“The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. ‘He saved others,’ they scoffed, ‘but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him!” –Matthew 27:41-42, NLT
When Christians serve God faithfully, they often expect to be surrounded by loving supporters who will encourage and praise their efforts. They think that because they are doing what God has called them to do, the path will be easy, they’ll find all the resources and assistance they need, and everyone will be pleased with them.
It doesn’t always work this way.
In fact, if you’re doing what God wants you to do, serving Him faithfully and drawing people to the Lord, Satan is going to throw all the resistance in your path that he can. If he can, he may even use those closest to you against you. (They are your biggest vulnerability, after all. Satan knows this well.) The way may get surprisingly difficult.
It comforts me to know that even Jesus encountered this. When He told the disciples that He was going to die, Peter said, “Never Lord!” Jesus rebuked him. In fact, he said:
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (See Matthew 16:22-23.)
On the cross, Jesus had to endure scoffing from priests, teachers of religious law, and elders. They told Him that if He’d do what they expected from Him and come down off the cross, they’d believe.
How often are we tempted to change our strategy or choose different activities to meet the expectations of people around us? We know what God wants us to do, but others tell us that our ministry will be more effective or we’ll be please them more if we do something else. (This can be especially true if you’re called to move often and rarely live near home.)
I wonder if even Jesus wrestled with this as he suffered such excruciating pain. When he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46, NLT), was He wondering if perhaps He had made a mistake? Or was He surprised at the intensity of His suffering? Had He expected God to make His mission easier for Him, knowing that His own Father could have shielded Him from some of the pain? I can’t begin to fathom how lost and abandoned He must have felt!
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
When our path becomes lonely, dark, and full of obstacles, (and sometimes, it will), we must cling to God’s Word and continue to do whatever we know God has called us to do. This doesn’t mean we can’t ask God if perhaps we’ve made a wrong turn. If there’s any chance of that, we should explore the possibility. This just means we must walk as closely to God as we can, believing in His Presence, knowing He’s faithfully watching over us—whether we sense Him or not.
In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus said:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus doesn’t really want us to hate anyone. What He means, as I understand this, is that when those closest to us attempt to stand in our way, to keep us from doing God’s Will, we must continue to go God’s Way. We tell Satan to get behind us and move on.
This can hurt. Both us and any loved ones who tell us to choose another path. If they don’t share our sense of purpose, they will be confused.
We may think, “If I do things their way, they’ll be happier and my life will be easier.” Perhaps, like the religious leaders mocking Jesus, they’ll even say, “If you do things my way, I’ll believe,” and tempt us to change our course for their soul’s sake. But, if it’s not God’s Way, it’s not for their sake. We must hold our ground and trust God to lead them to believe in His time and in His way.
If Jesus had given in while on the cross, no one could have come to believe. Not even the religious leaders who told Him that they would. Like Jesus, we must entrust those who give us opposition to God’s care and continue to do what God leads us to do.
When we follow God, sometimes our path is difficult. When this is so, we seek His assurance and continue to walk His way. He will lead us in paths of righteousness—for His name’s sake—even when it’s through times of trouble and pain.
Thank You for leading us, Lord. Help us to follow only You, wherever the path leads, even if it’s through pain. For Your name’s sake, we’ll continue to obey You, entrusting the opposition to Your care. Amen.