Summary: If we want to follow Christ, we must recognize our sin, recognize the Son and repent.
Some time ago (1996), the staff at the Bridger Wilderness Area in the Teton National Forest in Wyoming received the following responses on comment cards from hikers on their trails. These are actual responses!
Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands.
Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.
Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the areas of these pests.
Chair lifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them.
A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed?
Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.
A MacDonald's would be nice at the trailhead.
The places where trails do not exist are not well marked.
Too many rocks in the mountains. (Mike Neifert, Light and Life, February 1997, p. 27; www.PreachingToday.com)
Can you believe it? I think those people forgot where they were. Well, sometimes on life’s journey, people have similar complaints. They forget that life is not a paved highway to heaven where we can tool along at 65 mph in air conditioned vehicles. Rather, it’s more like a wilderness, mountain trail. Sure, there are beautiful vistas along the way, but often the trail gets steep and hard.
So what are we to do in this journey called life, especially as we start a new year? Complain about the hard times? Or is there a better way to enjoy the trip?
In the first century, Christians under Emperor Nero’s regime had a very difficult time. Nero came to power as the Roman Emperor in A.D. 54. He killed his mother in A.D. 59, his wife in A.D. 62, and himself in A.D. 68. This gives you an idea of the kind of man he was. He was insane, and Christians suffered terribly under his rule.
When the city of Rome burned in A.D. 64, Nero caught the blame. So, in order to remove suspicion from himself, he passed the blame onto Christians and began to arrest them. Some he dressed in wild animal skins and let the dogs tear them apart. Others he crucified, and still others he made into torches. He coated some of the Christians with tar, impaled them on posts, and set them on fire to light up his gardens.
Life wasn’t supposed to be this way for the followers of Christ, or so some of them thought. At least young Mark did. He grew up in a wealthy home in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Mary (Acts 12:12), and it was her home that became an important meeting place for the early Christians. It was one of the few homes big enough to hold a lot of people.
Paul and Barnabas, two of the first Christian missionaries, met Mark in Jerusalem and took him with them on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25). But Mark, who was raised in the lap of luxury, couldn’t handle the hardships of ministry. When they got to Perga, he deserted Paul and Barnabas and went home to momma (Acts 13:13).
Since Perga was a low swampy area, some Bible scholars suggest that Paul contracted Malaria there. Later, he writes about coming with a “bodily illness” (Galatians 4:13) to the people he visited after he was in Perga. Well, that “illness” gives people extreme nausea and diarrhea, and leaves them very weak.