In Acts 20:23 Paul states, “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”
Doesn’t exactly seem like the greatest of advertisements for Christianity. When we look in the Bible we see a faith that has a messiah that was tortured, mocked, and murdered. We see faithful followers in hiding and fearful of their lives. They have been imprisoned and beaten and they know it’s not over yet.
They are not wealthy. They are not respected in the public eye. They are not given accolades and awards. They don’t even have the comfort of personal safety. Again, not exactly the most persuasive of advertisements. Proclaiming that a life of faith provides answers to all of life’s difficult questions, financial security, and perfect relationships would be more persuasive in convincing the world to follow Christ. But that wouldn’t be honest. Following Christ is not an insurance policy for life.
Unfortunately, I’ve heard some focused on making a good commercial for Christianity. However, they sound more like motivational speakers than the Gospel. They claim that your reward is waiting on you; that God is waiting to bless you with health, prosperity, magically healed relationships, job promotions, and on and on. The reality is that’s just not true. Sometimes Christians have a great deal of wealth. Sometimes they are shoulder deep in poverty. Sometimes Christians have beautiful dream homes; sometimes they are homeless. Sometimes Christians have wonderful fulfilling marriages; sometimes they are married and miserable or divorced. Sometimes Christians have great jobs; sometimes they are unfairly terminated from jobs and unemployed. Sometimes Christians are miraculously healed; sometimes they suffer and die. The same can be said about people of any other faith or of no faith.
Kyle Idleman wrote a great book called Not a Fan. In it he explains that there is a significant difference between being a fan of Jesus and being a follower of Jesus. Consider it this way, a fan of a ball team watches the game but then goes about their life after that game. Perhaps the next day the talk with their friends or coworkers about a couple of awesome plays, but for the most part, he/she is unchanged by the ballgame. They wear the shirt, but the team isn’t a focus of every daily decision they make.
“An enthusiastic admirer,” is how Idleman defines a fan. But Jesus wants completely committed followers. Not just those who want the benefits, but those willing to sacrifice. Idleman says being a follower always requires sacrifice — perhaps of social status, financial security, relationships, or as Paul points out in Acts 20:23 — maybe freedom and life.
May we be willing to claim the real, priceless blessings God has for us — those of love, joy, peace, forgiveness, courage, and more — even if they have a cost.