I’ve always wondered if I could have been a world-class athlete. I was a pretty good competitive water skier as a kid, but a severely injured ankle one summer ended all that. I loved running track and was a decent overall athlete, so maybe I could have been a decathlete. But world-class, I don’t think so.
So then I wonder, am I a world-class anything? Is there a hobby, a skill or a profession, that I might be considered as a standard-setter in the discipline? Again, probably not. My skills and talents just aren’t that exceptional. But what about faith? I’m a serious Christ-follower. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m not playing games either. I mean business in my walk with Christ and I try to leverage my life as best I can for God’s Kingdom. So how do stack up against other believers around the world and throughout history? Am I carrying my weight? I know I’m not competing with other Jesus-followers, but how am I doing on a world scale? Who sets the standard of excellence for Christians?
If there is such a thing as a world-class Christian, how do we know what it is? And, how do we adhere to such a vigorous standard? Well, we don’t have to wonder. The Bible tells us.
What is the international gold standard for Christianity? Where is the bar of faith set at its highest point? One might offer many suggestions:
- Giving—surely those who give generously set the bar for the rest of us.
- Praying—Intercession moves mountains, so intercessors must be world-class Christians.
- Evangelists—It’s hard to top the impact of helping to being a new soul into the Kingdom.
- Missionaries—Those who embrace a different culture for the sake of the Kingdom are surely standouts in the Kingdom.
All of these are great suggestions, and all have their place in serious Christ-following. But none are what the Bible points to as the highest level of commitment to Christ. None carry the true badge of honor bestowed on only a certain class of Christian. So what it is? What does the Bible establish as the world-standard for Christ-following? In a word, suffering. The highest level of commitment to Christ belongs to those who endure chronic suffering and yet remain faithful to him in the process.
That’s right, the standard of Christian living to which we all must aspire isn’t one of honor, but dishonor; not one of comfort, but discomfort; not fame, but obscurity.
Okay, let’s all say it together, “Ouch.”
Skeptical? Let’s let the Bible speak for itself:
- Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).
- The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41).
- But the Lord said to Ananias (about Paul–addition mine), “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name,” (Acts 9:15-16).
- For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him (Philippians 1:29).
- I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings . . . . (Philippians 3:10).
- All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering (2 Thessalonians 1:5).
- So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God (2 Timothy 1:8).
- Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord (James 5:10).
- But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps, (1 Peter 2:20-21).
- Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin (1 Peter 4:1).
- However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name, (1 Peter 4:16)
- I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 1:9).
- Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
Yes, I know. Those verses are a real buzz-kill. Welcome to world-class Christianity. Better, welcome to biblical Christianity.
From Enough: Finding More by Living with Less