The Difficult Path

{Matthew 5:10-12; NLT}
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

The epic story The Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite stories.  One of the reason I like it so well is because it deals with themes that can easily be applied to following Jesus.  Tolkien deals with themes like friendship, evil, free will, temptation, and war.  Another theme is the theme of the dangerous and difficult road.

“None here can do so,” said Elrond gravely. “At least none can foretell what will come to pass, if we take this road or that. But it seems to me now clear which is the road we must take. The westward road seems easiest. Therefore it must be shunned. It will be watched. Too often the Elves have fled that way. Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril—to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 299)

In Rivendell, during the Council of Elrond, the free people of Middle Earth had to decide what to do with the Ring of Power. One suggestion was to take the Ring to the Ocean and cast it into the deep so it would be lost forever. The other option was to take the Ring to Mordor and to cast it into the fires of Mount Doom. To go west looked easy and the road to Mordor was filled with dangers, but the only way to make sure the Ring would be gone forever was to go towards the enemy, rather than away from him. The road to Mount Doom was the difficult road, but it alone was the path to victory.

In life the best road to take is not always the easiest road. Often we must take the hard road in order to live the life God created us to live.  When God shows us the way we are to go then we only have one option.  We must follow the path given to us by God; no matter what perils there may be along the way. You and I can no longer be content to seek the easy way, for Christ has beckoned us to rise up to the challenge of following him.

Yes, it would be nice if our lives were a walk in the park, but the Bible and reality tell us a different story.
 Jesus told his disciples; “When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you” (John 15:18-19; NLT).

The path of obedience and the way of following Jesus is not going to be easy.  Jesus plainly said his disciples were going to be opposed.  We will be opposed by family, by friends, by bosses, by governments, and ultimately by Satan.  This life is not going to be easy when we choose to walk in obedience. Yet, it is by traveling this road that we are able to discover the life God has called us to live.

It is easy to remain part of the world, to offer up nice ideas instead of the truth, to be tolerant rather than to remain steadfast in our convictions, and to be nice rather than to love. The easy thing is to live a life that will make people like us, and to follow the way of the world.

The way of Jesus leads us away from the world and towards the people God created us to be.  This allows us to shine the light of God’s truth and love on those around us. When we do that we will stir up hatred because many don’t want their lives exposed by the light.  Disciples of Jesus should expect opposition and persecution.  Following Jesus is not easy. It is difficult to go against the current of culture and to be a light in the dark.

Jesus, as well as the rest of the New Testament, taught that the Christian life would be filled with hardship and trouble. Though it is not easy, following Jesus is the way we must travel if we are going to have a relationship with God. Jesus is the way God has provided for us to have an eternal relationship with Him. There is no other way to God except by following Jesus. Just like Frodo we are called to travel the hard and the difficult way. It is through this journey that we become our true selves.

There is one difference between the road we are called to travel and the journey Frodo took to destroy the Ring. The outcome for Frodo was uncertain. Elrond, Gandalf, and the rest of the Fellowship did not know if  the journey to Mordor would end with the destruction of the Ring.

While we may not know every twist and turn of our journey we do know that the journey will be a success.  The reason for this certainty is because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  That hope should provide us with the motivation to keep moving forward in the face of opposition, because we know there is a huge blessing waiting for us at the end.

Questions to Consider:

  • How have you been opposed as you have followed Jesus?
  • What sources of hope have you had as you have followed Jesus?
  • Why is following Jesus the best way to live?
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