Have I been painting an excessively negative picture of what it means to be a Christian, over-emphasising the struggles and under-emphasising the benefits?

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From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 2 – A closer look at how God develops us as disciples

I hope that what I have said in this chapter is balanced. I have attempted to emphasise the joys and benefits that come from being Jesus’ disciple, both in this life, and also in eternity. However I have also gone to great lengths to try to remind you of the downsides as well. It could be that in my efforts to correct the imbalance in most present day Western churches I have made the mistake of over-emphasising the struggles.

To some readers I may have given the impression that those difficulties are continuous and unrelenting for all of us. They are not. In reality, for most of us, they come and go. That said, the truth is that for a real Christian, the opposition and the struggles come more often than we would like and they stay for longer than we would like. That is why the Bible speaks of these things so regularly and frankly.

What I have tried to do, therefore, is to draw attention to the warnings made by the apostles, and by Jesus in particular. The warnings are theirs, not mine. So is the level of emphasis they give to this theme. I have only emphasised these issues because the Bible does so. The best way for you to gauge whether I am guilty of any imbalance is to read the whole New Testament right through. Ask yourself, as you go along, how much of it is pointing to the benefits of being a Christian and how much is speaking about the difficulties it brings. Then you can decide for yourself what the overall message of the Bible is on this issue, and which of these things the Bible emphasises the most.

Having come to a conclusion on that point, then ask yourself whether the picture the Bible paints of what life will be like for a real Christian is the same as, or different from, what you may have been taught to expect by any churches you have been part of to date. I suspect that you may conclude at the end of that process that it is in the majority of the churches in the West that the real imbalance is to be found. Their emphasis is usually on ease and comfort and they generally deny, or are silent about, anything which might alarm us.

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