Monday, February 15, 2010

Is Christian Life Hard or Easy?

I was thinking about Jesus' words the other day that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30), and comparing that with the thoughts I've been sharing about what transformed my spiritual life. It seems like work, doesn't it? Reading your Bible every day, learning to place God above your other desires and enthusiasms, fighting temptations that try to lure you to sin... that sounds hard to just about all of us. We may be inclined to think that doesn't sound like an easy yoke at all. Then the thought struck me that the Christian life is not difficult to live. What is difficult is making the change from living the old life - focused on the physical, the material, the immediate - to living a new life in Christ that is reliant on the Spirit and focused on the joy of heaven.

In all my experience, some of the easiest times in my life have been when I felt filled up with peace from reading the Word of God and from prayer. In those times, I was not burdened with anxiety, troubles seemed to be smaller, hope was strong, and I saw how small most of our problems really are in comparison with the greatness of the things God does in our lives. Instead of being frustrated and discouraged by difficulties, I could look back with gratitude on all the good things that had been worked out through God's grace, and look forward with encouragement to all the things He was working out now.

But we don't stay there unless we are persistent in the disciplines of Christian life. If I let my Bible reading slip for a few days, if I don't spend time humbly experiencing God in prayer, if I neglect the other means of grace He puts in my life, then I am right back to living my life the old way. I'm back to getting frustrated when things don't go the way I expect, to being anxious over all the things I have to do and uncertainties about the future, to feeling discouraged, or to being tempted to think that I would be more satisfied with sin than with being close to God. Those are the things that make life hard. The less we practice Christian living, the harder it is for us to get back into that peaceful frame of mind where we rest in the Spirit of God. It's like trying to start a bicycle again after having stopped. It's always easier to pedal if you are already moving.

When we actually concentrate on Christ and live our daily life by trusting Him for all we need, then we find that His yoke is easy and His burden is light - He's bearing it from within us. He really does give us rest from things that wear us out, like anxiety, guilt, temptation, and discouragement. It is far easier to live life that way than to try to do it in any other way. But the hard part is shedding our old habits and trusting God that this will work best if we do things His way. The hard part is overcoming our stubborn tendency to still do it the way we are used to. This should be a huge incentive to us to keep up with our spiritual disciplines once we've started. Keep the momentum up, and we won't have to pedal as hard to get going again.

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