Yes, it seems I am getting old. Case in point – I was thinking about a song I remembered from my early childhood today, Lynn Anderson's 1973 hit Rose Garden.
I beg your pardon,
I never promised you a rose garden.
Along with the sunshine,
There's gotta be a little rain sometimes.
We have high expectations of life, and we tend to fall apart at the first sign of inconvenience or difficulty. We prefer the path of least resistance. We seek success without effort, victory without battle, and blessing without sacrifice. Sadly, too many believers today are cozy with a middle ground between lostness and a passionate pursuit of Christ. While mediocrity may seem comfortable and costless, the price is the forfeiture of a bounty of blessings God reserves for those most serious in their pursuit of Him.
Paul was not content to live in middle ground. In Philippians 3:10, Paul expressed his desire to experience Christ and the power of His resurrection. To do that, he realized he must first share in Christ's sufferings and become like Him in death. We cannot experience resurrection type power in our lives until we are willing to accept suffering and death to self.
Paul also challenged Timothy,
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. - 2 Timothy 2:3-4
Jesus taught the same truth when He told His disciples,
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” - Matthew 16:24-25
The one thing that seems to prevent believers from experiencing the miraculous presence of God in their lives is the tendency to pursue one's own desires and reduce God to one of the tools we employ to achieving our own goals. The sad thing is that what we think is success is an utter failure compared to the glory God desires to reveal in our lives. The best that this world has to offer pales in comparison to what God has in store for those who are willing to pay the price and lose their idea of life that they might gain the life God intends for us. God never promised a rose garden, but He did promise a life of meaning and purpose to those who would die to self and follow Him.
My prayer as you read this is that the Holy Spirit will create a hunger in you to rise above the mediocrity that marks most believers. I pray you examine your heart truthfully and carefully and jettison every attitude, affection, and attitude that entangles you. I pray that you will die to yourself so that you can truly begin to live.
Oh that we might echo the sentiment of John the Baptist:
He must increase, but I must decrease. - John 3:30