Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Park (10/25/12)
TITLE: The Christian life - A walk in the park or a sojourn in the desert?
By Suzanne R
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I meet with western believers on Sunday morning. We sing happy songs of praise, the music at times bouncy and at other times calm and peaceful. Our hearts and hands are raised to heaven. It is refreshing, invigorating, like a relaxing morning spent in the park. Yet is this ‘real life’? Outside the church gates remains the world of factories, traffic, illness, conflicts and confusion.
My mind is wandering. Mentally, I yank myself back to the present - the pleasant park-like atmosphere of church. The service leader is offering a challenge: Do you have problems? Come to Jesus. Are you experiencing tensions in your marriage? Come to Jesus. Are you under pressure at work? Come to Jesus. The Good Book says, “Come to me, all you who are weak and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”
In the afternoon, I meet with Eastern friends. We also sing. The music is beautiful, a mixture of Eastern and Western styles of music, some of the melodies lilting and meditative, others strident and energizing. The words turn my heart to heaven, to the New Heavens and New Earth, to that garden that we will one day enter, where the streets are of gold and through which flows the River of the Water of Life. I can hardly wait to get there and yet I know that my Master has work for me to do in this sinful messed up world. There are whole communities of people living nearby, yet still in ignorance of the great hope we’ve been offered but who have never heard the good news about Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer.
My mind is wandering again. With a jerk, I pull it back to the present, to this community of Asian brothers and sisters amongst whom I stand. The service leader is offering a challenge: Do you want to follow Jesus? First, count the cost – the Christian walk is no walk in the park. Your family may disapprove and perhaps even disown you. You may suffer persecution at work or even lose your job. You won’t be able to do the things you did before which helped you get ahead, because the Judge of All the World is watching. And yet it is so worth it. The Good Book says, “Blessed are the persecuted” and you will know this blessing indeed if you count the cost and follow Him.
Two different worldviews – which is correct? Is the Christian life a walk in the park? Or is it a sojourn in the desert until we are finally released from this life of striving and struggling?
This difference of worldviews and teaching at church is something I experience every Sunday as I meet with brothers and sisters from the West and the East here in Asia.
The fact is that we WERE created to live in a park – that Garden of Eden. And yet the tragedy is that we were banished from the park. The good news is that such banishment need only be for a season, thanks to Jesus’ sojourn in the desert and the price He paid for our redemption.
What are we doing? Focusing on the benefits of the Christian life, which are real? Focusing on the difficulties of following Jesus, which are also very real? Or just getting on with the job of sharing the Good News, the hope that we’ve been given, and which is for all who would believe? Please God that we will count the cost and follow Him, not just for the eternal sake of our own souls but also to play our part in ushering in God’s Kingdom for all who hear the gospel and believe - for all He has chosen.
With the saints of old, I will join my brothers and sisters from around the world in saying, “Lord Jesus, come quickly.” For only then will the ‘Walk in the park’ that we taste in part even now become reality in full. And yet my prayer is also that when that day comes, I will worship with people from EVERY tribe and tongue, nation and language.
That is one very good reason for sometimes ‘doing it tough’ in the here-and-now.
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