I am a part of a group of people that strive to do hard things. In the last 15 weeks since I joined this group, I’ve done things I wouldn’t have otherwise like take only cold showers for a week, walk a mile barefoot and climb a tree, sleep in a hammock in my back yard, and hike 4.7 miles with 20lbs of sandbags in my backpack. People that have known me since I was young will know that I have never been the kind of person to seek out hard things, rather I was the person that sought to avoid them. The amount of personal growth I’ve experienced in the last several months as a result of living a more strenuous life cannot be overstated.
This got me thinking, however: When was the last time I did something hard for my faith? In Matthew 16:24, Jesus says: "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” In this short little statement, Jesus outlines 3 steps to Christian growth. Self-Denial, cross-bearing, and Christ-following. What part of that sounds easy or comfortable?
Self-denial involves giving up or turning away from that part of our selves that feels natural yet still is contrary to God’s will for our lives. To the addict, their addiction may be “just a part of who they are.” To the habitual gossip, talking about people behind their back may be “just in their nature.” To that, I would direct you to 1 Corinthians 2, where Paul refers to the sinful person as “the natural man.” Once we have decided to deny that sinful-yet-natural part of ourselves, we must continue to do so, and thus carry that part of ourselves that may lead to our spiritual destruction in the same way that Christ carried the implement of His physical destruction. And once we have begun to do so, then we are able to follow Christ. Easy to say, but have you ever tried to follow another driver in heavy traffic? It’s easy as long as we keep our eyes on the one we are to be following, but look at Matthew 14:29-31 to see what can happen when we take our eyes off of Christ.
My challenge to each one of us (myself included) is to be ready to do those hard things for your Faith, because we cannot grow when stuck in our comfort zones.