“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
WHEN PAUL AND BARNABAS REVISITED THE CONGREGATIONS THAT HAD BEEN ESTABLISHED ON THEIR FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY, THEY WARNED THEM TO BE PREPARED TO SUFFER. Having obeyed the gospel, they were headed for heaven, but it would only be through “many tribulations” that they would enter the kingdom of God. When hardship came, they were not to be surprised.
This echoes Jesus’ warning in the Sermon on the Mount: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13,14). The easy, no-risk path has never led anywhere but downward . . . to death.
So we shouldn’t expect our lives as Christians — at least in this world, marred as it is by the intrusion of sin — to be anything other than difficult. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some pleasant days now and then, relatively free of pain and struggle. But it does mean we should guard against unrealistic expectations. Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12,13). We should expect life to be hard.
When we defy difficulty and remain faithful to Christ, we place ourselves in a great company of saints. Many thousands of God’s faithful people in days gone by have done the same thing. When we choose to endure, we do exactly what they did, and they are cheering us on, so to speak. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). It is an honor to be among these people and a privilege to be their comrades. Let us determine that we will join them in heaven!
“When compassed about on every side with tribulations, remember that it is the way of the saints, through which they passed to the kingdom of heaven. Learn to comfort thyself also, because that in this thou are made like unto Christ Jesus, thy Lord” (Thomas à Kempis).