I remember a book that I was reading, a long time ago. I do not remember the name of it or the actual content. What I do remember is being scared. Really scared. But not in the way that you might think. I mean, when you think about being scared, we usually think about something evil. But this was not the case. It’s not evil that I was afraid of. It was holy.
I think that my experience was similar to Felix’s. You may want to reread it in Acts 24-25. Let me set the stage. He was talking to Jesus, and Jesus was telling him of our behavior and God’s judgment that would soon be upon us. Then, “as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed.”
Stop for a moment and think about Felix’s alarm. What was he afraid of? Do you see it? Felix was not afraid of something evil. He was afraid of something good. Jesus was showing him the Holy, and he could not hear it. What is it about the holy that we do not want to hear? Simply put, it’s the price.
If you can tolerate the old English, it is worth listening to John Calvin. He says that we “do desire to hear the gospel preached.” But, he continues, as soon as we have heard, we do by and by either loathe, or else they cannot suffer it.” Do you hear it?
There are only two reasons, according to Calvin. First, we may loathe it. That means that we disagree with it. We want to fight it. That does not describe me. If you are reading this, it probably does not describe you either. Instead, I am the one that “cannot suffer it.” Do you know what that means? It means that I am not willing to give up myself. I cannot fathom sacrificing my own agenda for his. That would mean too much suffering for me!
Is there a limit to your suffering? A point that you no longer want to follow Jesus because it’s just too hard? The answer is yes. It is too hard. I am thankful for his grace.
For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)