Glory and Grit.
I want to talk about the unrealistic and realistic expectations of following Christ, and life in general.
I've been thinking a lot about how we live this thing called life, and I've seen two extremes that are unrealistic.
I see people who are new in Christ, with good intentions, talk about how good God is and how good life is and how wonderful Jesus is and everything is just cotton candy and strawberries. God is good. Life is good. Jesus is wonderful. But there's way more to the story than that. There's more to the story than posting excellent selfies and motivational words on social media. I like these things, but there's more to the story.
I see many of these people get blindsided by life and give up. They didn't think life would get real. They thought a walk with Christ meant a lifetime of skipping in the park. They didn't realize just because you're saved doesn't mean you're delivered. They didn't really think about how they'd still have to deal with sickness, pain, death, suicidal thoughts, depression, funerals, debt, lust, habits, addictions, fear, delayed promises, horrible people, etc.
Elijah and Job reached a point where they didn't want to live anymore and told God just take my life, I quit. Peter walked with Jesus in the flesh and quit. Judas also quit, and never came back. Jesus asked God the Father is there another way to do this whole cross thing? Jesus also raised Lazarus from the dead but still cried when he died. And as far as a contemporary example, even Joel Osteen, with his super positive messages, talks about the reality of the enemy, evil and bad things happening.
We have to let people know what they're signing up for when they decide to give their life to Jesus. That is when the war intensifies for them.
If hell is not repeatedly coming up against you, you are not a threat to satan or his kingdom.
Now, since I got the doom and gloom out of the way, let's talk about the flipside.
As I get older, I see a lot of people who have been saved for years upon years, with little to no progress in their life. This is a poor representation of who God is. The thing is, though, we have to look from heaven's perspective of what progress really is. You bought a new house but you're still not delivered. You have money now but you've been struggling with the same habits and addictions for years. You have degrees but your mind is scattered. You serve in church faithfully but you and your whole family are sick. You have a nonprofit but your heart isn't whole. Your heart is whole but your pockets are empty. Your pockets are fat but your spirit is crushed. Do you see what I'm saying?
"Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well." 3 John 1:2
God wants complete healing for us: spirit, soul and body.
There are people out here who are followers of Christ and living extraordinary lives, the very best life the Lord intended for them. It's possible, but it requires death to self. Too many of us have our own agendas. Humbling ourselves unlocks a life lived under an open heaven. What does that mean? It means the enemy doesn't have the right to block what God is trying to do in your life, and angels assigned to your life can do what they need to do. (read Daniel 10 for more).
Jesus is the author of life (Acts 3:15). Psalm 139:16 says "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." Jesus is God. So, walking with him means you are in relationship with the person who created you, so you have nothing to fear and everything to be excited about, no matter what happens (Romans 8:28). You are meant to live life in abundance, and full of joy, full of peace. Happiness is circumstantial. Peace and joy are permanently available.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27
Life is going to happen. Might as well do it with God, who created it. Jesus has given us authority over death the grave. (Revelation 1:18). That means you are not a victim of life, but a victor.
Peter quit, but came back after Jesus showed him he loved him and it wasn't about his failures. As Peter got older, and his walk with Christ matured, he grew in wisdom and wrote what he learned. I recommend reading 1 Peter 5 for an example of a centered life perspective.