CHOOSING PAIN OVER PLEASURE

What are we signing up to when we become Christians? Perks or persecution. Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John did not mislead us. We mislead ourselves. We think it is going to be a piece of cake. I did. Life is harder than I had planned for. So is marriage. Sure would be helpful if mature couples said to young people getting married, “It is going to be really hard. You are going to learn how to die to yourself or a difficult relationship will be even harder.” The couple on the couch thinks, “Not our marriage. We love each other.”

They come in for the thousand-mile checkup and they are not google-eyes–they are glazed, like they have just come from a war zone. The pastor asks them how they are doing, but he already knows: “Not as easy as we anticipated. We discovered that living together can bring out the worst in us. Divorce is the farthest thing from our minds, but we have thought that we wanted to hurt each other a few times. We need help.” Welcome to Marriage 101!

Short-term pain–long-term gain. We tend to choose pleasure over pain. But discipline tells us to opt for pain. Peter had an allergic reaction to it when he first heard it from Jesus. He voted for pleasure. But he discovered through failure that talking about suffering prepared people for the hardships of life, that it would be cruel to talk about the up-side and not the down-side, that addressing hardship enabled people to suffer well and without whining.

Moses chose pain. The devil offered him a princess. He could take his choice as Pharaoh’s prize grandson of any gal in the palace. He was the river baby, the adopted son, now a strong adult. He was offered the riches of the most powerful nation on earth. He grew up near the throne. Must have been a total shock to his grandfather when he said, “Thanks anyway.” Made him angry.

God met with Moses out in the desert and made another offer. Moses would lead two million people on a hike through the wilderness. Never been done before, taking a nation on a seven-hundred mile walk through the desert–without coolers, running water, food, or camping supplies. That’s different. What did God gives him for the job? A stick.

The Bible says that “by faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king [his grandfather?], for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

How could Moses give up such riches? Because he saw God by faith. Two truths come from his decision:

  1. Sin brings pleasure for a while, but it “fleets”, then turns to cancerous growth. Young adults who consistently choose pleasure over pain are postponing and maybe cancelling their God-appointed destiny. Sin can rob us of our future. Short-term gain means long-term pain.
  2. Short-term pain means long-term gain. Had he chosen riches, he would have  died a rich and miserable man with no lasting legacy. And he would have thrown away a chance to lead a nation into the ways of God and have a legacy that endures for three thousand years. Way to choose well, Moses!

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