Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

In my younger years and prior to being in full-time ministry, I longed to meet and be in the company of “real” missionaries and true servants of God. My heart beat with excitement and anticipation as they related one story after another of great challenges and greater faith. I yearned to experience the miraculous intervention and power of God as did these ambassadors for Christ on the mission field.

My love for Jesus was deep; their love for Him was deep too. But I always sensed that somehow there was a vast difference between us. In other words, they “had something” I didn’t have, and I wanted it.

As time passed, the Lord began to show me that the difference was the “price” they paid. I was still living in the “great American dream.” I had my own home, beautiful furniture, nice car, motor home, regular income, health insurance, etc. I also attended a large, popular church and was involved in Bible studies and evangelistic outreach. But something was missing in my Christian life. And I wanted more.

Looking back on that time, I now realize that my heart was responding to the call of God. My soul was thirsty and hungry for more of Him. I wanted to know Him, to commune with Him, to sup with Him. Going to church and playing the religious games just didn’t satisfy the longing in my heart. Sometimes, it only served to bring greater frustration.

Eventually, my secure little world caved in. I was forced to either give in to fear or press harder into God. I chose the latter. And the Lord met me there, in the hard places. He was closer than He had ever been, guiding, comforting, and protecting. It was a terrible but wonderful experience. On the one hand, everything we hold dear in this worldly life was stripped away; but on the other hand, God was real, close, personal and faithful. In short, He proved to be everything the Word of God declares He is. Until we go through the valleys and the hard places; until we go through the fire and the flood, we cannot know Him, personally, to be Who He says He is.

What about the price? Just what is it, anyway? Does every believer have to quit their job, sell their house, give away their car and impoverish himself or herself to “pay the price?” The answer is “no,” not unless God specifically tells you to. There are different prices for different people in different circumstances. But one thing is sure, whatever price God has designed for you to pay, it is not going to be comfortable, easy, surface or cheap. It requires sacrifice. Jesus put it this way, “Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me, cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27 Amplified Bible).

The cross represents death–death to self. The self-life has to be crucified (mortified, put to death), if the life of Christ is to be manifested and maintained within us. Sobriety rather than silliness, a mind set on that which is eternal rather than on that which is passing away, a fixed heart and overcoming faith are some of the characteristics of a Christian who has crucified the flesh. Humility, fear of God and integrity mark the person who has relinquished conceit, pride, preoccupation with self and selfishness.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

The problem is, most of us want the easy way out. We don’t want to pay the price; we’re always looking for bargains, sales and shortcuts. It takes integrity, character and fortitude to pay the price God demands. He digs deep. His fire is hot. His Word pierces to the depths of our being. His eyes penetrate our souls. We may hide from ourselves in our own delusions and deceptions, but we cannot outrun or hide from the Holy Spirit.

First of all, God is a gentleman. He never forces His will upon a man or woman. He calls us, woos us and upholds the truth for us. But the decision to come higher, to go deeper, to enter into the Holy of Holies is always our choice. When our longing soul finally becomes humbled before Him, He will bring us to the point of decision.

I remember that time so well. The battle was fierce–faith and fear warring against one another.

But perfect love casts out fear, and I laid my life on His altar with the words, “Lord, whatever it takes, take my life and use it for your glory. I want to know You, to really know You!” In that instant, it was revealed to me that I was going to lose it all and I did. God sometimes has to prune us down to the very roots, and often even dig us up entirely in order to reshape us into the vessel of His choosing. Does it hurt? Yes! But it is glorious because God’s workmanship is for eternity.

Years ago evangelist and author Betty Swinford used to travel to Washington State, as well as other parts of the country, holding revival meetings. She has a powerful anointing and ministers in Spirit and truth. Through her ministry countless souls have been saved, healed, delivered from demons and filled with the Holy Spirit. Somehow, in spite of all the parade of speakers, teachers, preachers and evangelists I sat under, she had what I wanted. She had paid the price!

Then one day the opportunity presented itself to ask her how she got her ministry. I will never forget Betty’s soft answer as she wearily turned her eyes upon my eager face and half whispered one word, “Suffering.” That word struck terror into my heart. I went home and pondered that one word for three days. The struggle was intense. Who wants to suffer? Who wants to go without, to turn their back on the great American dream? What would people think? How does joy and happiness come out of suffering? Wasn’t there some other way? No, there is only one way–the way of the cross. He bore His; we must bear ours.

Many years have passed. Years of leanness, years of hardship and, yes, suffering. There have also been times when nothing seems to make sense. But the ways of God don’t make sense to the natural man. The carnal mind cannot comprehend the ways of God! We are not here to understand all about God, but rather we are here to love Him, trust Him and obey Him. When we do these things, then we begin to understand His ways, (which are higher than our ways); we also begin to know Him! The Lord God Almighty never commanded that we strive to understand Him, but rather to love Him. We are to seek Him, worship Him, trust Him.

Sometimes we naively make the mistake of crediting a Christian who is going through much turmoil and loss as “paying the price” when they are simply reaping what they have sown. There is a vast difference between paying the price and reaping what you sow! There are times when God allows Satan to test us, as with Job; times when God allows persecution to refine us and bring Him glory; times when we are simply victims of this fallen world and times when we do reap what we’ve sown. Through it all, the Lord desires our hearts. Will we continue to believe Him, trust Him and love Him in spite of the “price”?

The question is, are you willing to pay the price? Does Jesus mean everything to you or are you lukewarm because of the cares of this world? Are you gaining higher ground every day, or are you neglecting your salvation to the destruction of your soul? Will He find you faithful?

Hebrews 12:1-4, Amplified Version gives us these encouraging admonitions:

“Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony of the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance, unnecessary weight, and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher, bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself,reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials,so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds. You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your [own] blood.”

What are some of the encumbrances, unnecessary weights and sin God is asking you to “strip off and throw aside?” Ask the Holy Spirit to show you! “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, Amplified Version).

Answer the call, accept the challenge, acknowledge your need and ask God to make you that acceptable living sacrifice. Pay the price–it’s worth it!

Other articles on the subject of suffering on this Web Site are: