The Christian Life

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St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “Teach us, Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to seek for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will.” Commenting on this statement, author Richard Foster summarized, “The Christian life is one of strength and endurance in the face of suffering.”

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How different this is from the experience of most who call themselves Christians in the Western world! Regardless of our modern culture and misunderstanding of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus, it cannot be denied our lives bear little resemblance to that of our Savior. If it is our true desire to love and honor Christ, we must examine our motives and activities.

Rather than giving without counting the cost, we default to counting the cost before giving. For example, take the simple exercise of tithing. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard people say they couldn’t afford to tithe. This is not the mindset of Christ, as it dictates we are counting the cost before we give. Along with others, I would counter you can’t afford not to tithe. Throughout Scripture, the firstfruits are shown to belong to God. And while the tithe is merely the starting point for our giving, we cannot ever hope to be generous with what God has entrusted to us to manage if we focus on the cost over the gift. What if Jesus had considered the cost first, before giving His life on the cross? Logic dictates He would have never died for our sins. But Jesus considered only the gift, eschewing any cost associated with it. This is the model He has given us to follow.

I would submit also we spend far more time heeding our wounds rather than fighting. How else do you explain how quickly most of us give up, give in, and give out for the cause of Christ? When times get tough, we get out. I am so grateful for those who have gone before me who refused to give up. Jesus did not waver in the face of criticism, mockery, and even torture. He knew His purpose. He cared not for the scars acquired along the way. There was only the mission and nothing else.

We are lovers of comfort and rest. There is indeed a time for these things, even a Biblical mandate for them (Exodus 20:8-11). We have taken our love of comfort and rest to the extreme of creating an idol of them. We spend lavishly on comfort and sleep half our lives away. Looking at the life of Jesus, He was always focused on doing His Father’s work (Luke 2:49). He had no home or comfortable place to sleep (Matthew 8:19-20). He didn’t care for any of the niceties of life. He was resolute and singularly focused. While He did take time to rest (Luke 5:16), those times were the exception, not the norm. Can you say this about your life?

I am sickened when I take the time to measure myself against His example. Too often I count the cost in spite of the gift. I’m an expert at showing off and tending to my wounds. Perhaps most of all, I am addicted to comfort. I don’t want the pain and suffering. I want the rest. Through it all, we despise the reward of simply knowing and serving God. We want the communion, but we want the other stuff too. What we need to recognize is if we count the cost, spend our time licking our wounds, and seeking comfort in our short lives on earth, we may end up forfeiting them for eternity. Jesus said His sheep would know His voice and obey (John 10:27). If we are ignoring His voice and living contrary to His commands, we are literally risking everything. We flirt with the possibility of not really knowing Christ (Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:41-46). It’s not a risk we can afford to take. The Christian life, if lived fully, is not comfortable, restful, safe, or logical. But it is the only way worth living.