"Are You In It For The Long Haul?"
“Are you in it for the long haul?” I’ve asked this question dozens of times to various excited couples preparing for their wedding day. “Once this is done, it’s done. There’s no turning back.” I’m not trying to scare them, but pointing to an important truth: namely, marriage is intended to be an enduring commitment that lasts a lifetime. There is no eject button. There is no “do-over”. The vows state that you will be committed in good times and in bad times, “for better or for worse”; eventually, you will come to experience it all.
The problem is that we no longer believe this as a culture. Instead, we see marriage as dispensable as a gym membership. “Hey, I tried it and it just didn’t work out for me.” So every year marriages end in divorce, breaking up families, crushing commitments, and setting up individuals to go through the same pattern once again as they move on to a new and "exciting" relationship. That is why, when I counsel engaged couples, I want to make sure they have counted the cost and are committed to the end.
They same idea applies to anyone who professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In fact, the same question should be asked: “Are you in this for the long haul?” Have you have come to understand that you are a sinner in need of grace, that you are utterly lost by yourself, that you need a Savior? If so, have you counted to costs? Do you know what you’ve gotten yourself into?
Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is the most important thing an individual can do in their life; however, it will not always be easy. Jesus Himself said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19). Wow! Those are some hard words. Just like marriage, the Christian life can be difficult at times. However, anything worth doing will have its challenges, right? Christ Must Be Your First Love A wealthy young man inquired of Jesus how he could gain eternal life. Instead of telling him to believe in God and pray a prayer, Jesus gave him the law. “You know the commandments: do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother ” (Luke 18:20). The man replies he has kept all of these laws since he was a youth. Jesus responds, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). The text goes on to tell us, “When [the man] heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18:23).
What was Jesus doing here? He was revealing the man’s heart. You see, the man may have said he wanted to follow Jesus, but his true desire was for his earthly riches. If anyone actually is “in it for the long haul” of this Christian life, he or she must truly love Christ above all things. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).
You Are Not In Charge of Your Life “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This is yet another very straight forward passage from God’s word. If you have been born again by the Spirit of God then you belong to Him! That means that you are not in charge of your life, but God is. (Doesn't that just buck against our American pragmatism?) In our modern culture, we want to believe we are fully autonomous. Meaning, I’m going to do whatever I want to do. This is especially not true for followers of Christ. You cannot do whatever you want. We may feel the urge to indulge in sin and the cravings of the flesh. However, for the sake and glory of Christ we must put our sin to death! (Romans 8:13). The World Will Hate You In a world where we all want to be liked by others, this may be one of the hardest things for Christians to grasp. Yes, people will hate you. People will mock you and speak ill of you. The Apostle Paul knew the hardships of being a Christian firsthand. He writes, "Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked... danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship... " (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). This is quite different from the modern version of "Christianity" we usually hear on television or the radio: "Believe in Jesus and all your dreams will come true." No, Paul is real with us. Yet despite hardships, it was worth it to him. He goes on, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Here's the thing: it is not only Paul that faces hardships in the Christian life. In his last letter to Timothy, Paul writes, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). That is not to say that all will be persecuted in the same ways, but that Christians can expect the world to despise the things of God and His people. How can you know if you are in this for the long haul? Ask yourself whose approval do you desire most: God’s or the world’s?
Have you counted the cost (Luke 14:25-33)? Is it worth it for you to follow Jesus? Are you in this for the long haul? These are serious questions we all must ask ourselves. Everyone wants to go to heaven. That’s why neither Jesus nor His apostles ever asked someone whether or not he wanted to go to heaven. Rather, the Gospel call was, “If anyone would come after me (Jesus), 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). This is the joy of the long haul: that although the journey may be difficult, in the end, it is worth it.