By Bob Bedford

August 23, 2007

Acts 14:22b. “Through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God.” Paul’s life certainly illustrated the point he was making to the disciples in Lystra, Iconium & Antioch. From the time that Paul became a believer, his life was filled with trials and tribulations.

Jesus made it clear that discipleship was costly. We must be prepared to give up everything including our own life. Luke 14:26. My pastor friend, Dave Shirley, was privileged to do a mission in India last year. While there, he attended the final class for believer’s baptism. The teacher began by asking this question, “Are you willing to die for Jesus Christ?” It was not a theoretical question because Christians had recently been killed by Hindu and Muslim extremists. He continued, “If you are not willing, you cannot be baptized.”

Christianity in America has become anemic. Instead of military training camps, our churches are nurseries and psyche wards. At best, we serve as the walking wounded. See Paul’s admonition in 2 Timothy 2:1-4. We are not even prepared for the kindergarten sandlot scuffle much less for the worldwide war against “the principalities, and powers,...of this world.” Spiritual infants are bottle fed from the pulpit and then, with a pat on the back, burped as they leave the church house on Sunday morning.

We go to the seminars whose thrust seems to be to make Christianity palatable to the masses. We are told to cater to the “felt needs” of society. If we can just attract enough people to our church through slick marketing campaigns, perhaps some of them will truly commit to Christ. It is nothing more than the old trick of “bait and switch.” Attract them with some kind of bait, and depend on our salesmanship to switch them to hard discipleship. It rarely works. Most of the potentials end up as stillbirth. Many others are too weak, and are relegated to our helpless nurseries.

WE cater to the weakness and never press into spiritual calisthenics. We’ve baited them with promises of happiness, wealth and comfort. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did not obligate himself to solve your imagined problems. More often than not, the presence of Christ makes us uncomfortable. His goal for us is godly character and that is only fashioned in the furnace of tribulation. “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial: for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life.” James 1:12 NASB 

My prayer in my current tribulation is not for smaller mountains but for God to strengthen me to climb the highest one. And, friends, I am climbing!