“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
PETER ENCOURAGED HIS CHRISTIAN FRIENDS TO EXPECT HARDSHIP, AND EVEN PERSECUTION, IN THIS WORLD. “Do not think it strange,” he wrote, “concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” In counting the cost of discipleship, we shouldn’t underestimate the amount of havoc the devil is capable of wreaking in our earthly lives.
In Eden, there was nothing that we would call a “hardship.” (Yes, there was work to do, but prior to sin, that work seems to have been totally gratifying.) The truth outside of Eden, however, is that the world is no longer a pleasant place, at least not entirely. The presence of sin having caused God to withdraw His direct presence from the earth, the world has become a very hard place.
A certain “fellowship” with God has been made possible for us through Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3), but this is a far cry from what we were created to enjoy. Having been made in the image of God, we deeply need the kind of relationship with God that Adam and Eve had. We rejoice in what we do have and are grateful for it, but it still leaves us living in a world that is an alien environment.
What we truly need is simply not available to us in this world: the total joy of perfect communion with our Creator. That joy will be ours in eternity, if we are found in Christ at the resurrection, but for the time being, we remain as sojourners in this world. Israel encountered no small amount of hardship getting from Egypt to the Promised Land, and our “wilderness” won’t be easy either.
In this world, the only “easy” path is the “course of least resistance.” This is the path always taken by a stream of water as it seeks lower and lower ground. It will never go over an obstacle, and even when it has to go around one, water will always find the easiest way around, the way that requires as little work as possible. This, you may have noticed, is what makes rivers crooked, and it makes men and women crooked too. The easy path never goes anywhere but downward, and spiritually, that is not the direction we want to go. Worthwhile destinations always take extra effort.
“The course of true anything never does run smooth” (Samuel Butler).