"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31
When I think of this fact, I often picture Christian in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim's Progress.” As he began His journey toward the Celestial City, he was mocked by those who didn’t understand the radical stand he was taking and his yearning for the life he felt called to live. As they taunted shouts of discouragement, Christian put his fingers in his ears and ran forward, crying out, “Life! Life! Eternal life!” This is what we are all going to have to do if we are to run a successful race toward our heavenly home. We must turn a deaf ear to those who try to derail us and attempt to persuade us to turn back to our old way of living.
There comes a point in all our individual Christian journeys where we must learn to identify the difference between God’s approval and the approval of others. What others think of us is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Whether they applaud or dissuade our efforts truly shouldn’t have any effect upon the decisions we make or the path we take because God is the only one we are required to please. It is His Word that we will be measured by when we stand before Him at the end of life.
The path toward Heaven grows increasingly narrow as we continue to grow in grace and the knowledge of who God is. His holiness shines a consistent light upon our path revealing things about our nature that are contrary to His righteousness. If He were to show us everything at the beginning of our response to His call to follow Him, it would overwhelm us to the point that we would never start. If Peter had seen that following Christ would eventually cost him to be crucified upside down, could he have mustered the courage to say “yes” that first day of meeting Jesus and hearing His call to follow Him? In that moment of Jesus’ original call, all Peter really knew is that he felt compelled to lay down his nets and way of life and walk away from it all to follow Jesus. But, oh the things he ended up needing to learn and go through between that initial moment of responding to Jesus’ call and the moment he not only found himself facing crucifixion but even asking the soldiers to crucify him upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner Jesus did! As you read through the Gospels and the book of Acts, you can clearly see the gradual tempering process and transformation that took place in Peter’s life as Jesus and the Holy Spirit led him from conversion-level faith to the ultimate place of being able to willfully die a martyr’s death.
God understands our nature. He created us. He knows how much information we can handle at a time, and He gauges the pace of our revelation of light and understanding accordingly. As we walk in the light He shines, we will often be misunderstood by those who are not living a Christian life. The things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned. I Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.”
When we completely surrender to Jesus and His call to live a life that is selfless and eternity-focused, we should never expect to receive accolades from the world around us. We may as well expect to be misunderstood, talked about, confronted, and even scorned by the company of those who used to profess to care about us. Jesus was persecuted and eventually killed by the most brutal, anguished means of death known to man. Do we honestly think we will be widely accepted, well-liked, and popular among the masses if we go all in and follow Him wholeheartedly? In John 15:18-20, Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.”
I often come across the word “intentional” as I am perusing minimalism reading material, and it occurs to me that we will more than likely not be able to continue to stay the course and press forward in our path toward living the simple and minimal way Jesus lived without staying continually intentional and focused on eternity. He must steadily increase, as we continually decrease. (John 3:30)
In closing, I would like to share, once again, the two verses that I believe encapsulate what Biblical minimalism really means—“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2