To the full
Recently in my prayers I asked the question, “Lord, how do we live the fullest life possible?” As I said these words, I saw within my imagination an image, a recollection of artwork, depicting the suffering of the Disciples. In particular what came to mind was the crucifixion of Peter. Now that is one heck of an answer to a prayer about living the best life possible. And you might be thinking to yourself, “What does suffering, let alone the suffering of the Disciples of Christ, have to do with living a full life?” At first, I was right there with you. This seems really dark, and I don’t want to suffer. But the more I sat with it the more it made sense. Because as I meditated on the life of the disciples and others who were martyred for their faith a sort of pattern started emerging.
The twelve disciples of Jesus where those who were closest to him. Each of them started their journey with Jesus at different points in their lives. Peter, Andrew, James and John for example started their journey as fishermen beside the sea of Galilee. But in the end, they were no longer who they once were. Through their experience with Jesus, they had changed. This holds true for each of the disciples and many of the other individuals who came to know Jesus as not just a teacher, but the very Son of God. As they walked with Christ, they saw how deep God’s love for the world is and to what lengths God goes in order for us to obtain salvation. We see in their journey that even while we are sinful, broken, and shortsighted. Prone to give into our base natures and momentary pleasures rather than seeking what is true, good and righteous. That the God who created all things, who created us, who knows our names and the number of hairs on our heads; desires that we might live life to the full and to the good. It was for this reason that God sent Jesus his Son, so that through him we might be redeemed in love. A love born witness to his life, on the cross, in the grave, and in the glory of the resurrection and ascension. This saving love is what the disciples carried with them everywhere they went. This is the gift of grace and God’s presence in our lives that makes the suffering of life bearable.
The disciples had an experience with the divine in Jesus and because of him they were never the same. They found purpose, new life, hope, joy, beauty, and truth. At Pentecost with the gift of the Holy Spirit they were called to share this good news of Jesus Christ with the world. So that others might be transformed in the love of God and so they might live lives of grace as well. Lives that were turned towards the light, lives of courage, lives of truth, lives of faith, lives of wonder, lives of freedom, and lives of love.
But for those who were self-satisfied, for those who loved power and control over others, for those who that were turned inward. For worldly rulers such as these who refused to love God and their neighbor; these words of grace have been a condemnation. Therefore, the joy of the faithful was a challenge to their power that had to be destroyed. And so the disciples and the early church suffered grievously, at the hands of the world. But still they remained faithful even during real persecution, suffering and death.
Yet, just as the world and the grave could not silence Jesus, the Word made Flesh. The love of God remains and wins out against all the hate the world and people spew out. This is why the image of the disciples in their trials is a true example of living the fullest life possible. Not because we as followers of Christ seek or glorify suffering. But because every aspect of the Christian life gives evidence to the potent remedy of worldly suffering that is the Word of God. For when we walk with Jesus, when we are connected to God we have joy which the materialistic world cannot know or give.
Just as the first followers of Christ could not to be silenced or shut up by a worldly people who pretend that there is no truth and no god. What we find when we believe and act as the disciples lived. When we live in the truth, as the people that God created us to be. When we live in prayer, listening for the voice of God in the wilderness. We find that there is no worldly power that can overcome those who truly believe in God. Do not get me wrong. Maligned people will use bodily harm to silence those who do not comply. In the modern world rabid, anti-Christian groups and secular dictators still attempt to defame and destroy Christians, just like they did under Nero. As Christians we fully acknowledge that sin and suffering exist. But by the grace of God, we do not follow the ways of this world. Instead, we live in faith, working courageously to love and serve in the example of Jesus. Placing our hope and trust, not in power, titles, government, or rulers, but in God. God who desires freedom for the world. God who gives life in abundance. God the creator and sustainer of the universe. God who leads us to truth and welcomes us into the Kingdom of Heaven. Because with God in the life of faith our suffering is transformed for the good. Even in my imperfection, I believe a life like that of the disciples, a life like Jesus’ is the greatest and fullest life that we can live.
For which is worse. To live in falsehood dying a small death over and over again? Your soul being chipped away, bit by bit. Forced into silence, unable to share what you know to be true. Forced to accept or conform to what you know in your heart and soul to be wrong. Under fear of rejection and cancelation by secular sycophants.
Or to live and stand in the truth, by the grace of God. Even if it leads to earthly suffering on account of the tyrannical forces of evil and hate. Rejoicing in the mercy of our Lord even as the storms of self-worship and vanity rage around us.
I know what I believe. For Christ has set me free and renews my soul. He guides me in right pathways and leads me to the fullest life possible. What about you? How do you want to live? What are your prayers?
May Christ show you the way and bring to you to a life of truth. May you live with the courage of the disciples. Working to make a difference and love your neighbors. In your prayers may you listen to and be guided by the Spirit of God. May you be strengthened for all the days ahead and everything the world has to throw at you. May you pray everyday and in all things. Living in the way of Christ.
I am praying for you. Please keep me in prayer too.