it. Look at a crucifix: it shows God suffering on a cross for us. This is not a God who is reluctant to save. The Christian life is indeed hard, not because God wants to set up obstacles for us, but because God wants to make us good, truly good, and we have a long way to go. In other words, Christian life is difficult not because God wants us damned, but because he wants us good.
That the Christian life is difficult is not hard to see. Jesus himself described it as a “narrow gate” and a “hard way” [Matthew 7:14]. Jesus himself is the “Way” [John 14:6]; Christians are asked to follow him, denying themselves and taking up their cross daily [Luke 9:23]. Many early Christians died in order to follow Jesus. Even today, Christians die for their faith all over the world. Christianity Today reports that in 2021, thirteen Christians around the world are killed each day because of their faith. . Yet despite this difficulty, God “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:4]. Nobody doubts, for example, that to become an Olympic athlete is a difficult thing, but nobody expects everyone to become one. Yet does God expect this “hard way”, this difficult thing, of everyone?
The answer, surprisingly, is Yes. God expects everyone to take on the difficult task of taking up their cross and following Jesus. But not by ourselves! We do not turn ourselves into Christians, Jesus turns us into Christians. He does the work in us: he accompanies us, he empowers us, he makes our impossible possible and our inadequate adequate. But we have to commit to him. This means committing to his Way, both publicly and privately. Yes, privately too: no secret sins: no quiet sleaze habit, no little frauds or cheats, no holdbacks, no gossip, no little pet sins that we feed “on the quiet”. There is only one way forward: go “all in”. We need to learn everything we can about Jesus and what he wants for us. Let us do what is right to the very best of our ability. Let us gather together with others who are committed to the same, and support each other. Let us pray, pray, pray, keeping in close daily contact with Jesus, so that we will have his help in everything. If we fall, we get up again, resolving to do better. We know we are not good enough by ourselves, but we are a work-in-progress: Jesus is making us better. Every day, let him do it.