There is a myth that plagues and cripples so many of us as followers of Jesus. Here it is: "I am struggling in area X___________, and if I really loved Jesus, and were really a good disciple, I wouldn't be."
Name the struggle. Maybe you're struggling with an area of addiction, or perhaps struggling to forgive. Or maybe you are wrestling with an anger issue or an attitude problem. From anxiety, to fear, to lust to greed, the thought that trails any area of sin or struggle is the same, "if I were a good Christian, I wouldn't be struggling."
This train of thought sounds right; however, it is a bald-faced lie from the pit of hell.
Here's what you need to know.
Everyone has struggles in their walk of faith because it's hard. Jesus called following Him "the narrow path," aka, the road less travelled. He said it would be much easier to simply go with the flow of culture, your feelings and every desire. He also said that the wide path leads to death, and the narrow path leads to life abundant and eternal.
So, the narrow path of transformation in following Jesus is the only logical choice if we stop and actually count the cost.
That said, transformation isn't an easy process; The Way is simple (the Way is to follow, trust and obey Jesus), but the walk often hard. Why would we assume that "dying to self" would come easy? Furthermore, what about the words "born again" makes us think we are born into finished products? As though we come out of the Spiritual womb as adults? The truth is, when we put our faith in Jesus, a whole new life has just begun.
Salvation is a starting line, not the finish line.
One of the worst lies that permeates the church is that we are the only ones struggling and that everyone else has it figured out. The reality is, we all have a sin nature that the Spirit is working on, by God's grace, to transform into the likeness of Jesus. We must realize that transformation is a process. There is no such thing as microwave Christianity; if you are going to be like Jesus, it is something that is cultivated through years of abiding.
Secondly, and this is the most important thing you need to know about the fight of followership, the struggle actually reveals you're in the fight of faith.
I have done some marriage counselling over the years that I have served as a pastor. The couples that I have had the most concern about aren't the ones who fight hard; on the contrary, it's the couples who have no fight in them that are least likely to survive. At a fundamental level, conflict, struggle, friction indicates the presence of value. When a couple is apathetic, when they don't care enough to confront each other, or to work on things and iron out the details, is when the marriage is dead in the water. The fights show there's something there.
The same goes for our faith. The fact that we are fighting the good fight at a base level shows that we're alive. Even if it feels like we're getting beat, the conflict inside of us indicates that God has deposited the new life of faith within us. Conviction and awareness of sin are gifts that God uses to reveal to us the areas that He wants to grow, heal or deliver us in.
The key is not letting conviction turn into condemnation. Condemnation is the feeling we get when we believe the accuser when he tries to convince us of how low we are. Conviction is the feeling we get when we believe the Spirit when He tries to convince us of how high he wants us to rise. Condemnation pushes us lower. Conviction calls us higher. Don't get the two twisted. There is a big difference between falling short and having Jesus call us higher and falling short and having the Devil rub our nose in it. God doesn't do that.
When his baby boy or girl stumbles while learning to walk, what good father rubs their child's nose in the failure? A good parent celebrates the steps, picks up their child when they've fallen, sets them back on their feet and helps them try again. Why? Because learning to walk takes practice and repetition, and because falling down or walking for miles isn't going to change the fact that this is their child. Furthermore, parents are simply thrilled by the steps and not in the least put off by the stumbles.
The same goes for God and us.
Therefore, we need to learn to rest in the fact that we are a son or a daughter. We must hear Him calling us to walk farther and climb higher. And, we need to believe that we can be like our Father, and never believe the lie that because something is a struggle, we're headed in the wrong direction.
The best things in life tend to come the hardest and cost us the most.
Keep fighting the good fight.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation." Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philippians 2:12-16
PS. If you would to go a bit deeper on this subject, I preached a full sermon you can watch right here.