"Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:24-26
John Steingardm, the former frontman for the Christian Band Hawk Nelson, stunned the world when he announced he no longer believed in God. He sang with the band for nearly 20 years, praising God and bringing hope to so many people.
When I read about this last year, I couldn't help but wonder how could this happen? What would make John change his mind? He has since spoken about how he can't justify a righteous God with all the evil in the world.
Our American culture is really good at giving Christian platitudes. We know all the inspiring verses in the Bible; we even make some up that aren't in the Bible. We want people to find God to be easy and fun and to make everything better.
Somewhere along the way, we have lost sight of the holiness of God. We have laid aside sin, the whole reason God needed a redemption plan that culminated in Jesus. We have forgotten the horror and the heaviness of the cross.
Platitudes won't feed our souls. Inspiration is fabulous, but it's the grit and grace of life that will lead us closer to God. That's where we grow. That's where we find our relationship with Him. That's where true joy is.
When there isn't substance in our relationship with God, eventually doubt can creep into it. We grow when we read and study His word. When we are on our knees talking to God, we find His voice. We feel His love. We know His mercy.
Holy work is hard. The cross is unbearably heavy.
David and Svea Flood were missionaries in the 1920's. The Swedish couple took their two-year-old son to Congo in the heart of Africa. This was a massive step of faith that didn't appear to culminate in anything but the death of his wife just 17 days after she gave birth to their little girl, Aina. David was done with God and went home with his son and gave the little girl to another missionary family in Congo.
Through a series of events, she ended up with another missionary family who took her to North Dakota and renamed her Aggie.
Years passed. The Hursts enjoyed a fruitful ministry. Aggie gave birth first to a daughter, then a son. In time her husband became president of a Christian college in the Seattle area, and Aggie was intrigued to find so much Scandinavian heritage there.
One day a Swedish religious magazine appeared in her mailbox. She had no idea who had sent it, and of course, she couldn't read the language. But as she turned the pages, a photo stopped her cold. In a primitive setting, a grave with a white cross had the words SVEA FLOOD.
Aggie jumped in her car and went straight to a college faculty member who could translate the article.
The instructor summarized the story: It was about missionaries who had come to N'dolera long ago...the birth of a white baby...the death of the young mother...the one little African boy who had been led to Christ...and how, after the whites had all left, the boy had grown up and finally persuaded the chief to let him build a school in the village. The article said that gradually he won all his students to Christ, others followed the students, including the village chief. There were six hundred Christian believers in that one village on the day she read that article.
All because of the sacrifice of David and Svea Flood.
Remarkably, Aggie shared this story with her biological father, and he returned to God.
Yes, holy work is hard. Yes, the cross is heavy. But our purpose is to do the work of the kingdom. We are not promised easy. We are promised eternity.