"Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention."
(Matthew 7:13-14, The Message Bible)
By Robert Hayes Jr.
Isn’t it amazing how the advertising industry bombards us every day with claims that we can change who we are, how we look, and everything else about us in just a few easy steps? Not a day goes by that we don’t hear about or read about how we—the consuming public—quickly can make ourselves smarter, thinner, better built, and more beautiful.
The next time you near the cash register in the grocery store check-out line, glance at the display of magazines and tabloids. (Word of warning: Be wary of that newsstand camouflaging as a simple gum-dispensing station—it is the most expensive piece of real estate in the store!) You will see headlines in large print designed to capture your attention; some will intentionally shock you. "How To Lose 20 Pounds in 10 Days!" "10 Easy Steps to a New You!" "Shrink Your Stomach in 4 Weeks!" "Same-Day Surgery That Will Make You Look 10 Years Younger!"
You may think companies that advertise this way could be held accountable, or eventually would stop such exaggerated promotions. But how many of us secretly want to believe those claims of easy ways to achieve change? The advertisers get away with outlandish statements because we are gullible enough to think they could be true.
It was just a matter of time before these professions of quick, easy steps to a better life found their way into influencing Christian living. People also want to believe that it takes only a few easy steps to be a Christian disciple, and that sacrifice, denial, struggle, and cross-bearing were only necessary long ago—not now.
Well, this may disappoint you, but I must tell you there is no easy way, no shortcut, no surefire formula to cultivate a relationship with Jesus Christ. Today’s Scripture is clear. It begins with total attention and absolute faith.
Jesus says this in so many verses throughout the New Testament. One is Luke 14:27; where he says, "Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."
Nowhere does Jesus attempt to make it easy for people to follow him. Nowhere does he mince words just to win people over. He always lets people know there is no easy way to finding life in all its fullness.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army (and a former Methodist minister), predicted the chief danger facing churches and Christians is that a time will come when "we will have religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without rebirth and renewal, atonement without sacrifice, and heaven without hell."
In the modern church, we are guilty of "fixing up" our Christianity. To win people over, we don’t make it sound too hard, for fear we may turn people away. Yet people are unfulfilled in their Christian walk because they put little or nothing at all into it and, consequently, they get little or nothing from it.
The church has an obligation to remind people that a price was paid for their access to redemption, salvation, and eternal life!
There is no easy way to understand the Scriptures. You must make the effort to read and study to uncover the meaning of God’s Holy Word.
There is no easy way to a deeper prayer life other than constant practice and discipline. Do you get into bed, realize you’ve forgotten to pray, and then fall asleep.
W.C. Fields, a famous comedian of the 1920s and 30s, was a notorious atheist. He never went to church, never confessed a belief, and criticized anyone who did. Once when he was severely ill and hospitalized, a nurse walked into his room and discovered him reading a Bible. She said, "Mr. Fields, I didn’t know that you had a religious bone in your body! Why are you reading the Bible?"
He replied, "My dear, I’m looking to see if there are any loopholes!"
Let me assure you, my friends, there are no loopholes! The requirements for a happy, satisfying, and significant Christian life have not changed in over 2,000 years.
If that is what you seek in life, there is a price demanded of you.
Dorothy M. Johnson was a gifted writer who penned the novels "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "Hanging Tree," and other great works. She died at age 78 in Missoula, Mont. Before her death, she said she wanted her gravestone to be inscribed with one word: PAID!
"God knows what it means, and I know what it means, and nobody else needs to know!" she said.
I wonder how many of us are willing to pay the price for the greatest reward in this life and, might I add, the next one, too!