This world is a messy place (in case your name is Rip Van Winkle and you’re just now waking up). Humans have endeavored to wave magic wands over the problems that face us and then claim, “voilà, it’s all better!” Band aids do little good for corpses. Elections fail to change human nature. Airbags don’t prevent drunk drivers from careening wildly down the highway the wrong way. Immunizations, GMO-free foods, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, and electric cars do not change the fact that you and I will, sooner or later, die.
Die. A word that is not welcome. It intrudes upon us with an unapologetic look on its face, informing us of our mortality. I have begun to notice in my own soul the itch to find magic wands which I might wield to make difficult things easy. Here is the reality: living in a world that is dead is not easy. No more that staying dry in the ocean is easy. We want this dead world to serve up a healthy dose of life to us on a silver platter. If you haven’t noticed, it can’t; this world is dead and dying.
In our Christian life, we are tempted to think that there is some magic wand that can be waved over us so that we can be teleported from the Valley of the Shadow of Death, directly to the heights, where you may freely breathe the crisp, alpine air of God’s High Countries. We want to skip the boulders, ravines, cliffs, brambles, ravening lions, and the steep inclines. If you want the heights, you must tread the path. Christianity, as I am fond of saying, is not hard, it is impossible. We all too often think that our earthly pilgrimage will simply be a hop, skip and jump, rather than what God has clearly outlined: difficulties, dangers, sufferings, persecutions, wars, temptations, fiery trials, oh my!! Paul and Peter would have a thing or two to say unto our comfort obsessed Christian culture:
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 1:6, 2:11, 4:12-13)
The insanity of Christianity is that we are attempting to swim the Mississippi, starting in New Orleans and heading up-river towards St. Louis. We are climbing Mt. Everest barefoot and without oxygen. As I said, impossible. No magic wands. No teleportation devices. No easy way. The way is indeed narrow, and few find it.
There is, however, a great secret. Jesus Christ came to give us abundant life. Why, then, is living out the Christian life so difficult? You are alive, this world is dead. An avalanche of deadness continually washes past us, inviting us to let it sweep us off our feet and join in its free fall to hell. Here is why Jesus’ life is such a glorious secret: He lives to die no more. Death has no sting. Death cannot sweep Him off His feet.
There is no magic wand to wave. There is something much better: a blood stained cross upon which you must die, resign your earthly life, and receive His abundant life. Stop looking to that which is dead to give you life. Only Jesus can ascend the Lord’s Hill; and there is an open door into Himself (it is a covenant which binds you unto Him, and, as Henry Law says, “This [covenant of grace through faith] is the chain, which binds the soul to Christ, and makes the Savior and the sinner one.”).
The conservative hopes that electing a Republican President will be a magic wand over all the economic and social problems. The environmentalist hopes that composting, recycling, and creating a carbon footprint tax will be a magic wand to halt (so-called, I might add) Climate Change. The evolutionist hopes that the latest fossil discovery will be a missing link that can be a magic wand to affirm, once and for all, Darwin’s hypothesis. Name any delegation, political party, nation, or organization and I can assure you they have a hope that should their desired legislation, ban, proposition, trade embargo, amendment, protocol, policy, or law be put in place, it would be a magic wand to heal all wrongs. We can’t seem to see that these are all dead options, in a dead world that cannot give us life.
Nevertheless, the Christian refuses to allow death’s current to guide his course. If God said “up-river,” then up-river it is. The Christian is confident that the life of God will be given unto him, through the person of Jesus Christ, in the form of the all-empowering grace of God. Dear believer, stop looking for a magic wand to make a shorter way up the Mountain; there is only one Way. That one Way requires a daily cross filled with difficulty, suffering, sorrow, and trials; but it promises “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.” Soon, very soon, by His Grace alone, He will bring His saints safely to the heights of His Heavenly Home; and all the tears–from all the scrapes we received along earth’s dusty way–will be wiped from our eyes.