What I’m about to share isn’t anything new, it’s not a new discovery for me and I would like to think that it isn’t a new discovery for you; but it is something that is worth sharing because it is something that is worth remembering: you will experience side effects during your walk with Christ.
People begin and develop their relationships with God in a number of different ways. Some are born into the church and mature from there, others are delivered from tough times and learn about God through those lessons. Whatever path they take, what is common, especially for young Christians, is that they skim over the terms and conditions and go straight to dedicating their lives to their creator.
These terms and conditions are the messages in the Bible that Jesus has laid out for us, warning us that the journey will not be easy, that there will be trials and tribulations. But many ignore these, as is done with most terms and conditions because they want to go ahead and enjoy the benefits. The problem with ticking that “I agree” box without reading is that you can be caught off guard when the storms arise.
The side effects I will be discussing briefly today are also known as the eight beatitudes, delivered by Jesus at The Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
This verse does not refer to a lack of wealth but recognising that your spirit needs God. In a pride-filled world where people are looking to gain credit and acknowledgement for everything they do: this is the first side effect.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
We can interpret this verse in many different ways, some choose to look at this act of mourning as a deep sadness for the world and the great sin in which it inhabits. The sad truth, which I am sure you have witnessed, is the bravery and confidence in which people (Christians included) commit their sins: this is the second side effect.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
To be meek is not a characteristic we tend to admire these days, some of our most prominent leaders today are those who are loud and boastful with nothing of value to offer *sips tea*. The meek and mild of today and commonly known as the pushovers, the child most likely to get bullied on the playground: this is the third side effect.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6
Righteousness is simply defined as the state of being morally right or justified, in this case, a desire to be right with God, I don’t think I need to bother explaining what state the people of this world choose to be in with God these days: this is the fourth side effect.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7
Showing mercy these days is somewhat frowned upon (until of course someone is actually begging for mercy), it’s viewed as an act of weakness. We live in a generation where fights serve as adrenaline for many, from videos on Worldstar to clapback screenshots on TheShadeRoom, it’s safe to say that having the best comeback is the way forward these days: this is the fifth side effect.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 8-10
This is all contrary to the realities of our society, peacemakers hold no power, purity is mocked and persecution is avoided at all costs.
These side effects are written clearly in the terms and conditions that many choose not to read, we can see in plain English, noted in black and white, that you cannot be on fire for God and remain cool in the world.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that when you do Christianity properly, you get proper troubles. The role of Jesus in your life is not to take your problems away, but to remove that separation you have from the Lord and deliver you from judgement. If this end result is something you truly desire, you have to be willing to endure the struggles- if the potential side effects scare you, pray for strength! All of these side effects are necessary for developing our spirits and if endured, can lead to a much greater healing in the end.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Romans 8:18
So, you’ve agreed to the terms and conditions, you’re willing to bear the side effects, what next?
You need to be bold. You need to be open with your faith, you are a city on a hill, don’t try to hide. Think about London, a city (not on a hill but just go with it please), London is not a place that can be hidden, everybody knows about it.
Does everybody know that you follow Christ?
Do you have widespread influence?
Have you placed your light under a shade or is it exposed on a stand?
Are you consistent in your living?
Do people know that you are different?
In the world but not of it?
Salt that has kept its flavour?
You can’t be afraid to lose favour with man if it means that the light of the Lord will continue to radiate through you.
It would be hypocritical of me to answer all of the above questions with a confident yes. For most people around my age, this ‘shame’ for God comes when they start university, I was lucky because I settled straight into a Christian fellowship and didn’t struggle with being open about my faith. Even when I progressed and started my placement, I didn’t hide my faith, but I wasn’t as open, and to me, this was just as bad, because what was the point of me simply being lukewarm in my walk? Don’t just wear the mask of Christianity, engrave it in your skin.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” 1 Peter 3:15-16
Skip over to chapter 7 with me…
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” Matthew 7:23-25
The storms will come, this is without a doubt. But put your house in order, store up your obedience, trust and faith in the bank, let it gain interest so that when the storms come, you will be ready!
Learn how to pray, learn how to worship, learn how to praise God, learn how to trust in Him and how to ask Him for strength. This way, when challenges arise, you will be prepared. You cannot call on the Lord and expect righteousness and fearlessness to wash over you in an instant just because you face turmoil, you need to get ready for the battle in advance! Being proud of following Jesus is a part of this.
It is also important to note that this passage says “whoever hears… and does them” because simply hearing is not enough, it won’t change you- practise is what changes you. It won’t prevent this bad weather from coming, but what state is your house in?
I hope you have been blessed,
All the best,
This message was inspired by the teachings of Pastor Peter Cavanna.
Image Credit: Tisha (I had to end this by admiring my own photography lol- taken at the Lake District, Ambleside)